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I thought I could choose say half a dozen Vanguard ETFs and then I'd be reasonably safe and still get some growth.

This doesn't sound like a well thought out plan, ;-) but is a start.
The suggestion of checking out the Bogleheads is good. You will find many helpful folks there.
I suggest that you do some self education by reading some basic investing books specifically dealing with asset allocation.
I think you could come up with a pretty good using the ETFs for total stock market, total international stock market, and the total bond market or their mutual fund equivalents. It would be better to put bonds into a tax deferred or tax free account for tax efficiency. You might also want a portion in a money market account to be used for the "mad money" that you described.

Bob
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