I sometimes call my husband Yoda because he’s so wise and calm, like the Jedi master.
When I’m in a panic about some financial issue, he warns against being fearful, echoing this popular Yoda quote, “Fear is the path to the dark side.”
With so much fanfare surrounding the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I started thinking: We all could channel Yoda and find the “Force” to improve our financial management.
So here are 10 of Yoda’s maxims, taken from previous Star Wars films, that you can use to become a Jedi money master.
▪ Do. Or do not. There is no try. You may already be thinking of some financially related New Year’s resolutions. You tell yourself you'll try to budget or try to spend less. But when you use the word “try,” you know you’re giving yourself an out. Commit fully to your financial goals.
▪ You must unlearn what you have learned. A lot of what you know about personal finance is wrong because the people who told it to you were biased. There is no good debt. You don’t need to carry a credit-card balance to build up your credit. You should pay off your mortgage before you retire. Renting is not throwing money away. And your financial adviser may not be acting in your best interest.
▪ If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will.” I believe this is what Yoda would tell Jedi trainees about debt. MarketWatch.com has created a clock showing that the current student-loan debt amount is increasing at a rate of more than $2,700 per second. We saw how bad things turned out when mortgage debt consumed folks. Debt can take you to some dark places.
▪ A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense. Never for attack. If you’ve mastered your money, don’t be so smug. How does attacking the poor or people who’ve made bad decisions change things? Instead, show compassion and humility and use your knowledge to help lift up folks.
▪ In a dark place we find ourselves, and a little more knowledge lights our way. Let the darkness of your financial situation weigh you down, and you can’t change. Learn from your mistakes. Use your inner force to conquer your financial challenges. When you know better, do better.
▪ Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not. You can make a big salary and still be broke. It’s not how much you have that matters but how well you do with what you do have.
▪ The dark side clouds everything. Impossible to see the future is. When the stock market is down people often panic. They want to abandon investing because they’re scared. But there’s an even darker force to consider – inflation. Invest for the long term so that you have a chance to beat inflation.
▪ Named must your fear be before banish it you can. People often tell me they don’t budget because they’re afraid of what the numbers will say. But how’s not knowing working for you? Yes, you may be living beyond your means, but you'll never be able to rectify the situation if you don’t embrace your economic reality. Fear is the path to the dark side. What you don’t know will keep you broke.
▪ Clear your mind must be if you are to discover the real villains behind this plot. Con artists want you to get emotional. They want you to think you’ve only got a limited amount of time to act. If someone is trying to pressure you about a financial decision, stay calm. Take the time to check it out.
▪ To be Jedi is to face the truth and choose. The path to becoming a Jedi money master is to recognize your financial truth. Admit that you do spend a lot eating out. You can’t take a vacation when you have debt. You can’t afford to send your child to the college of his or her dreams. Choose truth. Live within your means.
As you begin to plan for next year, I'll be here to steer you away from the dark side even when you don’t want to face the truth. As the master said: “You think Yoda stops teaching just because his student does not want to hear? A teacher Yoda is.”
May the financial Force be with you.
Hear Michelle Singletary’s personal finance reports on www.npr.org. Readers may write to her c/o The Washington Post, 1150 15th St., NW, Washington DC 20081.