Now that Star Wars is back in full effect as a monumental cultural Force—opening night for The Force Awakens is Dec. 18!—we thought it was appropriate to geek out and ponder some of the wisdom passed along in this epic, influential series. Specifically, wisdom that’s in our wheelhouse, relating to MONEY. All of the action in Star Wars might take place a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, but when you think about like we have, there are terrific lessons to be learned about careers, investing, shopping, being smart shoppers, and resisting the temptation of the Dark Side.
Negotiate for the Best Deal
In “The Phantom Menace,” Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn is stuck on the planet Tatooine with a broken ship, and without the money (or “credits”) to get it repaired. He haggles adeptly with the junk dealer Watto over the terms of a wager that nets both the part necessary to fix the ship, as well as the release of the slave Anakin Skywalker, who grows up to become Darth Vader. Another example of good negotiating comes in “A New Hope,” when Anakin’s son Luke and his Uncle Owen insist on a new droid (R2D2) after one they’d just purchased breaks down.
Pay Off Your Debts
For most of the time moviegoers get to know Han Solo, he is haunted by a debt owed to the underworld boss Jabba the Hutt. Bounty hunters—the equivalent of debt collection agencies in the “Star Wars” universe—are dispatched to track down Solo, and eventually he winds up in the hands of Boba Fett. Solo is frozen in carbonite and carted off to Jabba the Hutt’s palace as a prize wall ornament. (Side note: It’s best to avoid becoming indebted to murderous crime lords in the first place.)
Make Your Boss Happy
Let’s hope your boss doesn’t react to disappointment like Darth Vader, who uses the Force to remotely choke an admiral to death after Rebel ships elude the Empire. “You have failed me for the last time,” Vader says as the man drops to the ground, and then promptly promotes another staffer into the position of command. (We’ve heard some variation of this scene takes place, with slightly less lethal results, in Wall Street offices on a regular basis.) The moral is: To keep your job—and to breathe easy, so to speak—always be mindful of avoiding missteps that could turn the boss into a vengeful tyrant.
Work for Something Beyond Money & Power
Most research indicates that once a person earns a decent salary ($75,000 in the U.S.), making more money does not increase happiness. In fact, some high-paying jobs tend to make people miserable. The happiest employees are instead those who are challenged and find their work fulfilling. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re working for some great humanitarian cause. A 2015 survey named construction workers as the happiest category of employees, and that one’s satisfaction with colleagues and satisfaction with the nature of the work were most important in determining who is happy at work. It’s hard to think that money-driven bounty hunters like Boba Fett and Greedo were happy, nor that people working for the Empire felt good about their jobs. Look at what eventually happens to the power-hungry Emperor too.
The Weak-Minded Are Easily Tricked
Jedi mind tricks are used to persuade individuals to do what the Jedi wants—to stop a bar fight that’s about to happen, for example, or to overlook one’s duty to find two wanted droids. But these mind tricks only work on the weak-minded. So too do the mind tricks routinely practiced by marketers, advertisers, and sales people, who are in the business of persuading the masses into buying merchandise and adopting habits that typically benefit the seller more than the buyer. Be skeptical rather than weak-minded and easily persuaded. Don’t allow any advertisement, shameless marketing ploy, or car salesman to successfully play some “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for” trick on you. A Jedi will not give his attention to inconsequential distractions, and instead always understands what’s most important in life. “Adventure. Excitement. A Jedi craves not these things,” says Yoda.
Penny Pinching Can Lead to Your Doom
The Empire seemed to spare no expense on the building of the Death Star, the moon-sized battle station powerful enough to destroy planets. Yet some genius overlooked the design flaw that allowed the Rebels to fly inside and blow the thing up. Surely the Empire could have spent a few more bucks—perhaps by scaling back slightly on the power of the super laser—and made the Death Star truly impenetrable. Likewise, if you’re buying a house, it’s unwise to pinch pennies by, say, skipping the home inspection or ignoring landscaping issues that will lead to water in the basement. Spending a bit more upfront on things like better-insulated windows and energy-efficient appliances and heating and cooling systems will save you money in the long run as well. Finally, don’t skimp on repairs and upkeep for big-ticket purchases like your home and car: Addressing minor problems as they arise will help you avoid cost explosions down the line.
Develop Good Mentor-Mentee Relationships
The theme of teaching, learning, and mentorship runs throughout “Star Wars,” with Qui-Gon Jinn offering guidance and knowledge to his young Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi, Obi-Wan serving as mentor to both Anakin and Luke Skywalker, and Yoda passing along nuggets of wisdom for pretty much everybody. On the other hand, Darth Maul, Count Dooku (Darth Tyranus), and Darth Vader, who all head to the Dark Side and choose the evil Sith Lord Darth Sidious (a.k.a. Emperor Palpatine) as their mentor, don’t exactly live happily ever after.
Size Matters Not
Among other things, this bit of wisdom from Yoda applies to one’s career (“small” jobs and “small” companies can represent terrific opportunities) and the amount of money a young worker can allocate to start an investment portfolio. It may seem silly to begin investing when your expenses eat up all but perhaps $1,000 per year. But there are many wise moves to make with a spare $1,000, let alone $10,000, and no matter how much you start with, investing early on is proven to add up big time over the course of several decades. The goal is that some day your portfolio will contain buying power equivalent to Yoda’s grasp of the Force. Hopefully, this happens before “900 years old you reach.”