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10 Lessons I Learned from Star Wars About Retirement

Yoda from star wars

“May the Fourth be with you.” – Physician On Fire

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…when I was a kid, I loved Star Wars. Those movies became a source of optimism for me. Just like Han and the ragtag Rebellion, many of us dream of a victorious retirement – a time of freedom and well-deserved relaxation. But let’s face it, financial realities can feel like the Death Star looming large, casting a shadow of doubt on our retirement plans.

Here’s the good news: retirement isn’t some mystical force. It’s a goal we can achieve with the right tools and knowledge. There is a lot to be learned from those Star Wars movies.

Our team at Physician On FIRE are diehard fans, so to celebrate, here are 10 Lessons I Learned From Star Wars about Finance and Retirement (#8 is my favorite).

1. “The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi

We must recognize how interconnected our financial decisions today shape our retirement outcome in the future. This concept can be directly applied to financial planning and retirement strategies. Our relationship to money in the past and present can determine how our retirement becomes. 

For example in the past and the present whenever I get stressed I tend to soothe myself by impulse shopping. Amazon definitely benefits from my stress shopping. I have bought so many varieties of coffee cups that my cupboards look like a porcelain store. 

One unanticipated expense later in life is health bills. The healthier you are now the less you might need to spend healthcare-wise in the future. Of course, there is a certain amount of disease that is chronic and inherited that we can not do too much about. For example, about half of Americans have a diagnosis of hypertension according to the CDC. So if you’re reading this on your mobile phone and there is someone next to you the odds are one of you has it. If you have a chronic condition then follow up regularly with your doctor so that it does not worsen and, from a retirement point of view, does not put a headwind on your retirement plans. 

But don’t let these issues place the shadow of the Death Star on your plans. Just start making small, but effective, lifestyle decisions can mitigate these risks. 

So in many ways when it comes to retirement and present decisions regarding, spending, savings, and your health,  “Your attitude determines your altitude.”

2. “Do or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda

Plenty of research shows that procrastination in some form plays a small role in why so many Americans have not saved enough to retire in the lifestyle they are accustomed to.

For some reason, there doesn’t seem to be too much urgency in saving earlier. According to a recent Bankrate survey about 1 in 5 U.S. adults stated that not saving for retirement early enough was their biggest financial regret.

But there are other reasons Americans delay saving for retirement:

    • Inflation causes current expenses to rise.
    • Unemployment.
    • Student debt.
    • Poor spending habits.
    • They don’t know where to start.

Don’t let that be you. Take charge of your future – start planning for retirement today. The power of compound interest works wonders over time, so even small contributions early on can make a significant difference down the road.

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The longer you wait, the harder it becomes to catch up. Remember, retirement planning isn’t about trying, it’s about doing. Take that first step today, and secure a future filled with financial peace of mind.

3. “Never tell me the odds.” – Han Solo

 

In this moment, Han Solo teaches us to be optimistic and never give up on our dreams of retirement. No matter how challenging things may seem, don’t give up. Are you an optimist or a pessimist when it comes to finance? As it turns out, your mindset does matter.

Why am I talking about optimism regarding investing and your quality of life, anyway? Imagine having a meticulously planned retirement – a dream investment portfolio – yet feeling constantly weighed down by the feeling of uncertainty and pessimism. Wouldn’t that joy be overshadowed by stress?

Optimism acts as a lens, coloring your perception of challenges and setbacks. It fuels resilience and fosters a sense of control over your life, ultimately enhancing your overall well-being.

An optimistic investor views market downturns and economic difficulties as temporary setbacks, not permanent roadblocks. They believe in the ingenuity of companies to innovate, solve problems, and ultimately generate profits. This optimistic outlook allows them to weather storms without knee-jerk reactions like selling investments at a loss.

They understand that buying low and selling high is one of the keys to financial success, and optimism helps them maintain the discipline to do just that. In essence, optimism acts as a compass, guiding investors toward long-term financial well-being.

In a bear market, a strong pessimist may sit entirely out of the market and refuse to buy in. A strong optimist may be too hopeful and buy while the market is still trending down. The investor in the best situation is the one that marries the two outlooks.

An investor with an optimistic mindset hopes that the bear will eventually become a bull, will have the resilience and patience to ride the market out. The same investor, having experienced failed trades in the past, takes the pessimistic strategy of hedging their bets.

The interesting thing about all of the above is that when we look at the data of winners and losers in the optimism and pessimism battle there is a clear edge optimists have over pessimists. But not by much.

Me? I would rather be an optimist and save myself the anxiety when things go to the Dark Side.

One last thing about optimism versus pessimism. Risk aversion is a real thing and it can do a number on your mind. Make sure you make as an objective self-assessment as possible – so you can choose your investment vehicles wisely.

Just ask yourself; How much risk can I take? Will this investment keep me up at night? If so, do you have the stomach for those rollercoaster rides?

4. “The dark side clouds everything. Impossible to see the future is.” – Yoda

Uncertainty is everywhere. There is uncertainty in the market, real estate, foreign markets, the job market, etc. The best way to hedge against uncertainty is to be prepared.

Also, don’t be afraid to make changes to your retirement plan as needed. Here are some ways to mitigate the stress from uncertainty.

  1. Creating and maintaining an emergency fund: About 6 months of expenses (not salary) to cover your basic costs. Adjust your calculations based on your lifestyle, debt, and loan obligations.
  2. Diversify your investments: Diversifying mitigates against losses during periods of stock market and economic uncertainty.
  3. Create a formal budget: If you can not measure it you can not manage it.
  4. Regular financial check-ups: I find that tax season is a good time to review and get the vital signs of my household finances. Also, if your finances are complex you should consider a financial advisor.
  5. Upskilling and adding a source of passive income or side gigs: Passive income can help mitigate the stress of financial uncertainty by providing a reliable income stream that can bolster your main source of income. A side gig can also help with financial uncertainty by providing an extra source of income that can reduce financial vulnerability.

5. “Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.” – Qui-Gon Jinn

When it comes to retirement planning the first thing that comes to mind is, how much do I have to save before I retire?

Money, however, is only a small part of the retirement picture. To create a fulfilling retirement we need to consider the deeper things that bring us happiness and a sense of well-being.

Saving money and investing money is only a road to your retirement destination. Traditional ideas of retirement include images of trips to exotic places and playing golf or pickleball.

But there’s an issue – what do you do with the hours you’re left with in the day?

A life of leisure, while novel, can get pretty stale and boring if there is nothing meaningful to fill in the gaps of your daily life.

A rich life can not be measured by your net worth and how much you have saved. What is your idea of a rich life? Once you have a clear idea then your path to retirement becomes more meaningful.

Retirement can be fun for most people. A 2022 research discovered that 53% of retirees rated their satisfaction with retirement life as high, with an 8, 9, or 10 on a scale of 1 to 10. Some reasons why retirement can be fun include:

  • Freedom: You can do what you want, not what others want you to do.
  • New projects: You can start projects you’ve always dreamed of, such as travel, hobbies, or leisure.
  • Social activities: You can join clubs, explore new hobbies, or take up old passions like art or theater to keep you social and immersed in your local community.
  • Time with loved ones: 76% of happier retirees spend time with loved ones.
  • Exercise: 70% of happier retirees make sure to exercise.
  • Travel: 62% of happier retirees said they travel.

 

Image credit: Midjourney with prompts by the author

6. “The dark side of the Force is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural.” – Chancellor Palpatine

Beware the Dark Side of Investing: Why Chasing High Returns Can Lead to Financial Ruin

Just as the dark side promises power at a terrible cost, risky investments with the allure of extraordinary returns can lead to financial ruin. Let’s explore the data and understand why staying on the path of prudent financial planning is crucial for a secure retirement.

The Temptation of the Dark Side:

  • Get-Rich-Quick Schemes: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that Americans lost over $5.8 billion to investment scams in 2021 alone. These scams often promise unrealistic returns and prey on people’s hopes for a quick financial windfall.
  • Unsustainable Investment Strategies: Some may chase highly volatile assets like meme cryptocurrency or penny stocks, hoping to strike it rich. While these can potentially produce high returns, the risk of significant losses is also high. A 2021 CoinMarketCap report shows that Bitcoin, the most popular cryptocurrency, has experienced price swings of over 100% in a single year. Cryptocurrency is volatile but appears to be here to stay. Lots of doctors in our Physicians on Fire membership and in fatFIRE ask about crypto investments. But the main thing to consider is that these financial vehicles are a small part of a diversified portfolio. When you place all of your eggs in one basket then the risk profile escalates.

The Data Behind the Danger:

  • Long-Term vs. Short-Term Performance: A Standard & Poor’s: https://www.spglobal.com/ study shows that the S&P 500, a broad market index representing large-cap U.S. stocks, has historically delivered an average annual return of around 10% (adjusted for inflation). This consistent, long-term growth is far more reliable than chasing short-term, high-risk investments.
  • The Peril of High Fees: Many high-return investment products come with hefty fees. These fees can significantly eat into your potential gains, making it even harder to achieve the promised astronomical returns.

The Power of the Light Side (Prudent Investing):

  • Diversification: Spreading your investments across different asset classes like stocks, bonds, and real estate helps mitigate risk. Even if some investments perform poorly, others might hold steady, protecting your overall portfolio.
  • Compound Interest: Albert Einstein called compound interest the “eighth wonder of the world.” By consistently investing and letting your money grow over time, even modest returns can accumulate significantly.
  • Financial Planning: A qualified financial advisor can help you develop a personalized investment strategy that aligns with your risk tolerance and retirement goals. And please be very selective of your financial advisor. Don’t just pull out your mobile phone and just yell out “financial advisor!” and wait for an ad to pop up.

The Choice is Yours:

Just like the Jedi relied on wisdom and discipline, building a secure retirement requires a long-term perspective and a commitment to sound financial planning. Don’t be lured by the dark side’s promises of quick riches. Instead, embrace the light side of responsible investing and let your money grow steadily for a secure and fulfilling retirement. Remember, the Force (financial planning) may be with you, but ultimately, the choice is yours.

7. “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” – Han Solo

As physicians, we use our instincts when we do not have enough data to make a rapid clinical decision. This is fine when a patient is crashing but we are trained to use best practices in these uncommon situations. However, this type of emotional decision-making falls apart in finance. Intuition tends to be wrong and unreliable as a basis for picking profitable investments.

Although our brains can demonstrate amazing analysis and intuition -they can be blinded by cognitive biases that darken our view much like Darth Vader’s mask. One example of a cognitive bias is called “herding bias” which describes the tendency to imitate the investment decisions of others. This is often at the expense of independent analysis or contrary evidence.

8. “The greatest teacher, failure is.” – Yoda

“We eat failure for breakfast,” is what my co-founder would say on those days when we would receive about 25 emails letting us know that we would not get investor funding for our healthcare startup, Alertive.

For entrepreneurs, resilience is an important outcome of repeated failure. Failure is the pressure that creates the beautiful diamond (resilience). Resilience is the ability to anticipate possible risks, cope effectively with unforeseen experiences, and adjust to those changes.

For you to be resilient, failure should be seen as an opportunity to reevaluate and reorganize your past decisions.

The result is that failure opens your mind to new opportunities and perspectives. By failing, you learn to speed up the process of learning and hence make your retirement plan better.

star wars
Image credit: Midjourney with prompts by the author

9. “I find your lack of faith disturbing.” – Darth Vader

How confident are you that your current retirement plan is leading you toward your goals?

There is some correlation between today’s financial behavior and your retirement outcomes. The amount of retirement savings can become a very large factor that drives confidence in one’s financial future. This isn’t surprising. Most folks generally save after all their bills are paid.

When individuals understand the direct impact of their saving efforts on their future security, they are more likely to feel assured and prepared for the challenges and opportunities that retirement may bring. This sense of connection and foresight empowers individuals to make informed decisions, prioritize long-term financial goals, and navigate uncertainties with resilience and confidence.

Once you accomplish the above and feel like you have a solid plan then stay steadfast in your long-term strategy, resist the urge to make impulsive decisions, and have faith in the durability of your financial plan. Trusting in the resilience of your strategy can help navigate uncertainties and keep you on course towards a secure retirement.

10. “The Force will be with you. Always.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi

Even in retirement, you can still be guided by the Force towards financial security. The Force is strong with those who are prepared and who have a plan. By starting saving early, investing wisely, and managing your risk, you can ensure that the Force will be with you in retirement.

Here are some specific ways to use the Force to have a happy and secure retirement:

  1. Start saving early.
  2. Develop an Income Plan.
  3. Choose the Right Investment Strategy for your risk profile.
  4. Forecast Your Expenses.
  5. Anticipate Healthcare Costs.
  6. Implement Tax optimization Strategies.
  7. Maximize your Soc Sec Income.
  8. Finalize Estate Planning.
  9. Have a plan to stay on track.

But there’s a lot more Star Wars has taught and some of it is this:

Be flexible. Things don’t always go according to plan, so it’s important to be flexible in your retirement planning. Be prepared to adjust your plans as needed.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are many resources available to help you with your retirement planning. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from a financial advisor or other qualified professional.

And lastly, enjoy your retirement! Retirement is a time to relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Make sure to make the most of it!

P.S. A really bad joke to commemorate this day…

A young Jedi Padawan rushes into Master Yoda’s hut, lightsaber glowing excitedly. Master Yoda, I’ve discovered a new investment opportunity with returns that are astronomical!

Yoda lowers his datapad, his brow furrowed. “Disturbing, this sounds. Remember, young Padawan, high returns often lead to a dark path. Fees, hidden costs, these are the dangers.”

The Padawan persists, waving a holoprojector displaying a flashy brochure. “But Master, it’s called ‘May the Fourth Be With You Money Multiplier! Guaranteed high returns by the fourth of May!’ They even have a picture of Chewbacca giving a thumbs-up!”

Yoda sighs deeply. “A clever trap, this is. Remember, young Padawan, always research your investments carefully. Keep reading those Physician On FIRE articles, you must. Impulse decisions, lead to a loss of credits they do.”

The Padawan ponders for a moment. So, you’re saying I shouldn’t invest based on catchy slogans and a Wookiee’s endorsement?

Yoda nods.  “Wise you are becoming. Always remember, young Padawan, a balanced portfolio is key. May the fourth be with you…and your well-diversified investments.”



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3 thoughts on “10 Lessons I Learned from Star Wars About Retirement”

  1. Just discovered your site and I stumbled onto this post, what a classic. I’m sure Jar Jar said something wise about finance and retirement….

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  2. Subscribe to get more great content like this, an awesome spreadsheet, and more!

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