5 Debt Lessons From Darth Vader

Photo: d.loop

One of the most evil heroes in science fiction history is Anakin Skywalker, aka Darth Vader. He went from being a great man and good friend to betraying everyone he loved and becoming a sinister Sith Lord. Ultimately, the story of Anakin Skywalker is one of redemption. We can learn a few lessons about debt from his tumultuous tale.  Anakin's life was full of ups and downs just like your journey to pay off debt.  Although things seemed bleak and beyond repair, good forces kept up the fight and triumphed in the end. Here are five lessons about debt we can take away from the Jedi who finally brought balance to the Force. (See also: 21 Personal Finance Lessons From Harry Potter)

1. Debt Often Entices You Bit by Bit

Anakin didn't turn to the dark side all at once. No, he was enticed a little bit at a time. Debt is the same way. You consider buying something small with your credit card, telling yourself that you can pay it off soon. Then you buy something else. Soon you are making increasingly large purchases. You tell yourself that you will pay it off in two or three months, but you don't. One day, you wake up and realize that you are so deep in debt that you're not sure you can get out. This is just like when you realize that you're so deep into the dark side that your only option is to kill off nearly all of the remaining Jedi.

2. Debt Becomes Your Master

When Anakin became Darth Vader, it seemed as though he had all the power. In reality, though, he was merely the apprentice. His master was the Emperor. While you're racking up the debt, it might seem as though you are in charge. You feel great about all the stuff you have. However, debt can become the real master. Your financial resources are claimed by the principal and interest payments. Over time, you find that you have less at your disposal — just as Darth Vader's will was subservient to the Emperor's.

Don't let debt rule your life.  It is oppressive, but you're not a broken person just because you got into debt. To borrow a quote from the "Get Out of Debt Guy," Steve Rhodes, "you ain't your f*$#$*# debt".

3. Blaming Others Won't Help Your Problem With Debt

I'm going to go into the prequels a little bit for this one (sacrilege, I know, but it makes a good point). Anakin blamed others for his problems, especially Obi-Wan. Rather than owning his issues and facing his demons, he retreated into the comforting idea that his difficulties were someone else's doing. With debt, you need to take ownership of the problem and recognize some of the behaviors that put you in this situation. Until you face your own debt demons, you won't be able to overcome them.

4. Beware What Seems Too Good to Be True

When Anakin is filled with self-doubt and worried that his wife will die, Chancellor Palpatine takes advantage of this weakness and makes promises that are too good to be true. Palpatine claims that he can teach Anakin how to save his wife's life and keep her alive. All Anakin has to do is follow Palpatine and listen to what he says.

Unfortunately, when you're in debt, the bad guys come after you in full force, making lots of promises they can't keep. Don't get taken advantage of by people trying to sell you shortcuts out of debt. If you fall for them, the shortcuts will end up putting you even more in the hole than you were to begin with.

That being said, don't rule out alternatives to getting out of debt until you've done your research and understand the pros and cons of each approach. Our society has a stigma about bankruptcy and some of us avoid it at all costs — which could end up hurting you and your family in the long run. Your best option is to learn about what you owe and what your payoff options are — then choose what makes the most sense.

5. It's Possible to Conquer Debt

Ultimately, the best debt lesson to learn from Anakin Skywalker is that debt can be overcome. In the end, Anakin managed to throw off the persona of Darth Vader, defeat the Emperor, and die his own man. While you don't have to die to reach debt freedom, you can overcome it and reclaim your financial resources. In the end, Darth Vader turned himself into a hero. You can pay off your obligations, free yourself, and become a debt hero. Are you ready?

To read about 21 real life Debt Heroes who got into and out of large amounts of debt check out my new book Debt Heroes.  Put together with Jeff Rose as part of the Debt Movement this book walks you through your own personal journey to pay off debt, giving you success stories for example and motivation!

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5 Debt Lessons From Darth Vader

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Guest's picture

Great Points Ben!

A very geeky way to bring Debt awareness to people.

And bonus points for no Jar Jar references :)

Guest's picture

Excellent post. I really enjoy the metaphor and the analogy with Star Wars and Jedi culture.

Guest's picture

This was a fun read. You makes some very valid points.

Guest's picture

A good life lesson it was.

Guest's picture

Oh, great, thanks for spoiling the ending. Never knew Vader turned back to good. Wonderful... :( on the upside, now I REALLY don't need to watch the rest of the movies.

Guest's picture

Return of the Jedi has been out since 1983. If you haven't seen the ending by now, you obviously don't care for the series that much.

Guest's picture

I love the analogies you've drawn between Mr. Vader and Debt! And I think the best one is the 4th idea - when any debt plan is too good to be true, it honestly trying to trap you while you look the other way peacefully thinking about something else. The most common trap to look out for is the 'type' interest rate - is it compounding, is it on a decreasing balance or not? It's easy for banks to fool customers by fudging the marketing material and clients need to beware.

Guest's picture

Great parallels, Ben, and spot-on advice on debt!

While debt accumulated due to non-investment goods and services - a nice house, remodelling, new car, new home entertainment equipment, and so on - can really sink us, there's also the other kind of debt that makes money for us: other people's money used as leverage for investments. If you invest carefully into solid and stable assets or businesses, debt used as leverage can really make a huge positive difference to you. We all know how well it can work in real estate, for example. Obviously, recent stories on real estate investment also remind us of the other side of using debt as leverage. If your investments go south, your leverage will just multiply the effect and get you into a hole that can be very hard to get out of.

So, debt - having both the "evil" and good sides - is a bit like fire: it can serve you very well in many ways, but it can also really burn you if used in a wrong way or for wrong purposes.

Guest's picture

I think there's a little bit of Darth Vader in all of us – we are torn individuals, torn between the lure of more debt to get what we want and the sweet smell of freedom.

DOWN WITH DEBT! May the force be with you. Thanks for the article!