With Star Wars back on the front burner of our entertainment culture via The Mandalorian, I am reminded of Yoda — not baby Yoda, but Yoda the Jedi master. Though small of stature, he loomed large in wisdom, and he had a way of getting to the heart of the matter. A philosopher, he was.

Let me get to the heart of the matter: The SMI staff and I are excited about the financial content and investing recommendations we bring you regularly. You get beginner-to-intermediate level articles that build your understanding of sound financial practices and principles, and four easy-to-implement investment strategies that range from very conservative to very aggressive for use in various seasons of life. All for under $170 a year (or just $99 for a Basic Membership!). C’mon, you’ve got to admit that’s a pretty great deal.

And yet over the past 10 years, for every 100 new subscribers who “try” SMI, roughly 50 of them leave our ranks after the first year. Admittedly, some of those folks may have good reasons for departing (such as switching to SMI Private Client). But based on reader feedback, we know that many just don’t seem to be willing to change from their present way of doing things to a new way of planning, giving, saving, investing, and spending.

For most of us, change is hard. We may know we should change, want to change, and even begin the process of change, but seeing the effort through until new attitudes and habit patterns are established and change is actually accomplished takes time as well as commitment. And who among us has a lot of extra time on their hands?

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey has sold over 40 million copies. In it, Covey explains a way of thinking about time management used by top-level business and ministry executives around the world. He divides the way in which we spend our time into four groups, distinguishing between tasks that are important versus those that are not, and tasks that are urgent versus those that are not:

  • Quadrant 1 are things of importance happening right now or very soon — dealing with a crisis or problem, or meeting an important deadline. They demand our attention.
  • Quadrant 2 items are also important, but they don’t have a “must do now” imperative associated with them. Most planning, preparation, and problem prevention activities fall here. Nothing obviously bad happens if we don’t quite get around to them this week, month, or year.
  • Quadrant 3 activities — phone calls, interruptions, much email, some meetings — also take up our time, but they’re usually not helpful. We should ignore these more than we do.
  • Quadrant 4 items are, by definition, optional. They’re neither pressing nor important. We can save valuable time here if we choose to omit them. They include most online activities, TV viewing, and various busywork.

Covey maintains that Quadrant 2 items are the critical ones. They’re easy to postpone, but they have important long-term consequences. Investing time here requires discipline, but it offers the greatest returns — in family relationships, career advancement, and financial rewards.

Subscribing to a service like Sound Mind Investing shows an openness to change, possibly even an awareness that change is needed. But when it becomes apparent to the newer reader that a time commitment is required to work one’s way through the Four Levels process and get on the road to financial security, many fall by the wayside. “I found I just wasn’t reading it each month” and “I don’t have the time” are the two most common responses from those who don’t renew their subscriptions.

If this describes you, it’s not too late to make changes. You’ve got us coming alongside you regularly with biblically based guidance. You know you’ve got the time — you can take it from Quadrants 3 and 4. And you’ve got the encouraging example of others like yourself who have gone before you — the multiple thousands of subscribers who have been with SMI for five years or longer. They’ve made the effort to become Quadrant 2 people.

Join them, and someday thankful you will be!