Newton’s Guide To Personal Finance

Sir Isaac Newton. “The Big Fig.” You know him, you love him. You are probably familiar with Newton and his apple. Newton and gravity. Newton and mathematics and Newton and many other aspects of physics, optics and science in general. Today, we’re going to focus on oneof Newton’s three laws of motion and how it relates to your personal financial picture.

Newton’s Three Laws Of Motion

Number One:

An object at rest tends to stay at rest and an object in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted upon by a net external force. Also known, simply, as inertia.

Number Two:

An applied force on an object equals the rate of change of its momentum, with time

Number Three:

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction

Can you guess which law we’re going to focus on?
If you guessed number one, way to go, tough guy.

Newton’s first law of motion: Inertia.

It’s often said that the hardest part about working out is simply getting up and starting. I wholeheartedly agree with that statement. For me personally, once I actually begin my workout whether it be running or weight training, I’m good to go. The difficulty lies in just getting up, taking the first few steps of a run or transporting myself to the gym. Overcoming that initial inert state sometimes takes seemingly as much mental power as the workout takes physical power.

The same phenomenon can be paralleled in finance. Take a look at your financial picture currently. For some people this snapshot is more than a little daunting. Perhaps you don’t have a budget, you’re deeply in debt, you are spending more than you’re making each month, you are behind on bills… These are major issues without a quick fix. It’s easy to try to take it all in and become instantly overwhelmed and turn right back around and ignore all these issues for another week, another month, forever.

The more difficult decision is to really take it all in, process the gravity of your situation (Newtonian pun intended), and then actually do something about it. To actually Face Your Finances. (Hey, that’s the name of this site!) Newton’s first law states that an object at rest tends to stay at rest unless acted upon by a net external force. The “object” at rest in this situation is the way in which you’re currently handling your finances. Basically, you’re not. The net external force, or dominating force, is simply a decision to change your circumstances. This decision, obviously, must be backed up by action to make it complete. Along with the tendency of an object at rest staying at rest is coupled an object in motion staying in motion. And here is the important key to this law: Unless acted upon by a net external force.

You may be thinking, “…an object in motion staying in motion?” You throw a ball as hard as you can and it flies up in an arc, it accelerates, arcs down, decelerates, hits the ground and rolls and eventually stops. All things that move eventually stop, right? Yes. In physics this is due to friction. (Or walls.) If you could somehow invent a perfectly friction-less environment, you could probably make something ‘go’ forever but we’re not going to dwell on that just now.

So you’ve decided to look at your flaming wreck of a financial landscape and it has shocked you BUT you’ve grabbed it by the bean bag and taken control. You’re taking steps to establish a budget, you’re calling people you owe money to and working out deals and you are paying off debt, you’ve picked up a second job or gotten a promotion and you’re cutting your out of control spending at every opportunity. Awesome, good job, chief. What now? You’re in motion, you should tend to stay in motion unless “acted upon by a net external force” right? We have already defined this as friction in physics. What is a net external force, in life? Well, it’s life. Life has a way of knowing just when you’re making your move and coming up with really clever, creative and sneaky ways to not necessarily prevent you from accomplishing your tasks, but oftentimes making it much more difficult to do so. Knowing this and accepting this will give you much peace in life: Life Happens.

How do we go about minimizing the friction of Life? Well, there are several steps we can take to do this.

  • Plan for the unexpected. Set aside savings to deal with things that inevitably will come up.
  • Automate savings and payments. The less you have to think about trivial matters like paying bills and transferring funds from checking to savings, the better.
  • Take good care of your body. Regular workouts, body massages, healthy diet and proper sleep will do amazing things for your day to day life
  • Focus on healthy relationships. If you’re surrounding yourself with people who suck; who are just jackasses, that is not conducive to moving forward in life.
  • Read. Whether you’re reading fiction or something that will teach you something, I don’t care. Read. It’ll engage your brain SO much more than TV.

The list goes on, of course, but you get the point. Take care of yourself and set yourself up to make achieving your goals as seamless as possible. When life does happen, and it will, it kills motivation. When it comes down purely to finances, it’s unfortunate that people aren’t robots. Everything would be so simple then and there would be no point in writing all of this because motivation would not even be a factor. People aren’t robots, though and motivation is a BIG factor which is why it’s so important to live a good life.

In summary:

  1. Get up off your couch.
  2. Do something.
  3. Streamline it.
  4. Protect it.
  5. Reap the rewards.

Be the object that tends to stay in motion. Be the net external force.


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