The Lady in the Black recently took a hiatus from blogging. Now she’s back to mix more science with personal finance. This time she’s delving into the world of physics and the realm of Newtonian finance.
As this is my first blog post after a bit of a hiatus, I’d love to say that I’ve spent that time carefully researching this topic and massaging this article to the point of perfection. But I can’t.
In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I didn’t know I was ready to write again. I wasn’t planning any topic at all. This just came to me and, hell, I’m going with it….because apparently the Universe is saying I’ve had enough rest.
Sir Isaac Newton and His Bossy Laws
I can’t honestly say I know much about this founding father of physics…well, there’s the story of him and an apple falling on his head but I doubt that’s really what the man should be remembered for. However, as a science geek with a degree in biology, I can say that I’m pretty familiar with his laws of motion.
Without getting too dorked out, let’s just say that Newton’s Laws of Motion are foundational to how we view the mechanics of how our world operates today. He is one of the most influential scientists of all time and, by all respects, one super smart dude.
It occurred to me tonight that some of his laws could be used to view personal finances in a new light. And isn’t that the biggest battle of all? Changing your perspective on your money and how it works in your world?
So, without further ado, I give you…
Newton’s First Law
Per the fun website over at PhysicsClassrom.com, Newton’s first law of motion is often stated as:
An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.
Go ahead. Read it one more time. Sounds vaguely familiar, right? Now, let’s break it down.
First Clause: “An object at rest stays at rest.”
When applying physical science to personal finances, this first clause of Newton’s first law could be interpreted to imply that if you don’t DO anything about your financial situation it will remain unchanged.
While that seems logical, there are many reasons why people are apathetic about their personal finances.
I won’t make grand assumptions but simply reflect on my own personal situation. While I often say I struggled with my finances for years, the simple truth is I don’t think I ever tried very hard. I thought making more money would solve everything. I even think (for a while) that I was entitled to have someone else fix my financial mess. In hindsight, I realize there were moments in times where I was more invested in creating positive change. Sadly, those bright, shining moments were far outnumbered by defeatism and apathy.
In short, I didn’t know how to build a personal finance system that worked for me so I did nothing.
So, how do you stop being “at rest” and start moving your personal finances forward?
Well, you need a force to act upon it. I believe it can be either an internal or external force that initiates forward progress but we will get to the details of force in a future post.
For now, let’s move onto the second clause of Newton’s first law.
Second Clause: “An object in motion stays in motion.”
So if there is such a thing as financial physics (and I think there is) then we can interpret this to mean that once you finally put your money in motion, it will keep going.
Hell, there are several economic and behavioral posits to back this up. Take compounding interest, for example. Once you start saving, your money starts saving itself. Or even the concept of behavioral conditioning works here, too. Building new habits like budgeting or investing takes a bit to get going but once it turns into routine, these financial behaviors seem effortless to continue.
When you are stuck at financial ground zero, it is encouraging to know that once your financial improvement project gets up and going, things have a way of moving forward on their own. Call it attraction theory, “hard work pays off”, or “fortune helps those who help themselves.”
I’ll call it financial inertia.
One Condition: “Unless acted upon by an unbalanced force”
Now, one condition to financial inertia–and it’s a kind of a bitch. It’s the last bit about “unless acted upon by an unbalanced force” that does have a habit of tripping you up.
Unbalanced forces threaten our financial motion. And honestly, with how chaotic the Universe is, it is impossible to safeguard yourself entirely. There will be missteps and mistakes and breakdowns and even big old walls on your journey. That’s natural. In fact, it’s the nature of the Universe. Yet, water finds ways to flow, gravity finds ways to attract, and life continues to reproduce.
The fix to unbalanced forces is simple in theory and difficult in practice. To fix unbalanced forces, you need balance.
Take my recent hiatus, for example. Essentially, my financial inertia was humming along pretty good there and I hit some “unbalanced forces.” There were too many factors pushing me around, preventing me from moving straight on my financial path. I wisely took a time out and honored my need for a shutdown and some rest.
I’m not here to tell you how to rebalance yourself after a financial setback. I’m just going to remind you that an unbalance CAN be rebalanced–and once you find your equilibrium again, it’s a lot easier to push back into motion.
The Universe is full of physical laws. These laws shape our lives in profound ways yet we take them for granted. Understanding certain scientific laws, such as inertia, can help us look at our financial world in a new light.
Lord knows, high school science wasn’t for everyone–but science rules our world, and so does money. Maybe the two aren’t as far apart as we imagine.
The Lady in the Black plans to continue her scientific and financial pursuits. Stay tuned for Newton’s Second Law: Acceleration….at some point.
- I had originally planned to cover all 3 laws in one post. Now, I believe I’ll break them up into 3 separate posts. Stay tuned.
- Sometimes stuff just pops into my brain and I think “Am I the first person to ever think of this?” That was my thought tonight when this concept of Newtonian Finance struck my brain like an epiphany apple falling from a tree. (Science geek joke there.) A bit of searching (after writing the body of this article) revealed that sadly, I am NOT the founder of a new financial theory. I found one related article, Newton’s Laws of Finance. I liked it so I’m linking to it for your reading pleasure. Oh, and how’s this for weird? The article is written by a woman who’s company is based in my hometown, 3,000 miles from my current residence. How crazy is THAT?