Thursday, March 24, 2011

Newton's First Law of Personal Finance

I have decided why so many of us have such a hard time living a financially healthy lifestyle.

We are terrified of change.

No, not that jingly stuff that your kids beg from you to throw into a fountain (do your kids do this? Ours do and I LOVE this innocence!).

I mean that most of us, by nature, resist change. Seriously…even Sir Isaac Newton knew this. In his first law of motion, often referred to as the Law of Inertia, (see, this is the geek in me coming out to play), he stated that An object that is in motion will not change its velocity unless an unbalanced force acts upon it. (not a direct quote, mind you, but an application of the law).

So we happily plug away in whatever direction we set out on because change is so hard.

It takes guts to look at your financial situation honestly. To face the truth of how much you make and how much you spend as well as how much you owe, and weigh out the imbalance of it all…it’s often humbling, embarrassing, and depressing. And none of us are really big on feeling that way. It’s easier to ignore it and play along. At least for now it is.

It takes gumption to go against the norm, and if you plan on living a financially healthy lifestyle (you know, below your means and with a plan for your money to work for you now and in the future), you WILL have to go against the norm. You will not be able to keep up with the Joneses. You will not be able to compare your newest tech toy with your neighbor. You will not get to discuss the latest movie in the theaters with your coworkers. You will have to explain to your children why they simply cannot have a particular toy. It doesn’t really feel good at first. You will feel different…and that is unsettling for most of us.

It takes courage to change your ways. Not only will you have to stop being like others, but you will have to stop being like the person you have previously been. Not only can you not buy the newest toy, but you might have to sell some of the previous models just so you can have some cash to pay down your bills. You will have to stop enjoying nice sit-down lunches with coworkers in exchange for a bagged lunch brought from home full of leftovers of the home-cooked dinner from a previous night (that’s right…you’ll be cooking at home too).

But you know what? You can do it. You see, Newton did not say that it would be impossible to change directions. It just takes an unbalanced force to change the direction. That force could be a blog post you read, it could be a neighbor’s repossessed vehicle, or it could be something more personal, like a job loss or a large unexpected medical bill. If you’re lucky, it will not take something that drastic to turn you around.

I have some really good news for you:

That Law of Inertia…it works both ways. The turning around is the frightening part. It is scary. It hurts. It depresses. But once you accept it, the freedom is yours to be had. The power you gain by sending in more than minimum payments and watching those balances shrink is amazing. Once you are headed down the road to financial independence, once you experience the freedom of paying off that credit card, once you feel the release of actually OWNING your car, it will take a lot to turn you back around again.

So if you haven’t done it yet, make that turn onto the road of financial freedom. That is the direction that you will want to be traveling so that your speed and momentum can grow and you can live independently. You will then be able to truly thrive.

Photo credit: blackcat79


  1. My favorite time to quote Newton's law of inertia? When trying to wake up in the morning.

    I hit the snooze button and mumble, "an object at rest tends to stay at rest! You can't fight the laws of physics!"

  2. "Not only will you have to stop being like others, but you will have to stop being like the person you have previously been." - That is so true! And so hard to do. I love the way this post compares finances to the law of inertia. Very thought-provoking!