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Don McNay

“Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose”

 —Janis Joplin (Kris Kristofferson)

“It’s my money and I want it now”

—Commercial for JG Wentworth, a company that buys structured settlement payments from injury victims.

I hate the J.G. Wentworth commercial where people are screaming “It’s my money and I want it now.” I even hate it worse than the Cialis commercial where they are sitting in bathtubs in the middle of a field.  

I have an obvious bias. I am in the business of setting up structured settlements for injured people. Wentworth is in the business of ripping them apart. Fourteen years ago, I spent a lot of my time and my own money convincing some legislatures to regulate Wentworth and companies like it. We made it tougher on Wentworth, but they are still around.

Wentworth has an easy task. All they have to do is get people to focus on the immediate and forget about the future. I try to get them to focus on the long-term.

If you look at the actions of Wall Street, Main Street and Washington during the past 20 years, you can see that the Wentworth philosophy is winning.  

If you look at Washington’s trillion dollar deficits, Main Street home foreclosures and Wall Street chaos, you can’t really say “I want it now” has worked out.

Both Wentworth and I have a different view of “financial freedom.”

Wentworth’s idea of financial freedom is that you can get your hands on a wad of money and spend it immediately.

I have a different view of what financial freedom is really about. To me, real freedom means stability, security and independence.  

It means never running-out of money. It means never having to work at a job you hate, because you can’t afford to quit. It means never becoming a slave to your creditors.  

In short, it means having control and stability in your life.

That is what real financial freedom is about.

Not many people have true financial freedom.  And many who have the opportunity to gain it, screw it up.

It’s been said that 90 percent of people who win the lottery run through the money in five years or less. Sports Illustrated said that 78 percent of NFL players run out of money within three years after their football careers end. Similar ratios holds true in other sports.

In her book, Living Richly, Myra Salter said that 70 percent of all wealth transitions fail.  That means that if you leave money to a loved one, it will be gone within two generations, no matter how much or how little you leave.

I’ve spent 28 years working with injured people and their money. My primary goal is to keep them from blowing it.  

It’s harder than you think.

The three hurdles to overcome are complications, choices and lack of controls.

The world is an increasingly complicated place, but one rule has held true for centuries:   People who have financial security control the destiny of the people who don’t.

As the late John Savage, a frequent speaker at the Million Dollar Round Table, once said, “Spenders in the world always work for savers. It never happens the other way around.”

The rich get richer for many reasons, but one is that they take a long term view about their money.

You don’t hear Warren Buffett yelling, “It’s my money and I want it now.”

There are a lot of financial choices in the world. Many companies prey on the “I want it now” mentality. Payday lenders, tax refund anticipation loans, car leases, subprime mortgages and credit cards are fairly recent additions to the world of personal finance.

All of those vendors will get you immediate cash — at a huge price to pay in the future.

Our grandparents didn’t have credit cards.  Debt absolutely frightened them.

Maybe we should be frightened, too.

As Joe Nocera pointed out in A Piece of the Action, his classic history of personal finance, the rise of credit cards, mutual funds, 401(k) plans and individuals investing in the stock market are all things that have happened primarily since the mid-1960’s.

Our parents lived in an era where they worked a lifetime at one company and got a monthly pension when they turned 65.

Our children will switch jobs frequently and will need to depend on contributions, and the investment results, of 401(k) plans to allow them to retire.

Our parents and grandparents had systems to protect them.  Our children and grandchildren are on their own.

I preach a simple gospel: Think about the long term. Tear up your credit cards. Don’t trust Wall Street, your government or your employer to take care of you. Look at financial vehicles, such as annuities and life insurance, to give you a sense of security.

Janis Joplin sang, “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.” Actually Janis, (and Kris Kristofferson, who wrote the song), had it semi-right.  

Real freedom means living in a way where you can have fun, enjoy life and know that you are never going to hit a time when you are out of cash and out of luck.

Instead of “It’s my money and I want it now,” a better way to think is “It’s my money and I want it always.”

Don McNay, CLU, ChFC, MSFS, CSSC of Richmond Kentucky  is an award-winning financial columnist and Huffington Post Contributor. You can read more about Don at

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