02/27/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Consumer Confidence and an All American Attitude

And with the power of conviction
There is no sacrifice
It's a do or die situation
We will be invincible

-Pat Benatar

It was announced that the consumer confidence index has hit an all time low. You can feel the aura of despair everywhere. It's hard to see anything but black.

I wonder how if there is anything an individual can do to turn the overall attitude around.

Then, I think of my old friend, James Street. Street was the quarterback who led the University of Texas to a historic national championship in 1969. He's been featured in numerous books and publications, including Bill Clinton's autobiography.

Street told me that when he came to college at Texas, he decided to never lose a football game. James can be prone to exaggeration, but I looked it up. He never lost a game when he was the starting quarterback.

There are a lot of factors that can determine the outcome of a football game. Like your teammates. Or the team you are playing against. I've seen the referees and weather cost teams games, too.

Somehow, James put the other factors out of his mind. He was confident that nothing was going to stop him.

Nothing did.

I got to know James when he entered the settlement planning (or structured settlement) business about 17 years ago. I had been in the business for some time and we immediately became friends. James was innovative, creative and certain he would be one of the major players in the business.

He is.

He passed along to his son, Huston, his sense of complete self-confidence. Huston became baseball's rookie of the year a few years ago as a pitcher with the Oakland A's.

It was good timing when I saw Street at a recent meeting. A big financial company was giving a presentation. I've been to hundreds presentations and they are mostly the same: The big company pats itself on the back and tells us how wonderful it is.

Not this time. This one was a bleak and sober assessment of the tough times ahead. It was not inspiring in the least. I walked away feeling pretty low.

Then I had a short, 2 ½ hour conversation with James. (If you know Street, you'll know that 2 ½ hours is a brief chat.)

James talked about how hard times bring opportunity for those willing to work and stay focused. We talked about good things going on in the structured settlement business and how those played to our advantage.

If nothing else, Street gives off such a positive vibe that you can't help but feel good about yourself and the world.

In today's economy, there are a lot of things out of control. Greedy bankers and lousy leaders put the world in peril. It seems like everyone is losing his job or losing his home. It is easy to get depressed.

Then I think about the bright side.

We have new leadership in Washington. An angry public is forcing Wall Street and Washington to curb some of its wilder and crazier practices. People are starting to spend less and save when they can.

I've never been one of the "rah rah" cheerleader types. I'm angry that Washington let the gang on Wall Street get away with stuff and then gave them a bailout. I'm not one to offer false hope.

On the other hand, I am confident that we will get through this. The crisis may be what we needed to throw some bad eggs out of Washington, clean up Wall Street and get our personal houses in order.

It's been said that faith can move mountains. Watching a guy like James Street go through life, you have to think maybe faith in yourself can move mountains, too.

Street decided early in life that he had the power to overcome every obstacle. To get through this recession/depression, we must believe that we have the power to move forward, no matter what external forces are against us.

We need to develop Street's All-American attitude.

Don McNay, CLU, ChFC, MSFS, CSSC is the founder of McNay Settlement Group in Richmond, KY You can read his award winning, syndicated financial column at or write to him at Don is the author of Son of a Son of A Gambler and The Unbridled World of Ernie Fletcher.