10/17/2010 10:15 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Third World America: Is Living a Normal Life a Political Statement?

All the fun that a man could need, I've got waiting at home for me. ~ Paul Overstreet

I was in Louisville last week and saw Arianna Huffington and Howard Fineman tape a segment of the Kentucky Authors Series. Arianna was discussing her book, Third World America, and referred to her recent appearance on The Daily Show in which Jon Stewart asked her, "Isn't living a normal, stable life a political statement?"

Her answer was that at this point in history, people need to take action.

Maybe Stewart put his finger on the problem.

There aren't enough of us living normal, stable lives.

This summer, I attended the fiftieth wedding anniversary of Glen Kleine, my college journalism professor at Eastern Kentucky University and his wife, Joan. It was an incredible event and I had a certain degree of envy.

Like half of all Americans, my marriage ended in divorce. Unless I live to be over 100, I am never going to have the type of celebration that the Kleines had.

America is going through economic chaos. But a lot of other things are going on, too.

A huge number of adults are addicted to drugs or alcohol. An even larger number of us are obese or addicted to nicotine. All of us, (I'm in the obese category), are using at least one substance to deal with the stresses of daily life.

If we could reduce the number of addicts in this country, we would be on our way to eliminating Third World America.

Economic stress is a reason some Americans turn to substance abuse. According to the Census Bureau, 14.3% of Americans live in poverty. That's the highest poverty number in decades.

Unemployment is around 10% and underemployment is much higher.

People who have maxed-out their credit cards live in fear of losing their jobs, and are not sure if they can ever retire.

It would be a political statement if those people could get economic stability in their lives.

A far better statement than attending a rally.

Abraham Maslow developed a famous hierarchy of needs.

Maslow believed that you couldn't advance to self-actualization, which is the skill needed to lead a revolt against authority, until you had your physical, social, and safety needs met.

I've spent my life as a structured settlement consultant. I work with people who receive big money. People are stunned when I say that roughly 90% of lottery winners run through all their money in five years or less and 60% of NBA players will be broke within five years of retirement.

When people get big money, many freely hand out cash and expect love in return.

They get the love as long as they have the cash. Later, they wind up with no cash and no friends, either.

The Beatles had it right. Money can't buy love. Love is something you have to develop over a lifetime.

If you want to make a political statement, you can start by being a good role model for your family, friends and neighbors.

If we focused on a society where productive lives are valued and celebrated, we wouldn't be on the verge of Third World America.

If our celebrities were people who were stable and honest, instead of Hollywood train wrecks, we would have a vision of where society should go and the role models to help lead us there.

A lot of the economic crisis can be attributed to people trying to "keep up with the Joneses."

People racked up credit card debts and sub-prime loans to buy houses and cars they couldn't afford.

To quote Dave Ramsey, "They spent money they didn't have to impress people they don't know."

Wall Street focused on short term profits and big time bonuses. That's the same problem that individuals had but at a much more dangerous level.

I want our politicians to get out of the pocket of big money lobbyists and listen to the people who elected them. I want the power elites to recognize that the world on Main Street is a world they know little about.

It's hard for an individual like me to get Washington and Wall Street to shape-up. I'm doing many of the things I can, like moving my money from Wall Street banks to community banks and credit unions (See for more information) but it takes millions of us to implement real change.

It is possible for us to get ourselves to live normal, stable lives and to encourage our friends and family to do the same.

All it takes is to live each day with the idea of being a positive role model.

If all of us do that, there will be little chance we will become Third World America.

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

McNay founded McNay Settlement Group, a structured settlement and financial consulting firm, in 1983, and Kentucky Guardianship Administrators LLC in 2000. You can read more about both at

McNay has Master's Degrees from Vanderbilt and the American College and is in the Hall of Distinguished Alumni of Eastern Kentucky University.

McNay has written two books. Most recent is Son of a Son of a Gambler: Winners, Losers and What to Do When You Win The Lottery

McNay is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Round Table and has four professional designations in the financial services field.

Arianna Huffington and Howard Fineman. Kentucky Author's Forum in Louisville October 13