Gena Bigler

My daughter Gena Bigler writes a terrific "Smart Money" column each week for   Gena Bigler's Smart Money Column






Life Lessons from the Lottery by best-selling author Don McNay released on Kindle on Saturday, November 17


For more information:  

Don McNay,, (859) 353-4598 or (859-626-3600 ext. 225)

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Why do people run through large sums of money quickly?


Best-selling author and lottery guru Don McNay has devoted over 30 years to searching for the answer to this question.


When you hear about Powerball winner Jack Whitaker running through millions that he received from the lottery or Alan Iverson, who has none of the $154 million he made as a professional basketball star, you can't help but wonder what happened.


It's not just famous people who do stupid things with their money. It's everyone.  


A report by the National Endowment for Financial Education said that 70 percent who receive a lump sum from any source run through it in a few years. 


Many people will deal with a life-changing amount of money at some point in their lives.


No matter the source, there is a universal conclusion: People with big money have a problem holding onto it.


McNay said that people run through money for five reasons: 


1. Family and friends. People try to "buy" love and friendship or they feel compelled to show off by buying houses, cars, clothes and items. As Will Rogers used to say, "They are spending money they don't have to impress people they don't know."


2. Bad habits, bad advisors, lack of knowledge. People who spend more than they make will not suddenly be "cured" when they get a lump sum of money.


3. Taking the money in a lump sum.


4. They don't think before they act. People make impulse decisions. They think they can pay something off "over time." Then time runs out on their money.


5. Not having a purpose for their money.


In McNay's 2008 bestseller, Son of a Son of a Gambler, Winners, Losers and What to Do When You Win the Lottery, he tells people to do five things if they find out they hit the jackpot:


1. Never tell anyone you won. If you live in a state where you can collect the money anonymously, do so.


2. Don't make any quick decisions. Take some time and put together a plan.


3. Take the money in payments instead of a lump sum.


4. Talk to experts who have worked with more money than you have. If you win $100 million, find advisors who have received $150 million. 


5. Use your money for a purpose.  


Having made the connection that people who take a lump sum have the same problems that lottery winners do, Life Lessons from the Lottery takes the advice intended for lottery winners and distills it into practical advice, commentary and insights that the average person can use.


Life Lessons from the Lottery is not your typical personal finance book. The book allows the reader to a deep look into their soul, find out what they are looking for in life and use the money they have to get there.


Follow the counsel of this book and you will be on your way to achieving your own version of happiness.


With your money and your life.


The Kindle version of the book will be released on Amazon on Saturday, November 17. On the same date, readers will be able to download free or reduced price versions of McNay's other books.  


The paperback version of the book will be released in the first part of 2013.




For over 30 years, Don McNay has been the expert people call when they receive large sums of money. His sage advice helps them deal with the trials, tribulations and challenges of sudden wealth.


A best-selling author, Huffington Post contributor and award-winning syndicated columnist, McNay has worked with hundreds of lottery winners, injury victims, heirs and celebrities when their financial picture changes overnight.


McNay has Master's Degrees from Vanderbilt University and the American College, along with four professional designations. He's a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Round Table and was selected for the Eastern Kentucky University Hall of Distinguished Alumni.


Along with his extensive writing and weekly column, McNay has made hundreds of appearances on television and radio shows around the world.   He is scheduled to launch his own radio show,  McNay on the Money in 2013. 


Some of the appearances include: CBS Morning NewsCBS Evening News with Katie CouricABC News RadioBBC News, Al Jazeera-EnglishCBC Television (Canada), CTV (Canada) and Radio Live (New Zealand).


Don has been featured in magazines, such as Forbes and Financial Planning, and has been quoted in thousands of publications and news services, such as Los Angeles Times, USA Today and The Associated Press.




  Al, Don,  Mark at Keeneland


Mark Neikirk,  Don McNay and Al Smith at Keeneland last Friday. 


Al Smith, Kentucky Cured.


Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me....
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.


-John Newton


Along with being one of the most influential journalists in the history of Kentucky,  Al Smith is a fascinating role model of redemption and overcoming addiction.


January, 2013 will mark the fiftieth year since Al took his last drink and began his road to greatness.     The former head of the Appalachian Regional Commission for President Carter, Smith's  second book,   Kentucky Cured:   Fifty Years in Kentucky Journalism,  is a collection of reflections and stories about mesmerizing people that he met during his decades in the bluegrass state.


A "must read" for students of Kentucky history, journalism and politics,    Kentucky Cured is really the book that I thought Smith would write  as his autobiography.    Kentucky Cured is loaded with  insights about Kentucky and Kentuckians. 


At age 84,  Al became a first time author  in 2011 with his stunning  autobiography,  Wordsmith.   As I noted in a review of that book,   "Smith's writes with gut-wrenching honesty about how he overcame self-destruction. It might be one of the best books that anyone anywhere has written about overcoming the grips of alcohol addiction.'  Much of that book  is centered around his years in New Orleans and I noted in my review that it was  written "with the raw edge of a man who looked the devil in the eye and stared him down, but knows he is always just one drink away from falling back into the abyss."


Kentucky Cured reflects the upbeat,  spellbinding and positive side of Smith's personality,  laced with colorful characters, well known and unknown.  It traces his journalism career from his "rebirth" in Western Kentucky to the most current of current events.      Kentucky Cured   gives a glimpse at people like  political powerhouses Emerson "Doc" Beauchamp of Logan County,  who few Kentuckians of this era know little about, but who played a major role in shaping the state's history. 


The book is not really about other Kentuckians, it's about Al.   A man who seems to know everyone.   A man who has overcome adversity and passionately devoted his life to helping people that society often "throws away."   A man who, like Forrest Gump,  always seems to show up just as history is happening.


Kentucky Cured reflects all of those traits that Al possesses.   It is also an entertaining and easy read.  The 220 pages fly along from story to story.


And finally,


Anyone who watched Kentucky Educational Television's, Comment on Kentucky program  during the  thirty plus  years that Al  hosted  of the show definitely wants to own a copy of the book.   It fills in the gaps on  many of the issues, people and ideas that made Comment a "must watch" for movers and shakers in the state.


Al was granted the gift of "amazing grace" to overcome his addiction but what he has done in the fifty years since he became,  "Kentucky Cured"  makes for a fascinating read for Kentuckians and non-Kentuckians as well.   



Don McNay, CLU, ChFC, MSFS, CSSC is a bestselling author and expert on what to do when you win the lottery.  He was a frequent guest on Comment on Kentucky
when Al Smith hosted the show.  His latest book, Life Lessons Learned From the Lottery
, will be available on Kindle on November 17. 


  Long Version 

"Teach your children well." -- Crosby, Stills and Nash.


I have three suggestions for parents concerning money:


1. Keep your children from being spoiled rich jerks.


I helped a young child who is being raised by a committee. His single mother was killed in an accident. The child received a large sum of money from his mother's death and lives with extended relatives.


A judge decided to appoint a committee to handle his upbringing and named a non-related attorney as administrator. I advised the committee as to how to handle his finances.


The child comes from a lower-income family, and few of his relatives are well-educated.

When it came to the issue of the child's spending money, the first thing that the administrator decided was that that the child would have to earn his allowance by working with handicapped children and others less fortunate than himself. He also suggested that the child should be involved in youth groups and receive special tutoring.


The boy is going to have a rough time going through life with no parents, and it will be harder still for him to know that he received a huge amount of money because of his mother's death. Helping children with physical handicaps will give him a sense of self-purpose, and it will also force him to recognize that others in life have adversity and learn to deal with it.


Helping other people might keep the child from being a spoiled, rich jerk.


Money can bring power and security, but it also can bring insecurity. People who are rich never know if someone likes them for who they are or for their money. Many develop the attitude that everyone wants something from them, and they are often right.


I grew up hating private country clubs and considered them to be the pinnacle of snobby elitism. I won't join a private club -- although in fairness, no private club has ever asked me to join.


As an adult, I can understand why rich people want to hang out with other rich people. In that environment, everyone is of similar financial status and the rich can feel more secure.


In the case of the young boy, the committee decided that he should take golf and tennis lessons. His finances are set for him, and he will receive large payments over his lifetime. He will probably have friends who are well-off, too. Being a golfer and tennis player will allow him to bond with children who grew up with similar wealth.


If you have children, you want to ensure that they are financially secure. There are some steps to making sure that money does not warp them.

  • Don't let them have it all at once. Most people spend a lifetime gathering significant wealth. Getting too much, too young, does not give a person the proper perspective.
  • Make sure they understand it is not easy to come by. Having them earn money, rather than having it given to them, is a good way for them to find out what other people do to feed themselves. I had a friend that grew up wealthy who once complained that he felt deprived because his neighbor was given a chain of gas stations by his parents and he was not. He could not relate to the idea that many people his age were hoping to get a job pumping gas or making change at a gas station, instead of owning one. His perspective on life was warped.
  • Make sure they know money can do good things. Too many people with inherited wealth spend it trying to impress other people with inherited wealth. If your children know they can spend it to make other people's lives better, they will be happier in the long run.
  • Don't let them think in terms of a big inheritance. I have seen many young people waste their lives waiting for a rich relative to die and leave them a big lump sum. The relative would do them a bigger favor by spending the money on their education and setting up a trust or other mechanism to make sure that any inheritance does not come in as a lump sum.
  • Be a good role model. If you give money to charity, your children probably will, too. If you volunteer to do things in the community, your children will follow your lead. If you want to teach your children not to be spoiled, rich jerks, don't act like one yourself.

2. They don't teach your children about money in college. You need to step up to the plate or it is never going to happen.


If they ever let me speak to a college graduation, here is what I am going to tell them:


College seniors enter a world based on economics and without much preparation for what is about to hit them. College is good for many things, but preparing students for "real world" finance is not one of them.


There are three things a college graduate should know about money: How to make it, how to keep it and how to use it to develop a lifestyle that that will give you long-term happiness.

Even when planning on being an entrepreneur and having their own gig, most graduates get experience by working for someone else. They need someone to hire them.


Getting hired is a tricky thing. There are courses, counselors and tons of books devoted to the subject, but I offer students only one piece of advice: "It's all about them, not about you."

Employers hire employees to help employers make more money. They are not interested in accommodating your personal desires unless that somehow happens to coincide with adding to the bottom line.


You need to sell them. They don't need to sell you.


Do potential employers look at your Facebook page and other social networking sites? Of course they do. I have for a long time. It can make or break a person. I don't mind pictures from drunken keg parties. I can only imagine what my Facebook page would have looked like if people carried cameras during my undergrad years (and, of course, had there even been Facebook then... or computers... or electricity). Doing crazy stuff is part of the college experience.


Employers want a hard worker with a positive attitude. The quickest way to NOT get a job is to mouth off online about your former and current employers. I'm stunned when I see examples of people posting negative remarks about their job or boss, usually while they are sitting at the job where they are supposed to be working.


Which leads to the second topic: How to keep the money you make.


The days of lifetime employment are over. Corporations and government entities come in and cut thousands of jobs on a whim. They will invent a computer or robot that does your job. One day, you will wake up and find that someone in India has taken your position.


Be ready and build a "take this job and shove it" fund. Former Treasury Secretary Don Regan called it "f--- you money."


Either way (though I prefer the Regan terminology), it means freeing yourself from staying in a job you hate because you can't afford to quit.


In order to do that, you need to be financially independent. Most college students aren't.

It used to be that students just didn't have any income. Now they have huge debts.


I keep running into the same type of college graduates. They have big credit card debts, student loans outstanding, payments on cars they're upside-down on and looking to buy their first home.

They are never going to have "f--- you" money. They will spend the next 50 years of their lives at the whim of whatever boss, bank or creditor who wants to pull their chain.


Before buying a brand new car or a house, the focus needs to be on paying down debt and getting some savings in the bank.


Somewhere I read that a person's financial style is set by age 27. If a person is a spender at 20, he may get over it by 30. If he is a spender at 30, he probably will be for the rest of his life.


The years after college are the time to be "reborn," in a financial sense. It's a time to set up your life so that money works for you, rather than you working for money.


Class of _______. You are now ready to take on the world.


3. When it comes to children, play the hand that is dealt to you.


My father was a professional gambler. When faced with any kind of crisis, he would say, "You have to play the hand that is dealt you."


In my career as a structured settlement consultant, a number of my clients have brain-injured or special needs children. Having been at it for over 30 years, many of the children I originally worked with are now adults.


One of the most fascinating things I have seen is that the parents, almost universally, step up to the plate and do what they need to do to make it better for their children.


Being the parent of a special needs child is one of the toughest jobs in the world. It is a lifelong assignment. You don't ship the child out the door at age 18. Or 30. Or 50. Or ever.


The parents are involved until the day they die.


I've dealt with hundreds of parents of special needs children. They take the hand that is dealt to them. And usually turn that hand into aces.


Much comes down to having a positive attitude. Any child, especially a special needs child, forces parents to understand there is a world beyond themselves.


One of my Facebook friends is the parent of a severely injured child and she summed it up perfectly in a post on my Facebook page:


"I think a lot about the phrase from expectant parents 'as long as the baby is healthy.' No one wants their child to suffer or experience a handicap, but the love and bond you feel with that child that was not born healthy is like no other. It gives you a whole new meaning and depth to life that honestly I would not trade."


Having a special needs child could be a burden or a blessing. Parents with healthy children deal with issues like drugs, substance abuse, sexually transmitted diseases and children who grow up to be selfish, lazy and unmotivated. I see the parents with adult children living at home for no apparent reason. I see grandparents raising grandchildren when the parents are unwilling or unable.


I've seen a lot of people who thought they had a winning hand with healthy children, but wind up "busting out." To raise a special needs child requires a degree of unselfishness and level-headedness that the average person doesn't have.


Parents of a special child understand that you play the hand that was dealt to you.


A pretty good philosophy for all of us.


Don McNay, CLU, ChFC, MSFS, CSSC is a bestselling author and expert on what to do when you win the lottery. His latest book, Life Lessons Learned From the Lottery, will be available on Kindle on November 10.



Find a financial advisor who has worked with more money than your nest egg


"I will provide for you, and I'll stand by your side
You'll need a good companion now, for this part of the ride"

-Bruce Springsteen


After 30 years of helping people with their money, I discovered that financial issues were rarely about rates of return or asset allocation.   


Money is about emotions. People often use money to buy something that is missing in their lives.


It could be they are missing love, self-esteem or security. Most of the time, money doesn't cure what really ails them. The ailment remains, but they wind up losing their money too.


People need help in finding out where they want to go and how to get there.


My solution is simple: Find advisors who have worked with more money than you have. If you win $100 million in the lottery, find advisors who have worked with $150 million. 


Getting people to advisors can be complicated.


There is a great disconnect in the financial world.


A comprehensive Financial Capability Study by The FINRA Investor Education Foundation said that 67 percent of Americans rated their own financial knowledge as "very high."


This is a primary reason that people blow through their money so quickly. They don't know what they are doing, but are convinced that they do. 


By the time they figure out their lack of knowledge, they are broke.


The second thing that the FINRA study noted is that only 28 percent would "trust financial professionals and accept what they recommend." It then said that 51 percent agreed with the statement, "Financial professionals are too expensive for me."


In short, people don't trust financial professionals, don't want to pay for a financial professional and think they know what they are doing already.


The financial professionals know they are people who really need help, but they often do a poor job in marketing their services.


People need help. From somebody.


Going back to the FINRA study, it said that 20 percent of the population spends more than their income. Sixty-two percent did not compare features when getting a credit card.  Fifty-eight percent of non-retirees have not tried to calculate how much they will need for retirement. Forty-five percent of retirees didn't try to figure out how much they would need before retiring.


The dueling statistics remind of the Steve Goodman song "Banana Republic," which was a hit for Jimmy Buffett. A line in the song says, "You know that you cannot trust them, 'cause they know they can't trust you.


I found a great mechanic by asking people who loved cars which mechanic they used. The referral method works in any kind of situation.  


The best way to find a financial advisor is to ask someone with lots of money to recommend one.


I tell lottery winners that they should consult with an attorney before doing anything else. That is good advice for most people. Lawyers can set the foundation for good financial and estate planning. 


As much as people disconnect with financial professionals, it is even worse with attorneys.


Every year since 1991, the Gallup Organization has polled Americans on which profession they consider the most honest and ethical. Lawyers always run near the bottom, ahead of lobbyists, car salespeople and members of Congress, but behind reporters, bankers and auto mechanics.


Lawyers can help you with business disputes and tax questions. They can make sure your business and real estate purchases are set up correctly. Lawyers can help you plan what happens to you or your family if you should suddenly die or become disabled. And, even more importantly, they can make sure those plans are carried out. Lawyers can help if you are in an accident.


I've watched people make serious life decisions without using lawyers. That usually doesn't work well. I've seen people pay large chunks in taxes because they didn't ask a lawyer about a transaction. I've seen property disputes arise, simply because people didn't use attorneys to draw up proper deeds, leases and agreements.


I've seen people get burned because they drew up business agreements without an attorney to help them. I've watched extremely wealthy people lose everything because they co-signed or guaranteed loans and didn't ask an attorney to guide them through the pitfalls.


Arkansas football coach John L. Smith recently filed bankruptcy because of his involvement in real estate deals gone bad. I suspect that he did not understand how an attorney could have minimized his risk.


Most of us need someone to double check decisions and keep us from making serious mistakes.  That is the thing that lawyers do well.


People need advisors who understand their situation. Finding one that has worked with more money than what you have is a good place to start.


Don McNay, CLU, ChFC, MSFS, CSSC is a bestselling author and expert on what to do when you win the lottery. His latest book, Life Lessons Learned From The Lottery, will be available on Kindle on November 10. 




Amanda Clayton: Death By Being A  Lottery Winner


"I can feel the hand, of a stranger,
And it's tightening, around my throat.
Heaven help me, Heaven help me"


-Grand Funk Railroad    

Amanda Clayton was not your typical millionaire. In her short life, she won a million dollar lottery in Michigan, was convicted of collecting state welfare money AFTER she got the million dollars and embroiled in a plethora of drama and legal battles.


Now she is dead, at age 25, of a drug overdose.


I've devoted much of my life to studying why people run through large sums of money. Especially lottery winners. I've written two best-selling books, along with a new book, Life Lessons From the Lottery, which will be out on Kindle on November 10.


And they all focus on why people run through money needlessly.


I keep thinking that if Amanda had read one of them, she might be alive, but probably not. She lived a troubled life. Getting the lottery money added rocket fuel to her problems.


Like so many lottery losers, Amanda made the first big mistake when she won the lottery: She let the world know she won.


In her home state of Michigan, it's possible for state lottery winners to collect their winnings anonymously, expect for Mega Millions and Powerball winners. 


Thus, Amanda would have been better off to quietly take her winnings, but it didn't work out that way. 


If you go online, you can find a happy and attractive Amanda from September of last year. She was smiling, holding a huge million dollar check from the Michigan Lottery.   


Now she is in a coffin, holding a lily. For eternity. To me, the big check and lily are correlated.


Telling the world that you have money that you never expected to have is asking for trouble.    Like Abraham Shakespeare, another lottery winner who wound up dead in Florida, people thinking that your money should be "our" money seem to come out of the woodwork.


From various news accounts, it seemed like Amanda had a ton of newfound "friends." All wanting to take advantage of her.


Although Amanda was not shy about making headlines with her check, there was one group of people she "forgot" to mention it to.


The food stamp and public assistance office.


According to the Detroit News, Clayton plead no contest to fraud in June after state prosecutors accused her of receiving $5500 in food and medical benefits after she won the lottery.


Millionaires are not supposed to collect food stamps. If Amanda had tried to rip off the government as a Wall Street banker, her crime would been ignored and she probably would have received a government bailout.


She got nine months probation instead. She wound up not staying alive until the end of her sentence.


It's sad to see a 25-year-old throw their life away. I'm not sure that winning the lottery was the source of her problems, but I see it happen too many times.


People who win the lottery lose perspective on normal things in life. They start to think that rules don't apply to them. In Amanda's case, she thought she could outsmart the welfare people and do serious drugs without consequence.


She lost her bet both times.


It's been said that roughly 90 percent of people who win the lottery will run through it in five years or less. I tell lottery winners five things to protect themselves.


1. Don't tell anyone you won. If you can collect the money anonymously, do so.

2. Stop and think for a minute before rushing down to collect the check.

3. Don't take the lump sum payment. Take the money over time instead.

4. Find an advisor who has worked with more money than what you have. If you win $100 million, find an advisor who has clients with $150 million. They are out there.

5. Use your money to give something back to society.   


It looks like Amanda went five for five in things that she did wrong.


Now she is no longer with us.


Don McNay is author of the upcoming book, Life Lessons From The Lottery, which will be available on Kindle on November 10. He is the author of two bestselling books, Son of a Son of a Gambler: Winners, Losers and What To What to Do When You Win the Lottery and Wealth Without Wall Street.


McNay, CLU, ChFC, MSFS, CSSC has Masters Degrees from Vanderbilt University and the American College and was inducted in the Eastern Kentucky University Hall of Distinguished Alumni in 1998. He has four major professional designations and is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Round Table.

He has served on the Board of Directors for the National Structured Settlement Trade Association and as Treasurer for the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.











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Author,  Syndicated Columnist,  and Financial Commentator

Don McNay is an award winning syndicated columnist and commentator.  He is the author of two bestselling   books:  Son of a Son of a Gambler:  Winners,  Losers & What to Do What to Do When You Win the Lottery and The Unbridled World of Ernie Fletcher.

McNay  writes for the Huffington Post and has appeared on hundreds of television and radio programs around the world.  

McNay was a pioneer in the field of  helping injured people and lottery winners handle large sums of money.  He founded McNay Settlement Group in 1983 and is  considered one of the world's leading structured settlement consultants.

McNay is a graduate of Eastern Kentucky University, and  a member EKU's  Hall of Distinguished Alumni.

McNay has a Master degrees from Vanderbilt University and a second Masters  from the American College in Bryn Mawr, Pa.

McNay has four professional  designations in the financial services field.

Don  received the  Certified Structured Settlement Consultant's (CSSC)  designation from Notre Dame University.  He is  a  Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU),  a Chartered Financial Consultant, (ChFC) and has the Masters of Financial Services (MSFS) designation.   He is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Round Table.

McNay is  Treasurer of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and  a former director of the National Structured Settlement Trade Association.

Mr. McNay has been featured in publications such as Forbes Magazine,  New York,   Registered Representative Magazine, and Financial Planning Magazine.  
A prolific author and lecturer,   McNay has  spoken to legal and financial groups throughout the United States,  Canada and Bermuda.  He has published research  articles in publications such as Trial,  Best's Review, Trial Diplomacy Journal, and National Underwriter.


Don McNay

P.O. Box 747, Richmond, Ky. 40476-0747

1-800 Mr. McNay or  (800) 676-2629