Saturday, January 5, 2008

Where I'm going to live when I get home?

Where I'm going to live when I get home?

-Billy Ray Cyrus (known forever as Hanna Montana's dad)

It's 2 am on New Year Eve (actually New Years Day) and I am watching a man frantically move out of his rental house.

It is the end of the month, on a cold, windy and miserable night. The guy is loading a truck as fast as he possibly can load.

I suspect that the landlord's New Year's will start finding that the tenant skipped out.

I wonder how many times that the scenario will play out around the country this year.

We have heard a lot about people who can't pay their "sub-prime" mortgage and can't afford their home. We don't hear much about renters.

Sub-prime borrowers make up a small part of the housing market. Some homeowners are hurting but the people crying the loudest are big Wall Street financial firms who got greedy and stupid.

Companies like Citi and Merrill Lynch made dim-witted decisions. Those decisions only effected the sub prime marketplace. It has no correlation to the man doing the 2 am furniture run in a snowstorm.

When you skip out on your rent, it usually means you are out of money.

A big portion of the country lives in rental housing. With gasoline, food and heating prices rising, they are feeling pinched. If they work in housing or construction, they are really hurting.

I've owned or rented a home for 30 years. I've never been late on a rent or house payment. It is the only type of payment I have never been late on.

When I was in graduate school in 1981, I had $10 a week to spend on food. I ate one meal a day, used lots of coupons (I didn't know how to cook) but made the rent each month.

When I started my business, times were very tough and I maxed out every form of credit I could find. They turned off the gas in my apartment. For 3 months, I had to take cold showers and use paper plates. I didn't have heat (it was summer) or hot water but I paid the rent on time.

I knew where I was going to live when I got home. I was never going to take a chance on losing it.

Not everyone stresses the importance of paying their rent like I do.

I briefly owned an upscale rental home and got burned on the deal. The renter was a corporate executive with nice furniture and a brand new (leased) Audi. He gave me a sad story the first month. The second month he skipped town in the middle of the night.

I got a judgment against him for the balance of the lease and spent the next 15 years trying to collect. He moved in an underground world. I got his wages garnished for a week in Nashville so he moved to another state. I lost touch for a few years until he made national headlines for jumping in a lake and saving a child's life.

Good for the child. Not so good for the deadbeat hero. I was able to attach another paycheck before he moved again.

The guy had nicer furniture than I did. He wanted to live in nice places. He just didn't want to pay for them.

When I watch someone moving in the middle of the night, I don't know the real story. I don't know if it is someone who is unemployed or at the end of their financial rope. I don't know if it someone who can't handle money or in a house too expensive for them.

It could be the man is moving to a nicer place and chose 2 am on New Year's Eve as the best time to make it happen.

He could be a sign of economic blight or just be a guy with strange moving habits.

Whatever his motivation, where he is going to live when he gets home will be different this year.

Don McNay is Chairman of McNay Settlement Group and author of Son of Son of A Gambler: Winners, Losers and What to Do When You Win The Lottery. You can write to him at and read his award winning column at

Monday, December 31, 2007

A New Year Coming Down

A New Year Coming Down

“Well I woke up Sunday morning, with no way to hold my head that didn’t hurt.
And the beer I had for breakfast wasn’t bad, so I had one more for desert.”

-Kris Kristofferson

On New Year’s Day, there will many people waking up with hangovers. For some, it happens once a year. For others, it is an every day experience.

Many use booze or drugs when life is out of control. It is easier to pop a pill or have a beer than to tackle one’s underlying problems.

New Year’s is a time when people will make life changes. Diet classes and workout centers fill up every January, and people make resolutions to improve themselves.

My demon is my weight.

A few years ago, I started a group called Don’s Get Fit Club. I wrote a column inviting overweight men in Richmond to come meet me and share ideas about losing weight. Four men showed, and the group was started.

The group is still going strong. We’ve added a few members (and are looking for more), but every person in the group has lost weight. I lost over 50 pounds in 2007 and many lost a similar percentage of their body weight.

We ought to be on the cover of Men’s Health Magazine.

Like most successful self-help groups, we do not charge a fee; we simply give each other support.

We are difference from 12-step groups in that we are competitive. Every week, we each put a dollar in a pot, and the person who reports the most weight loss gets the cash. It is a motivator. I won three weeks in a row, and everyone was gunning for me on the fourth.

Motivation is the key to battling demons. I don’t know what makes a person decide to get help, but it has to come from within. Once they decide, they need the support of others and from a higher power.

People who turn to booze, drugs and other poisons use them as a substitute for something missing in their lives.

Employees with substance abuse problems create a real dilemma. In the past, I’ve had good employees suddenly become bad employees when faced with a trauma in their personal lives. They started drinking or taking medications.

It was not just Sunday morning coming down, it was Monday, Tuesday and every other day as well. They were constantly hung over.

They did not come to work drunk or stoned, but they were clearly not at the top of their game. Although we cared for them as people, the organization couldn’t carry someone who was not pulling their weight.

It is not easy to suggest that someone should start dealing with their problems. Most people with problems know they have problems. They don’t appreciate you pointing it out to them.

You don’t need to tell me I’m fat. My scale, clothes and broken chair will do that for me.

On the other hand, if you are a true friend, you want to get the person to confront their issues. Concern needs to be communicated in an effective manner.

It helps to have positive role models. Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has been an inspiration for me. He lost 100 pounds and wrote a book about it. I want to do the same thing. I’ve re-read his book several times and it gives me hope.

A struggling person needs support from other people. That is one of the reasons that groups like Alcoholics Anonymous have had tremendous success. They give members love and understanding.

The Get Fit Guys works because we root for each other and yet maintain a competitive nature.

I hope people fighting drug and alcohol problems will use the New Year as an opportunity to examine their lives and battle their demons.

It could be the last year that they face a feeling like Sunday morning coming down.

Don McNay is Chairman of McNay Settlement Group in Richmond, Ky. The Get Fit Guys Meet at 122 North Second Street in Richmond on Tuesday’s at 5 pm. You can write to Don at or read other things he has written at