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Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Curt Degerman - Millionaire Tin Can Collector

In 2008, a nondescript Swede named Curt Degerman passed away, unnoticed by society at large. He had lived a rather mundane, uneventful life as a smelly trash collector who delighted in eating leftover scraps from rubbish bins at fast food restaurants. Eighteen months later, it was discovered that he was a millionaire, and his will -- which left all his assets to his cousin -- was hotly contested. Eventually, an amicable settlement was reached amongst his relatives.

Here are some excerpts from newspaper reports around the world.

  1. Tree Hugger, 31st March 2010. How a Can Collector Died a Secret Millionaire.
    Curt Degerman was a man who kept to himself. Around the town in Sweden where he lived, he could be seen riding his bike or rummaging through trash bins, collecting bottles and cans to be recycled, and eating leftover scraps of food. Like some might assume from his humble lifestyle, Curt never completed school, married, or had a family of his own. So, when he passed away in 2008 at the age of 60, many thought that Curt left little behind--but that couldn't be further from the truth.
  2. Adelaide Now, 6th April 2010. Eccentric man Curt Degerman died with $1.65 million fortune.
    Curt Degerman, nicknamed "Tin-Can-Curt", made shrewd stock market investments with the little money he made.

    The financial genius could be seen cycling around the northern Swedish town of Skelleftea dressed in a dirty blue jacket and torn trousers. He is said to have led a frugal lifestyle but in between collecting cans and bottles from the coastal city's rubbish bins he was to be found in the city library studying the stock market in the financial papers.

    "He went to the library every day because he didn't buy newspapers. He knew stocks inside out," a cousin said at the time of his death, from a heart attack, aged 60, in 2008.

    It was then that relatives discovered he had a portfolio of stocks and shares worth more than £700,000 ($1.16 million). In addition, he had purchased 124 gold bars worth £250,000 ($413,543), owned his own home and had more than £4000 ($6616) in a bank account. There was more than £270 ($446) in loose change inside his home.
  3. The Local (Sweden, English language), 29th March 2010. Relatives settle over eccentric Swede's tin can riches.
    At the time of his death in the autumn of 2008, 60-year-old Curt Degerman, known to the residents of Skellefteå as “Burk-Curt” (‘Tin-Can Curt’), had amassed a fortune worth more than 12 million kronor ($1.4 million).

    Degerman, whose riches were put down to an inherently frugal nature and shrewd stock market investments, wrote a will leaving his fortune to a cousin who had visited him regularly in the later years of his life.

    ... Tin-Can Curt used that investment nous to turn the modest deposits he collected from returning empty cans into mutual funds worth more than 8 million kronor.

    In addition, he had purchased 124 gold bars valued at 2.6 million kronor and had nearly 47,000 kronor in the bank.

    Tin-Can Curt also owned his own home, which was found to have 3,000 kronor in loose change, bringing the total value of his estate to 12,005,877 kronor.
  4. The Wealth Report (WSJ Blog), 1st April 2010.
    How did he do it? Thrift and smart investing.


    All of which goes to show that no matter how careful someone is in making and saving money in their lifetime, they can’t control what happens afterward.

    Do you think Mr. Degerman should have enjoyed his money more while he was alive? Or is he the perfect model of wealth creation?
  5. The Telegraph (UK), 31st March 2010. Tin-Can Collector Died a Millionaire.
    Relatives said Mr Degerman had been a very clever child with a bright future but had dropped out of school in his late teens after a personal crisis and had chosen an alternative way of life.

I can glean certain points from this piece of news.

The first is that recycling metals may be an economically rewarding job, simply because there isn't any cost involved to the person who is collecting the scrap metals. Every cent earned from the recycling business is pure profit.

The second is that it is possible to make good decisions with regard to stocks simply by studying the newspapers.

The third is that a fortune amassed by frugal living, to the point of punishing one's self, is seldom required. It would have been more meaningful for Curt Degerman to have lavished some of his fortune on his own pleasures.

However, the fourth point is that the key to collecting and amassing a fortune, is simply cultivating the right kind of habits. If Curt had been a man of flimsy disposition, a man who changed his mind at the persuasion of others, it is likely that he would have given in to the hype of society.

The fifth point is that, by making himself undesirable, Curt managed to ward off the leeches and vultures in society who would prey on the ordinary man by "creating desire" for something that he does not require! No salesman would think of approaching a rubbish collector.