Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Nothing More than an Example of the Possible

I once read a post on a Christian personal finance blog that challenged the reader to give more to ministries and to their church. One of the examples given was a woman who never earned more than minimum wage but still managed to give more than $1 Million to charity over the course of her life. I raised my eyebrow a bit, but finished the article.

Down in the comments some skeptic did the math:

40 Years X $7.00 per hour X 2,000 working hours per year = $560,000

Conclusion: This story is mathematically impossible. The author of the blog answered the complaint by stating this woman invested her money wisely, so had more to give than she earned in her life. I had my doubts. In this business one reads a lot of dubious claims. You get used to it.

Yesterday while researching another question, I came across a link to this article in the Wall Street Journal.

Tin Can Collector Dies a Millionaire

In the town of Skelleftea somewhere up the coast of the Gulf of Bothnia, North of the Baltic Sea, a ragged old man know as “Tin Can Curt” spent 30 years picking up bottles and cans for cash. He looked and acted like any street bum. However, when he died he left his cousin $1.4 Million.

When Mr. Curt Degerman was not looking for recyclables to sell, he was in the town library studying the markets. Turns out he was something of a master investor. Over the course of 30 years he assembled a portfolio of mutual funds, physical gold, and cash. Since he didn’t have a mortgage, a car, or anything associated with the good life he was able to pour everything into building his net worth. Even with virtually no money coming in from his “job” he amassed a considerable fortune.

When Mr. Degerman died he left his money to his cousin, the only family member who visited him in his declining years. An uncle sued the estate under Sweden’s inheritance laws. After the lawyers of the two parties were suitable enriched, the cousin and uncle split up the loot.

Ah, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

Please! Don’t live your life like Tin Can Curt. However, consider your excuses in light of his story. There are limits to what is possible, but not many of us are anywhere near our limits.

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