This article discusses the story of Curt Degerman, another secret dividend millionaire. He rode around on his bike and collected bottles and cans for recycling in the town where he lived in Skelleftea, Sweden, for roughly 30 years. Unlike many other dividend millionaires, Curt did not live into his 80’s, 90’s, or 100’s. He died of a heart attack at the age of 60 in the Fall of 2008. By the time he died, he had amassed a fortune of more than $1.4 million (12 million Swedish kroner) at the time.
Curt Degerman Biography
Curt Degerman was born in 1948 into a wealthy family and was becoming quite the child prodigy in his family with his smarts. Yet, in his adolescence, he began to experience some psychological problems.
In secondary school, Curt began quite an anti-social lifestyle and acted out with almost everyone. He clashed with teachers, peers, friends, and even his own family. This behavior continued, and consistently he would run away from home and end up being caught up by the police.
Eventually, he did not come back. Mr. Degerman abandoned his school education and left his family. At first, he was able to pick up a couple of odd jobs, but eventually, he became homeless, living on the streets of Sweden, scavenging from dumpsters.
Yet, somehow Curt Degerman would become arguably the world’s most successful homeless man. His wealth was not discovered until after his death at the age of 60. He left behind a portfolio of mutual fund shares, gold, a bank account, and a house worth at least $1.4 million.
He never married and did not have a family of his own. Reportedly, Curt Degerman left his fortune to his cousin since he visited him every so often before his death, which Curt’s 92-year-old uncle contested. The two relatives eventually came to a settlement.
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His Wealth and Portfolio
In the end, Curt was not actually homeless like everyone assumed. He owned a small cottage in the suburbs of Skelleftea, Sweden. There he kept ~3,000 kroner or a few hundred dollars.
Furthermore, over 30 years of recycling cans and bottles and investing, Curt Degerman amassed an impressive fortune. When he died in 2008 at the age of 60 from a heart attack, it was found that in total, from his accounts was approximately 12 million Kroner, equal to $1.4 million at the then exchange rate.
Thinking of the future, Curt never kept all his money in one asset class. Instead, he bought 124 bars of gold, which he kept in a bank safety deposit box, whose valuation was approximately 2.6 million Kroner ($379,000). Gold is a good investment for some because it provides asset class diversification. He also owned about 8 million Kroner in mutual funds. The rest of his wealth was about 47,000 Kroner in a bank account, a house, and loose change.
How Curt Degerman Became a Dividend Millionaire
Degerman was not born with the talents or education to become a stock trader, especially after failing his studies as a teenager and dropping out of school. But he was intelligent and clever. So, he would study for hours on end in the local library, perusing books about money, equities, and economics and reading a Swedish business newspaper.
Basically, Degerman educated himself about information on the stock market and smart investing to grow his net worth successfully. His analytical mindset allowed him to operate with great skill, knowing when to buy and sell stocks and following a buy-and-hold strategy.
The infamous “Tin-Can-Curt” was different from his fellow street goers. His façade was that of a poor homeless man in a blue anorak and ragged trousers. But really, he was a mastermind. Curt Degerman was the definition of someone who used his acquired skills and hard work to his advantage.
Curt was different from other homeless; he was laconic, keeping himself away from people to focus on reading the business newspaper at the local public library. He read the Swedish business daily, Dagens Industri, and studied constants and fluctuations in the stock market. His brain was like a sponge, sopping up and absorbing all the information he possibly could. He seemingly knew the stock market well.
Instead of spending the pennies he earned from recycling each can and bottle, he saved. Moreover, he invested his small earnings buying shares of mutual funds and gold bars.
Mr. Degerman was thrifty to a fault. He wore the same blue anorak and clothes for much of his life. Additionally, he owned his house and thus did not pay a mortgage. He seemingly never spent money and lived off leftover food scraps in trash bins. Also, he did not own a car. Instead, he rode his bike everywhere, saving money on transportation.
Final Thoughts on Dividend Millionaire – Curt Degerman
Curt displayed a very simple lifestyle. Some people may argue that his lifestyle was extremely thrifty and eccentric. But obviously, his austere lifestyle is not for everyone. He acquired knowledge about investing and the stock market and made some wise investments, leveraging the power of compounding. He did this despite not finishing high school. In the end, Curt Degerman acquired his wealth through his own efforts.
There is a more significant lesson here as well. Most of us probably will not become the next Jeff Bezos or Warren Buffett with a net worth of $100+ billion. But if Curt Degerman can build a $1.4 million nest egg recycling can and bottles, the rest of us can build a healthy retirement portfolio after a college education and a decently paid job.
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Prakash Kolli is the founder of the Dividend Power site. He is a self-taught investor, analyst, and writer on dividend growth stocks and financial independence. His writings can be found on Seeking Alpha, InvestorPlace, Business Insider, Nasdaq, TalkMarkets, ValueWalk, The Money Show, Forbes, Yahoo Finance, and leading financial sites. In addition, he is part of the Portfolio Insight and Sure Dividend teams. He was recently in the top 1.0% and 100 (73 out of over 13,450) financial bloggers, as tracked by TipRanks (an independent analyst tracking site) for his articles on Seeking Alpha.