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The Can Man

Published by: Rus Hunt, CFP® Date: February 27, 2015

While channel surfing recently I was hooked by a documentary about a group of men in Vancouver who make their living by picking up cans and bottles for recycling. Most of the group were homeless, but one of the men lived in a small camper behind some buildings. He was an older man and spent his mornings foraging for cans and bottles. He seemed very happy in his work, had plenty of friends, and enjoyed playing his guitar and growing flowers in pots around his camper. He made about twenty dollars a day from his efforts. When asked by the filmmaker if this was enough money for him, he said, “If you are going to make more than twenty dollars a day you better know what you are going to do with the money.”

The film moved on to another scene but I could not stop thinking about that statement. Here was a man living on $150 per week who looked at making more money as a burden not a blessing. It is possible that the “tin can man” is the only person in North America that feels that way. He seemed to be content and enjoyed each day without a lot of worry about the future. Most of us think if we can just reach some level of wealth, get that raise and promotion, or hit the lottery then we will be content and worry free. Maybe, but personal experience and observation of others teach us that more money often leads to the opposite of contentment.

I believe that there is a lot to learn from this gentleman. In the brief glimpse of his life shown in the film, I saw a man who enjoys his work and works to live. He has a rich life of friends and interests. I think his secret to contentment is that he “knows what he is going to do with the money.” From a worldly perspective, he would not be considered a successful man, but he sure seemed full of joy.

The lesson I took from the life of this gentleman was that we should spend time and think about what relationships, goals, and activities are truly important to us and why they are important. Then order, or reorder, your life around the things that matter most.

Rus Hunt, CFP® is a financial advisor with Rather & Kittrell. He can be reached at rhunt@rkcapital.com.