My Morning With The Butt Man

As a financial planner I help clients plan and prepare for retirement. We talk a lot about how long their money needs to last, what rate of return they need to get, and ways to reduce market risk.

Numbers are important, but lately I’ve become much more interested in what makes for a successful retirement. One that is happy, healthy, rewarding and meaningful.

Being financially secure is just part of the equation.

Dan Buettner, author of The Blue Zones, has studied this issue for a long time. His research shows that the major contributors to quality of life as we age include the need to remain physically active, to be socially engaged, and to have a sense of purpose.

You can learn more about The Blue Zones and Dan’s research by watching his TED talk here.

Since learning of Dan Buettner and his work, I have been intrigued by the whole idea of what makes for a “successful” retirement. Hint: it takes more than just money.

I want to see for myself if Mr. Buettner’s ideas have merit. I want to know what happy, successful retirees actually do to remain physically active, socially engaged and filled with purpose.

So, whenever I can I like to get a peek into the lives of successful retirees and how they live their life in retirement.

This is the first in what I hope will be an ongoing series. If you know someone who is living an extraordinary life in retirement, let me know.

Introducing the Butt Man

I have a client named Roger who is known as the “Butt Man of Lake Phalen”. Every morning he walks the trails circling Lake Phalen, picking up cigarette butts he finds along the way.

I have known about Roger’s peculiar pastime for several years, mulling about the idea of joining him on his morning ritual. Recently, I had the opportunity to tag along.

So far, Roger has collected and disposed of over 635,000 cigarette butts found wedged into sidewalk cracks, underneath park benches and scattered among nearby parking lots near his beloved lake.

He should know. Since 2009, Roger has taken meticulous notes documenting his daily haul. Today we added 58 more to the tally.

His dedication has caught the attention of local media. KARE 11’s Boyd Hupert recenty did a story on him. If you haven’t seen it, watch it by clicking here.

Retirement riches

Roger is happy, healthy and, from what I can see, lives a very rewarding and meaningful life in retirement. He confided to me on our walk that the real secret to a happy retirement, of course, is to have a wife like his. If you know his wife, Anu, you will find it hard to disagree.

Lake Phalen has a little over three miles of rolling trails that Roger says “remind you that you are doing something”. Along the way we ran into several friends, people that Roger regularly says hello to and often chats with even though neither party knows the other’s name.

And of course, there is a clear purpose. “If I live long enough, I hope to pick more than a million butts.”

His words, not mine.