We've all heard those stories about stupid things criminals do. You know, like the robber who returned to the scene of the crime to ask for directions, or the thief who offered his ID to prove his age when trying to steal a bottle of scotch.

Here's another example I read about in a Slate.com story by Daniel Engber. In Florida, police found some 3.6 million nickels (worth about $180,000) buried in a back yard. They were apparently the result of a heist from a truck carrying 45,000 pounds of nickels. (The thief also happened to be the truck driver, one who disappeared along with the cargo.)

This story makes me shake my head for many reasons. Of course, the obvious reason is the stupidity of it. If you're going to steal money, why steal coins? And if you must steal coins, why the relatively less valuable nickel? Engber noted, "Dimes, quarters, half-dollars, and dollar coins are all worth more per pound than the nickel. Forty-five thousand pounds of Susan B. Anthony or Sacagawea dollars, for example, would be worth around $2.5 million. Dimes, quarters, and half-dollars are sized proportionally; 45,000 pounds of each would be worth about $900,000." He added that 45,000 pounds of pennies would only net $80,000.

But the story saddens me, too. Perhaps because I think many of us might identify with it, at least a bit. The thief clearly thought he needed money -- many of us do. Perhaps he was worried about how he'll retire -- as most of us should. Perhaps he was stressed out about all the talk of privatizing Social Security. (Enlighten yourself via Robert Brokamp's excellent primer on Social Security myths and Bill Mann's fun with Social Security numbers.)

The thief did do some things right. He faced his worries. He thought about his options. He made a plan. He then stuck to it and took action. These are all good things to do as you aim for a comfortable financial future. But let us help you prepare for a better-than-you-expected retirement without jail time -- poke around our Retirement nook, and take advantage of a free sample of our Rule Your Retirement newsletter.

And finally, Mr. Nickel Thief, if you're out there, here's a tip for you. A surer way to financial freedom might have been to simply invest in solid companies in the industry you know best. Perhaps delivery experts FedEx (NYSE:FDX) (a MotleyFoolStock Advisor pick) or UPS (NYSE:UPS), or transportation giant Sysco (NYSE:SYY). Really, I mean it. Here are some articles where you can learn more about them:

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article.