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The Parable Of The Mexican Fisherman And Investment Banker

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One of my favorite stories – The Parable of The Mexican Fisherman – is perfect holiday fodder that brings much needed perspective to the wealth building game. It is short, fun and packs an important message. Additionally, I provide some related questions at the end of the story to help you plan for a prosperous New Year…

The Parable of the Mexican Fisherman and the Banker

An American investment banker was taking a much-needed vacation in a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. The boat had several large, fresh fish in it.

The investment banker was impressed by the quality of the fish and asked the Mexican how long it took to catch them. The Mexican replied, “Only a little while.” The banker then asked why he didn’t stay out longer and catch more fish?

The Mexican fisherman replied he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.

The American then asked “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican fisherman replied, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos: I have a full and busy life, señor.”

The investment banker scoffed, “I am an Ivy League MBA, and I could help you. You could spend more time fishing and with the proceeds buy a bigger boat, and with the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats until eventually you would have a whole fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to the middleman you could sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You could control the product, processing and distribution.”

Then he added, “Of course, you would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City where you would run your growing enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But señor, how long will this all take?”

To which the American replied, “15-20 years.”

“But what then?” asked the Mexican.

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You could make millions.”

“Millions, señor? Then what?”

To which the investment banker replied, “Then you would retire. You could move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”

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I love this simple parable. It brings clarity to what the money game is all about… and definitely not about.

It brilliantly illustrates the illusions we so easily fall into when pursuing wealth and financial freedom. It’s far too easy to build incessantly and forget the end game is happiness and a fulfilling life.

It’s equally easy to forget all the goodness we are surrounded by today. The truth is it doesn’t take a lot of money to have a truly wealthy life, but it does take freedom.

So here are some questions for you to ponder as we enter the holiday season and begin a new year…

  • What does financial freedom mean to you? How will it change your life?
  • What do you really need to be happy and fulfilled?
  • How much money do you need to retire?
  • Would a simpler life allow you to retire sooner?
  • What is the price you pay for simplicity? Complexity?
  • If you died tomorrow what unfulfilled dreams would you regret having never lived?
  • What is keeping you from living those dreams today?

 Believe it or not, these questions and many more like them are part of the financial coaching process. I teach my clients how values determine your path in life regardless of your financial goals.

Only after gaining clarity around issues like these can you develop a financial plan reflecting your unique dreams and ambitions for life – a financial plan that will create first and foremost a satisfying life – both while you build wealth and after wealth is achieved.

Let me know how I can help you achieve your financial dreams this coming year.

Happy holidays!

4 comments
Todd Tresidder
Todd Tresidder

@Jeff - There are various differences in details - none of which are important. However, the message is very important. I repeat - very important. Too many people confuse what the real goal is when building wealth and living life. This little parable expresses it more clearly than most.

Jeff Herringa
Jeff Herringa

The version I read in a Jimmy John's sandwich shop in River Falls, WI specifically refers to a Harvard MBA. It also mentions catching several large tuna, instead of just large fish.

But, the moral of the story is still the same regardless of how the story itself is tweaked.

Mrs. Money
Mrs. Money

This is one of my favorite stories! I think it is so ironic.

John DeFlumeri Jr
John DeFlumeri Jr

That is a remarkably good parable. We chase it and chase it until it runs away and then we may not ever get it. Or we may have it Already, and not recognize it.

John DeFlumeri Jr

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