The Parable Of The Mexican Fisherman And Investment Banker

An Important Financial Lesson That Could Set You Free

Key Ideas

  1. Makes it clear how money doesn’t equal a fulfilling life.
  2. Demonstrates the importance of having a unique wealth building plan.
  3. Provides 7 essential questions for figuring what you want out of life.

It’s one of my favorite stories – The Parable of The Mexican Fisherman.

It’s short, fun, and packs an important message.

Make sure to see my related questions at the end of the story to help with your own plans for wealth and prosperity.

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.

investment banker image

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.”

What would you do if you never had to worry about money again?


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’re 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 you develop your own life plans for financial freedom:

  • 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’s the price you pay for simplicity? Complexity?
  • If you died tomorrow, what unfulfilled dreams would you regret having never lived?
  • What’s 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.

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Levi Hendrikson
Levi Hendrikson

Great parable! I know a lot of people get involved in entrepreneurship or investing because they want to "make as much money as possible." I once heard a wise entrepreneur challenge this mindset. He asked, "how much money do you really need to make?" He then went on to show how most people cannot reasonably use any more than $9K a month for their household. That comes to less than $110K per year. You don't need to be a millionaire to be happy. Being a millionaire just means you have more responsibility--which may or may not be your calling in life.

Donna Sako
Donna Sako

Lol! So very true! Too often we forget once the main expenses in life are paid, life doesn't need to be complicated to fulfill happiness.


Great parable about not being greedy and taking what the market gives you! Does not hurt to learn how to cut your losses too...


This parable is right on the money. It really puts the pursuit of wealth in perspective. However, my question is this: what if the banker actually enjoyed the whole journey of achieving that level of success? For him, the adventure of eventually getting down to that village would be worth it!

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