The Parable of the Mexican Fisherman

Amyr Rocha Lima

4 min read

The parable of the Mexican fisherman is a well-known story that has been shared and adapted in various forms over the years.

It tells the tale of a Mexican fisherman who lives a simple, fulfilling life and serves as a reminder of the importance of finding balance and happiness in life.

In this blog, we'll explore the parable of the Mexican fisherman and how its lessons can be applied to financial planning and retirement.

The Parable

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 siestas with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”

(SOURCE: Author unknown, but likely based on Heinrich Böll's Anekdote zur Senkung der Arbeitsmoral.)

Final Thoughts

The parable of the Mexican fisherman is a reminder that success and happiness are not necessarily tied to material wealth or career success. It's important to find a balance between work and leisure, and to focus on what truly brings us joy and fulfilment in life.

From a financial planning perspective, this parable serves as a reminder to prioritise our goals and values when planning for the future. It's easy to get caught up in the pursuit of financial success and to prioritise earning more money over other important aspects of our lives.

But it's important to take a step back and consider what truly matters to us and to make sure that our financial plans are aligned with our values and goals.

In retirement, this means finding a balance between financial security and the freedom to enjoy our hard-earned leisure time. It's important to save enough to live comfortably in retirement, but it's also important to enjoy the fruits of our labor and to spend time doing some of the things we love.

So, the next time you're feeling overwhelmed by the pursuit of financial success, take a moment to reflect on the lessons of the Mexican fisherman and remember that true happiness and fulfilment come from within.

For a more detailed discussion on this topic, please feel free to contact us. Our team are always available to answer your questions and to help you with any of your financial planning needs. Here’s what we offer: A cup of coffee… and a second opinion.

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