Lessons from a Mexican Fisherman

We’d like to share a story with you that originated back in 1963 when published by the German writer, Heinrich Böll. It’s a very short story, but perfectly captures one of the key messages that we stress with our clients.

The message is that while the amount of money you have or build up for the future is important, it is far more important to know the life that you want to lead and to have enough money to live that life. Otherwise, what’s the “right” amount of money to have, how much is “enough” for you? Is it €500,000, €5 million or €50 million? These are simply numbers.

Instead, it is far better to identify the life that you want lead – where you want to live, how long you want to work for, what you want to be able to do and buy in the future and how much money you want to be able to give / leave to loved ones. Once you are clear on these important life choices, we can then help you put a price on this life that you want. That is the right amount of money for you, as that is enough to do everything that you want.

See below – the Mexican fisherman is very clear about how much is “enough”.

“The Mexican Fisherman”

An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large fin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied, “Only a little while.”

The American then asked why he didn’t stay out longer and catch more fish.

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

The American scoffed. “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should 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. Eventually, you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman, you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually NYC, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

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

To which the American replied, “Fifteen to twenty years.”

“But what then?”

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 would make millions.”

“Millions?” asked the fisherman. “Then what?”

The American said, “Then you would retire. 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 evening, sip wine, and play guitar with your amigos!”

Now we’re not suggesting that everyone gives up work and goes fishing! After all, the Mexican fisherman doesn’t have much of a safety net here in case anything goes wrong – what if he gets sick or his boat sinks or what happens when he gets too old to go fishing? But his starting point is good, he knows the life he wants.

This is what we want for you. We want to help you to identify the life that you want and to then put a plan in place to ensure you achieve it, under all scenarios.

What does your future life look like?


22nd July, 2019

Posted In: Advice, Insights