A Short Story about a Mexican Fisherman and a Banker – To Convince You of Irrelevance of ‘More Money’

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Think about it…How do you currently spend your day? For most of us, our 24 hours (starting from the time we wake up in morning) are spent as follows:
2 Hours: Getting Ready to go to Office (Where we work for money)
1 Hour: Office Commute (Going to where we work for money)
10 Hours: Office (Working for Money)
1 Hour: Office Commute (Coming Back from where we work for money)
2 Hours: Recovering from exhaustion of working/travelling for money since waking up in morning
and of the remaining 10 hours, around 7-8 hours are spent in sleeping.

24 Hours Money
Time we spend working for money!!

Some of the readers might be lucky, not to be a part of such routine. But for most of us, the story is as described above.
Now just for the next few minutes, think about it. How will you spend your day if you did not have to worry about money? Interesting…or rather the thought in itself is so mind-freeing….isn’t it?
Lets move ahead…
I came across this very interesting short story here. The story beautifully brings out the illusions we so easily get trapped in when we are pursuing our goals of working for money. And once you have read the story, you will realize that it does not take a lot of money to feel independent or lead a happy and fulfilling life.
So here is the story…
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 that 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 friends. I have a full and busy life.
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 a bigger city where you would run your growing enterprise.”
The Mexican fisherman asked, “But 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? 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 friends.”
So that was the end of the story…I hope you got the point. 🙂

Mexican Fisherman Banker Money Story

What are your thoughts after reading this story?
Personally, I am a firm believer that it really does not take a lot of money to feel independent or lead a happy and fulfilling life. But to be convinced about the previous statement I made, you need to answer a few questions honestly. Questions like the one I asked in earlier part of the post (How will you spend your days if you didn’t have to worry about money?)
And as you would have observed in the story, both the American millionaire and the Mexican fisherman dream of a very simple life. And it is the case with almost all of us. If you (atleast I do) were to imagine an ideal life and an ideal routine, we dream of very simple things…like the ones said by the fisherman. But still most of us are busy working for money, and creating unnecessary complexities in life, which in itself is slowly dragging us away from our simple dream. To be honest, there is no need to have a complex life. What is the point of earning so much when the only thing you are able to do with it is to buy progressively costlier stuff, which might not even by necessary?
I have seen my friends living from paycheque to paycheque. And all they do is burn the cash on unnecessary things which adds no value whatsoever to their lives. I understand that it’s their outlook and not mine. It’s their life and not mine. But think of it…are you working only to pay rent, bills and buy costly stuff, which you don’t need?
This reminds me of a beautiful line, which I read a while back and shared with readers on Facebook page also:
“Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people that they don’t like.”
These lines by Will Rogers are so bloody true!!
Bigger house, bigger cars, costlier gadgets, costlier holidays, etc. are things which most of us desire. But honestly speaking, these don’t seem to be necessary at all. But we somehow are able to convince ourselves that they are. If we don’t, then our peer group is able to ‘force’ us to believe that these are absolutely necessary.
But just remember one thing – We will have to earn a lot more to pay for all of the things we’ve convinced ourselves that we need.

Note: I have published a few more interesting stories previously which you might like to read (or read again):

Story of Goats & Monkeys – To convince you to buy shares of only good companies

Story of a Man who lost his Keys – To convince you not to compare your portfolio returns with index returns.

33 comments

  1. Great post. We fail to understand that though money is important, but it is just one aspect of life. Too much of anything ultimately leads us to trouble. We need to live a fulfilling life.

  2. Dev, let's go from Top. Are Ambanis, Tatas, Birlas who achieved great financial success are on beach every day. Even in US, I did not read any article raving about how Gates and Buffet are having fun at Beach.

    It is fact that most of the rich guys enjoys doing what they are doing. But never seen any fishermen in India being happy described in the article.

    About throwing money, I had never seen anyone throwing money just like that on unwanted things.Let's face the truth. Any guy who gets the job at 21 to 23, would go through 5-7 years clearing family debts, obligations (sis marriages, medical, home for family) and so on. He then gets married and with kids arrival, starts to think about himself, savings, investment and so on. Sheer peer pressure gets him into buying car and flat. With these buys, one could hardly save and will have no corpus except PF till 45.

    Whatever one saves bit from 45 to 50, would get wiped out by professional/overseas education/marriage needs of kids. Honestly, if a guy retires without a debt, owns a home and car is a big achievement. Except PF money, accumulating retirement corpus for millions is a dream. Let everyone realise this bitter truth.

  3. And
    everyone does realize it Krish. Including me…

    I don't think anyone would doubt the concept of treating 'owning a home, car, no debt and a small PF' a big achievement. Even in my family, there are people who have been termed as successful for having achieved just that…

    What I am trying to highlight (through this small story) is that we need to rethink our priorities.

    Are we only pushing towards earning the maximum we could? Do we want to end up being with the maximum amount of money that we could have accumulated throughout our lives? If yes, then we should go out there and spend as much time as possible in office and earning money. Nothing wrong with it.

    But if that is not the goal, then its not right to keep cribbing about the work-life balance tilting in work’s favor. If we don’t value money too much or if we are not ambitious, then its our responsibility to arrange things in our life in a manner where time spent during a day is in proportion to our priorities.

    My apologies if I am making this sound easy to be achieved. It is not. Rather its awfully difficult. And 99 out of 100 among us wont be able to manage this. But still we need to try it. We need to give our ‘real priorities’ a decent chance. That’s all I wanted to convey.

  4. I am more glad I read this comment than the post itself dev 🙂

    It makes a lot of sense. a really lot of sense. you should write more on work life balance.

  5. Dev, We keep hearing these stories but the fact is you need money to even retire well. I agree with Krish. I have seen retirees even those drawing assured govt pension who find it difficult to make the two ends meet in their twilight years because the food inflation and medical expenses have increased beyond proportion, and in many families children don't come forward to support old parents. And most of us won't have indexed govt pensions. Better to earn enough & do proper retirement corpus planning to truly take charge of your financial life, else there will be only guitar and no tune.

  6. Read your comment above and it totally make sense. Looking forward for more life balance post from you.. 😉

  7. The article focussed on irrelevance of money and meaningless chase of luxury items. What am saying is, striving to possess these is too distant for many. If we can get mid or budget segment house, car, able to settle kids and be debt free by the time of retirement, it is a big achievement.

    Ofcourse there are many in our society who goes for show off (beyond affordability) and immersed in debt till the death. Even their kids would be working half their life to be free from those debts. I am fine if this article is meant for them.

    There are many many who works hard throughout but hardly could have corpus by retirement except PF. My earlier comment primarily targeted this group.

    Only few (like Dev) might end with up some corpus leading to comfortable retirement.

  8. Nice Post DEV. I agree with you and am trying to get out to work for money. But as you said we must decide what to do if i don't need to go to office to work for money. Trying to find out answer for this and once i get it, i will be out of 9 to 5 routine job for sure…. 🙂

  9. An article close to my own heart. More and more, I am finding that the real joy is in the simple things, the things which we consider as inconsequential just because they are “free”.

    Masanobu Fukuoka in his book “The One Straw Revolution” talks ostensibly about farming, but in the end explores deeply what we have lost by shifting from a need-based living to a want-based lifestyle.

    In the end, we just need clean air, good water, good (healthy) food, clothing, shelter and a happy life. Are any of us really getting most of these REAL requirements? Of what use our daily bustle, our “enterprise”, our education? A highly mechanized life, unhealthy living, stress, and being barely able to spend a few hours per week with our loved ones!

    Shedding the majority view which has been pushed into our brains, our psyche since childhood is very tough. But it is only by walking your own path instead of the “safe” path that one can truly discover life.

    I realize of course that while all this sounds great, it is extremely difficult to realize, because it is not just our view, but the view of the whole family which needs to be considered. However, that does not reduce it's value!

  10. Krish, thanks for pointing out the exact cause why most people dont have retirement fund. Our Keeping-up-with-the-Khanna's mentality needs to be taken care of. Usually the lending bank decides what kind of house one should live in, what kind of car one should drive in. Whatever one's take-home is, the bank will first offer a home loan which will take away half of that amount, he will take it. Then comes car loans, personal loans, education loans, etc. Virtually eating up entire take-home salary. Can't we just say NO to most of these offers as emphatically as we are rubbishing this article?

  11. Excellent take, Bharat!

    This takes the cake – “it is only by walking your own path instead of the “safe” path that one can truly discover life”

  12. And I am in total sync with you Krish, when you say that even without showing off, the very few things (like house, car, kids education, etc) take up a substantial part of one's savings.

    And god only knows whether I will have a good enough corpus when I retire. 😉
    Though I will prefer retiring early with less corpus than retiring late with more. But still a lot of time before any of the two happens 🙂

  13. Hi Girish

    I think Krish has also made a valid point considering that majority of people end up without much assets (financially useful ones) when the day of reckoning comes.

    And I think we all will agree with what you just said too, that there is absolutely no point in trying to copy other's lifestyle. Though its very tough not to copy. But that is where our wisdom needs to play a role. We need to understand what is necessary and what is not. And whether we are working to achieve the necessary or achieve what is not necessary.

  14. Hi Ritesh
    I am not denying that we need to have enough (or even more) to fund retirement and its related expenses. I used the story to highlight that if we are able to realise that some of these expenses are not necessary, then probably we will need lesser money to retire.
    And lets be honest, these days quite a few of our expenses are unnecessary.

  15. I wish my thoughts were as clear as my words! 🙂

    I guess I'm at that stage of life where all the ideals imparted by my parents are making me wonder “is this what I want(ed) for myself and my family”? 🙂

  16. Dear Dev, I don't mean to undermine the spirit of your post and I think its message is clear. But I'm tempted to quote Oscar Wilde who said – “When I was young I thought that money was the most important thing in life; now that I am old I know that it is.”

  17. No worries Ritesh 🙂
    Took it in the right spirit…Its always good to have views which add on to the value of point being discussed. I am thankful…
    And that's a great quote….will share it SI readers through FB & Twitter some time soon 🙂

  18. Thanks a lot for such a wonderful article. I'm newly your Blog reader. I'm very close to this article and understand very much about which things have to keep in mind for life balance.

  19. I think you simplified life way too much. What if your loved one has cancer? Do you still want to emulate the fisherman’s life?

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