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Don’t Sacrifice Today

by Don Current on March 11, 2011

Fishing Boat

photo courtesy Orbital Joe

There are a lot of blogs, magazine articles, and other media that talk about saving for retirement. As a finance coach, I do believe we should have a plan for our retirement. It’s very important to be regularly setting aside a portion of our money for retirement, college, insurance and other future spending.

I see far too many examples though of where this seems to be an obsession rather than just a plan. Life needs to be about balance. If you are working every available opportunity, or sacrificing family vacations, or working multiple jobs with a focus only on the future, you may need to reconsider your priorities. If you obsess about returns and fees and are constantly moving your money around, it may be time to take a step back.

I read so many of these blogs that talk about growing your income, and maximizing your returns and working at a job that pays well but might not necessarily fall under something you’re passionate about. I just wonder if the focus has swung too far toward enjoying your retirement and away from enjoying today.

In the workbook that goes along with “48 Days to the Work You Love“, author Dan Miller retells a great story that I think provides a little balance to this situation. I’d like to share it with you.

The businessman 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 yellowfin tuna. The businessman 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 businessman 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 businessman 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 a 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, señor.”

The businessman scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and I could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds buy a bigger boat. 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 and eventually open 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 New York City where you would run your expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But señor, how long will this all take?” To which the businessman replied, “15-20 years.” “But what then, señor?” The businessman 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, señor? Then what?” The businessman 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 a siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”

So, what are your goals? Would you like to sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos? What are you waiting for?