Die With Zero Book Review: ‘Meh’

Die With Zero on Coffee Table

Book Review, Summary, Highlights, and Quotes from Die With Zero by Bill Perkins

I wanted to like this book. I really did.

But ultimately, I can say that I love the concept but dislike the book.

As with most of these books written by either rich and/or famous people, they use a ghostwriter, and the book will only be as good as the concept and the ghostwriter’s interest in the topic.

My guess is there was a mismatch between the ghostwriter and Bill , because the writing is just not that good, and at times it’s painfully repetitive and bland.

Yet if you watch or listen to any interviews with Bill about the book, what you get is much different.

So that is my main problem, just bland and repetitive writing…

But here’s another problem with this book…Bill Perkins is not your average Joe. He is a hedge fund manager and high-stakes poker player and he’s estimated to be worth about $400 million.

His examples and references are WAY out of touch even for the average upper-middle-class person. Because none of us can afford to fly our entire family and friends to the Bahamas for a 40th birthday celebration. NONE OF US.

So again, the concept is great, but the writing and examples are bad.

However, the book does provide good food for thought and I do agree that we all should consider “Dying with Zero” – meaning spending your money before you die.

That means spending it on activities that you can only enjoy during your healthy/younger years experiencing things you can only experience at that age.

Or that might mean spending it on your kids now, by putting them through private school, paying for their college education, or gifting them a downpayment on a house.

The point is spending and/or giving away your money before you die is a much better proposition than having your heirs squabble over it when you’re gone.

On this front, I completely agree. Because if you raise your kids right, and you teach them the value of money, there is no need to pass on anything else later on.

Bill does go through all of this in more detail, but it’s just not that hard of a concept. It could have been summarized in a few blog posts – in fact, I’ve written one because, in my opinion, generational wealth should never be the goal.

90% of inherited wealth is lost by the third generation.

When you’re dead and your heirs squander your wealth, I have to wonder what the point was in the first place?

If you should be so lucky and skilled to accumulate wealth in the first place, you should work hard to give it away in a more productive manner:

Spend it on yourself.

Spend it on others.

Give it away.

Just don’t die with it.

So all in all, I didn’t love the book, but I probably would recommend you read it.

Its major messages are about finding a balance between now and the future, and it makes solid points about giving/spending your money before you die – frankly, it’s a good argument for early retirement!

And if you are into the idea of generational wealth, it is certainly worth a read to get someone else’s perspective on why it might be a better idea to plan on intentionally spending it before you die.

AR’s Book Score: 6 out of 10

Key Book Highlights from Die With Zero by Bill Perkins

The entire concept for this book is in the title: “Die With Zero.”

The “Die With Zero” Concept

Most people who build wealth do so in mind with the idea of passing it on to the next generation.

But Bill Perkins tries to turn that on its head, as for the most part generational wealth is either lost or useless by the time it is passed on.

The peak time to receive an inheritance is in your 60s when you are ironically less likely to actually need it.

So Bill’s major argument is if you have wealth, why wait to have it pass on when you die, when you can give it away or spend it however you like now?

But the book isn’t a “how to” get to zero in terms of financial strategy in any way shape or form, it’s more a high-level thought experiment about spending your wealth with more thought and purpose.

For some people dying with zero might mean effective altruism in which you give away all of your wealth to the best causes.

Or it could be simply embracing that you only live once and find a better way to enjoy your wealth now while you can.

Time Buckets

One of the major ideas in the book is simply that you won’t be able to do everything you can do when you’re in your 20s or 30s when you are in your 60s or 70s.

Worse, you may be able to do nothing in your 80s or 90s if you are lucky enough to get there!

Although we all have at least the potential to make more money in the future, we can never go back and recapture time that is now gone

– Bill Perkins, Die With Zero

Bill calls the differences between what you can and can’t do “Time Buckets” and his concept is that there is a distinct time to do different things in each Time Bucket.

He suggests “drawing a timeline of your life from now to the grave, then divide it into intervals of five or ten years. Each of those intervals – say, from age 30 to 40, or from 70 to 75 – is a time bucket.”

Then he urges you to think about what experience you should be doing at what age.

Ultimately, this is an attempt to help people realize that they aren’t going to be able to save everything for retirement. Because when they get to the traditional retirement age, life will already have passed them by.

It certainly is a strong argument for living a balanced life and seizing the moment. There’s a time in your life for reading classic novels, and there’s a time in your life to heli-ski.

Memory Dividends

Another major concept in the book is the Memory Dividend.

Essentially Bill’s argument is that the memories you make early on, compound over time.

So if you go on an amazing Honeymoon to Italy, you can draw on that memory for any time thereafter thus creating a “memory dividend” – and the cool part is that the more great things you do, the more the memory dividend compounds like money.

The recollection may bring you just a tiny fraction of the enjoyment that the original experience did, but those memories add up to make you who you are.

– Bill Perkins, Die With Zero

The general idea is that by the time you are older, you’ll have satisfaction from all of the things you’ve done and accomplished and thus a continuous dividend by doing that thing when you were younger.

There’s more in the book, but I think that sums up the major highlights.

Best Quotes from Die With Zero by Bill Perkins

Many people at midlife have forgotten what used to bring them fullfillment and have been too busy taking care of careers and children to explore new interests either.

– Bill Perkins, Die With Zero

Life is not a game of Space Invaders – you don’t get points for all the money you rack up in the game – but many people treat it as though it were.

– Bill Perkins, Die With Zero

You retire on your memories. When you’re too frail to do much of anything else, you can still look back on the life you’ve lived and experience immense pride, joy, and the bittersweet feeling of nostalgia.

– Bill Perkins, Die With Zero

They gave up years of their life while healthy and vibrant to buy a few extra weeks of life when they are sick and immobile. If that’s not irrational, I don’t know what is!

– Bill Perkins, Die With Zero

Once you have enough money to take care of your family’s basic needs, then by going to work to earn more money, you might actually be depleting your kids’ inheretence because you are spending less time with them!

– Bill Perkins, Die With Zero

The real golden years – the period of maximum potential enjoyment because we have hte most health and wealth – mostly come before the traditional retirement age of 65.

– Bill Perkins, Die With Zero

Better health doesn’t just give you a better retirement years from now – investing in your health is investing in every single ubsequent experience!

– Bill Perkins, Die With Zero

Our culture’s focus on work is like a seductive drug. It takes all of your yearning for discovery and wonder and expriences promising to give you the means (money) to get all those things – but the focus on the work and the money becomes so single minded and automatic that you forget what you were yearning for in the first place. The poison becomes the medicine.

– Bill Perkins, Die With Zero

Trust me – it’s really not that hard to spend a lot of money doing things you love. But you do have to take some time to first conciously figure out what those appealing expenditures are for you.

– Bill Perkins, Die With Zero

If you give something your all, you’ll get a lot of positive memories out of the experience no matter what happens.

– Bill Perkins, Die With Zero

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