Die With Zero

I can usually tell in the opening chapter whether I’m going to love a book. Sometimes I get an ominous foreshadowing of the discipline required to make it all the way through. Regardless, most books unpack good ideas which are worth your time as a reader (it took the author much more time to create it for you). And occasionally you stumble into really good books with ideas you’ve not heard before or ideas that make you reconsider opinions you’ve held for years.

Bill Perkins’ book called Die With Zero was one of those books for me. It immediately grabbed me with its premise to “rescue you from over-saving and under-living.” Perkins goes after the notion that is ingrained in us as kids to save for the future. While saving itself is valuable, most of us take it to absurd extremes as we get older. It doesn’t feel this way because everyone around us is trying to do the same thing. But as the book argues (very persuasively in my opinion), we actually lose out on much in our life as a result. So do our friends and family.

The point isn’t to consume more either. It’s to realize that money is a tool for the people and things that matter to us and we should spend it on them rather than mindlessly accruing more and more of it until we die and leave behind some massive bank account.

If you spend hours and hours of your life acquiring money and then die without spending all of that money, then you’ve needlessly wasted too many precious hours of your life. There is just no way to get those hours back. If you die with $1 million left, that’s $1 million of experiences you didn’t have. And if you die with $50,000 left, well, that’s $50,000 of experiences you didn’t have. No way is that optimal. The question we all must answer is how to make the most of our finite time on earth.

I’m naturally a contrarian thinker and this book is loaded with contrarian logic that challenges you to see beyond the ‘normal’ way of thinking about money. For example, Perkins talks about how we think we’ll indefinitely need more and more money into our old age, but we actually start to spend less at a certain point.

You might think that as people get older, they spend money more freely out of the sheer desire to make the most of it before it’s truly too late. But the opposite tends to happen. In general, spending among American households declines as people age.

He cites the Consumer Expenditure Survey, conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which found in 2017 that:

  • average annual spending for households headed by 55-to-64-year-olds was $65,000
  • average spending fell to $55,000 for those between 65 and 74
  • spending fell again to $42,000 for those 75 and older

That’s an intriguing concept that many of us don’t consider. As we age we assume we will spend more and more each year, but there comes a point when that’s not true for a variety of reasons.

Let me share one more stat that illustrates the problem the book is trying to help you solve:

At the high end, retirees who had $500,000 or more right before retirement had spent down a median of only 11.8 percent of that money 20 years later or by the time they died. That’s more than 88 percent left over—which means that a person retiring at 65 with half a million dollars still has more than $440,000 left at age 85! 

Without reading the book’s ideas you’re likely thinking of all that can be done with that 88% left over after a person’s death. Perkins makes the point that you should do those things with your money while you’re alive. This is a fascinating read and one that has already supplied Michelle and me with numerous conversations. I’ll be rereading it again before too long.

Click here for a link to the book.

(Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn commissions from qualifying purchases from Amazon).

If you spend hours and hours of your life acquiring money and then die without spending all of that money, then you've needlessly wasted too many precious hours of your life. @bp22 Share on X

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Jeremy Jernigan

Speaker | Author | Founder of Communion Wine Co. https://linktr.ee/JeremyJernigan