The book Die with Zero is written by the author Bill Perkins. Bill Perkins sounds like the name of a basketball or football coach, but he’s actually a successful commodity trader. He used to trade natural gas. Now I believe he focuses on dying with zero which is what this book is about. I first learned about this book on the James Altucher podcast of course. The James Altucher podcast introduces me to many of the books that I read. I didn’t think this book would be relevant to me because I enjoy saving. However, it sounded interesting, so I decided to give it a try. It is actually a really good book, but I’m not sure how many people will actually read it because it is only applicable to a narrow audience.
This book is about exactly what you think it would be about. It’s about dying with zero dollars in your bank account. Is that possible?
This book isn’t for people with little to no money. However, I do think it is a good book for young people to use to plan out there lives. He recommends that young people spend their money when their young and save their money when they get older.
He wasn’t selective about what he spent his money on at first. He just spent it on whatever he wanted. He doesn’t recommend you approach your life this way, but you do need to worry about how you are going to spend your money. Many people focus on standard American retirement. This means save as much money as possible until your retirement. Then when you are retired, you can finally enjoy your money. However, if you wait until retirement, you most likely won’t be able to enjoy all of your money because of physical constraints. Many people believe they are going to live forever or that their body will be young forever. This isn’t true. He makes a good point that people spend less as they get older. You won’t spend as much money in retirement as you do when your young. Many people also save money for end of life healthcare. Is it really worth working a few more years for a few weeks of healthcare costs at the end of your life?
Many people use the excuse that if you spend all of your money, then you are selfish. What about your children. Well he debunks this myth because he says that you should give your money to your children now if you care about them. This doesn’t mean that you have to actually hand the money to them, but instead you can set up a trust in their name so that they can use it during their lifetime versus at your death. The optimal time to give to your children is 26 to 35. However most people die when their children are older, so they don’t end up getting money to their children when it would matter most.
Why should you die with zero?
He also talks about the work of Bronnie Ware who writes about the 5 regrets of dying. The 2 most relevant regrets he says are people regret that they worked too much during their lifetime. People wish they could have that time back. The other is that people wished they had the courage to live a life that was true to themselves. They wished that they didn’t live a life that others expected of them. He uses those to encourage people not to spend their whole lives working. At some point you need to enjoy your life. If you enjoy your work, then you should still find ways to spend your money. Whether that is giving it to your family or charity. If you do enjoy vacation and travel, then you should travel before you die. You shouldn’t die with tons of money just because you are head down in your work. No one ever regrets not having spent more time in the office. Another example of this is when the author speaks about a study where students were told they only had 30 days left to live. This gave them a sense of impending loss. They were asked to journal everyday during the study. The students that were told that they only had 30 days left to live were happier than students that were not given that same guidance.
What can you do?
You need to save money at some point. When should you do this. The author never really gives a clear answer because it primarily depends on your earnings. You should be reaching peak earnings in your 30’s and 40’s. This is when you should fill up your savings. All that time you still need to balance enjoyment of your life.
Invest in your health earlier in your life. Bill recommends getting as many objective reports about your health as you can early on in your life. For me, I’m not sure if I trust all these companies with my health data, but a lot of people might choose to do this. You shouldn’t put off doctors visits early in your life. Make sure you track your health and stay healthy. Eat healthy, think healthy, etc.
Bill recommends bucketing your life out into 5 year segments and figure out what you want to do in those time periods. You have to realize that most of your most active years will be early in your life. Knowing that your most active years are when you are young, then you should do the majority of your travel during this time period. Bill says that you shouldn’t approach this as a bucket list because it is more precise than a bucket list. The main issue I have with this practice is that it is hard to know what you want to do in life, but you should begin planning now. If you never think about it, then you will just float through life. If you do think about it, then you will begin to think about and notice the things in life that you want to accomplish.
You will next need to figure out your peak net worth. This isn’t a number it is a time in your life. He recommends a calculation to get to that to number. It’s essentially where you have enough money to live off the rest of your life. You have to determine your cost of living and your years left to live. I had some problems with this calculation because you can’t really know inflation. You also can’t predict certain expenses that you might have that deviate from your expectations. I do agree with it in principle though. You have to realize that you will spend less as you get older. For most people the age they achieve this is at 62 because that is when they start getting social security. What many people don’t realize is that a lot of people retire involuntarily because of job loss. It is better to determine your peak net worth so that you don’t have to be surprised by a sudden job loss later in life.
If you have a big dream or goal and it depends on a risk, then you need to pursue that early in your life. This is when you can bounce back from failures. It would be harder to do this later in life because you might have a family or your earning power might be too high to give up. Many of use get comfortable. It’s going to be hard to fight against that comfort later on in life.
There is actually a billionaire that wanted to die with zero, and he recently accomplished his goal. His name is Chuck Feeney and he was the man that started those duty free shops in the airport. He recently spent all his money on various philanthropic ventures. He gave $3.7 billion to education, $870 million went to human rights and social change among other gifts. He finally shut down his philanthropic company because he ran out of money. Chuck did it the right way. He is 89 at the time of this writing, so he did a pretty good job of dying with zero. He should be an inspiration to everyone else.