January Book Review: Die With Zero by Bill Perkins – Check out his website here

Disclaimer: I am not a financial advisor, just a guy who read a book that I found very interesting. Clearly this advice is not for everyone (especially if you’re living paycheck to paycheck). It may challenge your long-held beliefs about money. But that is the beauty of encountering an opposing point of view. If you can get through their best arguments with your original belief still intact, you can feel even more confident in your path forward. After reading these ideas, I had to change, and I’m excited about it!

For most of my life I’ve adhered to conventional wisdom to prioritize saving over just about every other financial goal. Get to retirement with as much money as possible, and then spend conservatively and hope you don’t run out. Die With Zero, by Bill Perkins challenges that conventional wisdom, and has given me a very different way to look at money.

The takeaway: Prioritize experiences above everything else.

Just over seventeen years ago, during my fourth year of medical school, Hill and I were married. Hill suggested multiple times that we should travel to Italy, where we had both served missions for our church. All I could focus on was how much money that would add to my student loan balance and the ultimate cost when paid back with interest. Up until a month ago, I thought I had made the right decision.

Now, I realize how big of an idiot I was!!!!! (note: this was definitely during the time when Nate 1.0 was thriving…) When else in my life would I have the opportunity to travel to a beautiful country where we both had lived, with my beautiful new wife, with no kids, and no work responsibilities? Never!! Instead, we booked passage on the oldest ship in the Norwegian Cruise Line fleet and cruised through hurricane devastated Mexico… Totally dropped the ball on this one. And I was slow to figure it out, despite my earlier blog post about living with #noregerts!

According to Perkins, very few people who save for retirement actually get close to spending all their money before they die. And by leaving money on the table, they spent time working and forgoing experiences at a time when they could have been most enjoyed – opportunities they will never get back. The only thing that will continue to pay dividends up until the day you die is the memories that you’ll be able to relive in your mind and the relationships you’ve built.

Some might interpret this approach as a call for reckless spending or neglecting future responsibilities to provide for yourself in retirement. It is anything but that. It is a deliberate approach to thriving while here on this earth – to balance your life at different stages, rather than a single approach that keeps many from getting the most satisfaction.

Here is the key: Make a list of the experiences you would like to have in life, and figure out when you will get the most enjoyment from those experiences. Then make sure those experiences happen! Many plan to make up for lost time when they get to retirement. Retirees start out strong, but after a few years the drive to go go go, rapidly declines. You’re not going to backpack through Europe when you retire at age 65. I’m not taking that mountain biking trek through France and Italy that I’ve got my eye on, unless I commit to it in the near future. What experience do you want to have before it’s too late?

A few key points to consider:

  • Prioritizing experiences doesn’t mean having to spend significant amounts of money (though using your money to build experiences sure can be fun). You may love to hike, which is awesome. Make more time to be in nature hiking. But how cool would it be to hike in the Alps with your friends or family? An unforgettable experience!!!!
  • Nothing has greater impact on your ability to enjoy experiences than your health. Investing in your health is investing in every single future experience. No amount of money can make up for poor health. People at all ages should be spending more time and money on health as a way to improve every experience you have.
  • What about the kids???? If you plan to give your money to your kids when you die (and I’m not saying you should or shouldn’t), give it to them when it will have the greatest impact in their lives, rather than some random date in the future when there’s a good chance they won’t be able to use it to have better experiences. If you don’t want to give them the money, then make sure to spend it having experiences with them. The average age of inheritance is 60, likely at a time when they won’t need it, or they’re getting too old to enjoy it like they could if they got it earlier.
  • What about leaving money to charity? Don’t wait til you die to help others. There are so many who are suffering and need help now.
  • After running the numbers for multiple scenarios, the author recommends that peak net worth should occur somewhere between age 45-60 depending on your life circumstances. Not in your late sixties. Your sixties are not your golden age!!
  • Of course you should save for retirement! Just be deliberate with when and how you do it.

There are so many different scenarios and concerns that he addresses. I wish I could cover them all here. But if these thoughts pique your interest, then I think the book is worth your time.

Every year of our marriage I have given Hill a post-Christmas, January pep talk about “tightening our belts.” Which usually turns in to a call for “Frugal February,” and even “Miserly March.” This year she about passed out when I told her we should create memories this spring break by going on a cruise. Her family asked if I had had a stroke or some kind of mental breakdown…. Nope! I just read a book. And I cannot wait to have this experience with my family.

Today I learned of a man my age, thought to be healthy, who died suddenly of a heart attack. Completely unexpected.It’s a sobering reminder to live more deliberately. Today. Make memories and have experiences with the ones you love. Remember, it is the investment that will pay dividends for as long as you live.

February Book Club: Civil Rights Queen by Tomiko Brown Nagin

  • Charlotte Evans
    1 year ago
    Okay. I loved this. Finances have been heavy on the brain lately. I’m buying this one for sure!
    • Nate
      1 year ago
      Love to hear what you think!