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How to Die with Zero


Suppose you followed the conventional wisdom of working tirelessly, saving your earnings, and dreaming of the day when you could retire and live comfortably. However, what if you realized too late that you had squandered the most precious asset you had - your life?

In Die with Zero, by Bill Perkins, a bold and thought-provoking philosophy is presented alongside actionable advice on how to maximize both your financial resources and your time on earth. This book is specifically aimed at individuals who prioritize creating lifelong, unforgettable memories over the accumulation of wealth solely for retirement.

Here are my favorite takeaways from the book.

    1. What do you want to do in life?

    "Start actively thinking about the life experiences you’d like to have, and the number of times you’d like to have them. The experiences can be large or small, free or costly, charitable or hedonistic. But think about what you really want out of this life in terms of meaningful and memorable experiences."

    2. Start a life experiences fund

    Set up a vacation/experiences fund as a percentage of income, and try to get the best bang for the buck in spending it all.

    3. Money = experiences

    You spend time working for money, and your money can be used to purchase experiences. "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… If you don’t want to squander your life energy, you should aim to spend all your money before you die."

    4. Try a life expectancy calculator

    For determining your life expectancy, one of the websites the Society of Actuaries Web site ( recommends is Actuaries Longevity Illustrator ( "Based on your answers to just a few questions, it produces a chart that shows your probabilities of dying at different ages. Its point is to show you the risk of outliving your resources—but by looking at the extreme, you can see how low a probability there is that you will live past a certain age… If you’d like to get a more precise estimate of your life expectancy based on additional health factors, you’ll need to answer more health and lifestyle questions. One helpful tool is the Living to 100 calculator (, designed by a doctor and researcher who studies exceptional longevity."

    5. Give you're still alive; you can't be generous when you're dead

    "So you can be generous only when you’re alive, when you have actual choices and their consequences: That’s when you can choose whether to give your money or your time to one thing or another. If you give generously when you’re alive, then I can consider you selfless. If you’re dead, you just don’t have that choice. So by definition, you cannot be generous when you’re dead."

    6. Give when it's most needed

    "When it comes to giving money to your kids, the optimal time, as I suggested earlier in the chapter, is when they’re between 26 and 35—not too late to make a big impact and not so soon that they might squander the money. But what about giving money to charity? With charity, there’s no such thing as too soon. The sooner you give money to medical research, for example, the sooner that money can help combat disease—as we can see from the research into returns on investments in medical research."

    7. Money is nearly worthless at the very beginning and the very end of life

    "As you get older, your health declines and your interests gradually narrow, just as your sex drive diminishes. Your creativity usually declines, too. And when you’re extremely old and frail, no matter what your level of interest is, just about all you can do is sit and eat tapioca pudding. At that point, money is useless to you, because all you need or want is to lie in bed and watch Jeopardy. This was my conclusion: The utility, or usefulness, of money declines with age"

    8. Outsource tasks that you don't enjoy

    "The more money you have, the more you should be using this tactic, because your time is a lot more scarce and finite than your cash. I am constantly trading money back into time. I’ll never get more than 24 hours in a day, but I can do my utmost to free up as much of that finite time as I possibly can… If you pay to get out of doing tasks you don’t enjoy, you are simultaneously reducing the number of negative life experiences and increasing the number of positive life experiences (for which you now have more time). How can that not make you happier with your life."

    9. Time bucket your life

    "Draw 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, which is just a random grouping of years. Then think about what key experiences—activities or events—you definitely want to have during your lifetime. We all have dreams in life, but I have found that it’s extremely helpful to actually write them all down in a list… Without the constraint of money, most of your experiences would optimally occur in your twenties and thirties, when your health is highest. But in reality, most people's spending is clustered around midlife instead… If time-bucketing your whole life feels a bit overwhelming, just do the exercise with three time buckets covering the next 30 years. Know you can always add more to your list; just do it long before your age and health become a real factor."

    10. Think of your peak net worth as a date, not a dollar amount

    "Of course, some people already think about when to stop growing their savings in terms of a date. The most obvious dates are age 62 (the earliest date you can choose to start collecting Social Security benefits) and age 65 (when you become eligible for Medicare). And, depending on when you were born, you can start receiving your full Social Security benefits somewhere between 66 and 67… For most people, the optimal net worth peak occurs at some point between the ages of 45 and 60… For most people, waiting until they are past this age range causes suboptimal fulfillment results, because they end up dying with more than zero, running out of time in which to have many fulfilling experiences… If you wait until you’re 65 or even 62 to dip into your nest egg, you will almost certainly end up working longer than necessary for money you will never get to spend."

    11. Concentrate your experiences and spending around midlife

    "you will find that the vast majority of the experiences you want to have will have to happen within about 20 years of midlife, in either direction—in other words, roughly between 20 and 60."

    12. Try the free Die With Zero web app - "The magic of the app is that it can do all these calculations for you, quickly and easily. Realize, too, that there isn’t just one calculation to run. That’s because your overall fulfillment score depends on your inputs, and these can vary. With this app, you can try out different inputs to see the effect on your total."

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