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Die With Zero by Bill Perkins: A Book Review

book review

Die With Zero by Bill Perkins: A Book Review

Die with Zero presents a compelling concept the FIRE community embraces: to live your best life by spending all the money you’ve earned. Most doctors and high-income earners would immediately wonder, “but how?”

When I first heard of this book, I was skeptical too. But time and time again, people recommended it, especially in the FIRE community. Before you start panicking and thinking that this is a morbid book about dying broke, let me set the record straight.

To start, know that you can strategically attempt to die with zero, even if you don’t know when you’ll pass away. This involves using income annuities and life insurance products, as the author outlines in Chapter 4. From there, the strategic premise of the book is quite refreshing.




“Die With Zero,” authored by the successful American hedge fund manager Bill Perkins, argues that maximizing the money you leave behind doesn’t define the life you’ve led. Instead, Perkins encourages you to maximize living life with an actuarial mindset.

And who doesn’t want that? In this article, I’ll break down all the key takeaways from “Die With Zero,” giving you practical advice on how to apply them to your life.




Key Takeaways

  • Focus on maximizing your positive life experiences, not your bank balance.
  • Invest in meaningful and memorable experiences early, using a time-bucket planning approach to get memory dividends.
  • Determine your peak net worth and start spending down or decumulating.



The Philosophy of “Die With Zero”—Instead of dying rich, imagine you generated a personal interest rate, creating priceless memory dividends.


So, you want to live life to the fullest? Bill Perkins’ book, “Die With Zero,” suggests that maximizing positive life experiences is the key to living well. But how do you do that?


Here are some key takeaways from the book:

  • Your life energy equals money; the more energy you exert, the more money you accumulate. But the ultimate goal isn’t hoarding money but using it for fulfilling experiences.
  • Material possessions and cash don’t translate into happiness because they don’t create memories. Instead, investing in experiences early on in life can bring lifelong dividends.
  • Don’t wait until retirement to start doing the things you love. As you age, the number of experiences available to you dwindle. Embrace risks and invest in experiences early.
  • Use a ‘time-bucket’ approach to planning meaningful life experiences. Divide your life into distinct seasons and plan what experiences you want to have during each bucket.
  • Determine your peak net worth and stop actively building wealth after that point. Instead, start spending down or decumulating. Use your wealth to make a positive impact now, whether giving to charity or giving your children an early inheritance.


Remember, the goal isn’t to die with zero but to live your life to the fullest and use your wealth effectively.



Understanding Wealth and Experiences

You work hard for money, but what’s the point of amassing wealth if you don’t enjoy it? Perkins asserts that money should enrich your positive life experiences.

He also insists that we trade our energy for experiences, and money represents our energy labor. The more energy we exert, the more money we accumulate, which we can then exchange for meaningful life experiences. So, if you die with a pile of money, those dollars represent missed positive experiences.

But how do you ensure that you’re using your money to live your best life? Perkins proposes a ‘time-bucket’ strategy.

Wondering what that’s all about? Read on to find out more.

The Time-Bucket Strategy

You don’t want to spend your entire life working hard and saving money to end up with a pile of cash you never enjoy. That’s where the ‘time-bucket’ strategy comes in. This Bill Perkins approach helps you plan your life experiences to maximize your fulfillment.

The basic idea is to divide your life into distinct seasons (or groupings of years) and plan meaningful experiences you want to have during that period. This way, you can drop each bucket list item into a spot on the timeline where it’ll fetch you the most joy.

Here’s how it works:

  • Bucket 1: Ages 20-40. You have lots of energy and time but little wealth during this time. So focus on cost-effective experiences, like backpacking trips or taking up a new hobby.
  • Bucket 2: Ages 40-70. You now have more wealth but less time and energy. So, start ticking off bigger bucket list items, like traveling to exotic locations or starting a business.
  • Bucket 3: Ages 70 and up. You may have less energy and mobility but more wealth and time than ever. Use this time to enjoy more leisurely experiences, like relaxing on the beach or spending time with loved ones.

Planning out your experiences this way will make the most of your time, life, energy, and money. Plus, you’ll have a clear roadmap for what experiences you want to have and when.

Of course, you don’t have to follow this strategy to the T. The point is to use it as a framework for thinking about your life experiences and how you want to prioritize them. So, go ahead and customize it to fit your own goals and preferences.

Remember, the key is to focus spending money on experiences that will bring you the most fulfillment, not just accumulating wealth for its own sake.

As Bill Perkins says, “You can’t take it with you.” So, make sure you’re using your money to create memories and experiences that will last a lifetime.




Bill Perkins’ Wealthy Perspective

Do you think wealth is about leaving a massive inheritance for your kids?

I get it. It may seem selfish to focus on your fun but Die with Zero’s philosophy advocates using wealth for yourself and your family while you’re alive.

Bill Perkins believes accumulating wealth isn’t possible and doesn’t necessarily lead to a fulfilling life. In the book, he argues that life expectancy typically exceeds 80 years, with kids receiving inheritances when they’re 50 to 60 years old.

So, delaying enjoyment is quite irrational.


Maximizing Life Experiences with Memory Dividends

Who doesn’t want to live their life to the fullest? Bill Perkins insists maximizing your life experiences is the way to go.

He argues that everyone trades their energy for experiences in life, and as humans, our energy manifests itself as money. The more money we have, the more opportunities we have to exchange it for meaningful experiences.

But here’s the catch: those dollars represent missed positive opportunities if you die with a pile of money.

To avoid this, Perkins suggests you focus on creating priceless memory dividends. Decide what makes you truly happy and plan how to spend your time and money to experience those things.

But don’t wait until you’re retired to start having fun!


Investing in Lifetime Memorable Moments and Experiences Early

Bill Perkins believes investing in experiences sooner will ensure a more fulfilling life.

But let’s be honest—most of us spend our 20s and 30s building our careers and fattening our fortunes. That’s followed up by saving for retirement in our 40s and 50s.

But as we age, the number of experiences we can enjoy drops drastically. Think about it—it’s harder to start a new business or learn a new skill when you’re older.

That’s why it’s essential to invest in experiences early. Now, the ‘time-bucket’ theory highlights a harsh reality—being young comes with more time and energy but less money. You could complain—or you could do things that cost less. Maybe go backpacking through Asia or take pottery classes on Sundays.

As you grow older, you’ll have wealth and health but less time. Focus on more leisurely experiences, like going to luxury resorts or cruising.

Perkins also makes another valid argument—investing in an experience doesn’t buy you the experience alone; it also fetches you the sum of all the dividends it brings for the rest of your life. Simply put—a great experience creates a memory you can cherish forever.

The author also recommends taking risks as early as possible, giving you ample time to reap rewards. Often, the most significant risks we take have the highest upsides. If you take those risks when you’re young, the downside is low or non-existent.

But what about all that money you’re saving for retirement?

Perkins argues that most people overestimate the money they’ll need in their old age. Instead of hoarding cash to care for a future version of yourself, use it to make yourself happier and fulfilled right now.

Of course, don’t take the title of Perkins’ book too literally. Dying with zero doesn’t mean you should quit your job and spend every last penny before you go. It represents a mindset of planning and living your life to collect the most priceless memories possible.


Health, Wealth, and Time Resources

Die With Zero highlights how health, wealth, and time are the three resources that maximize your life. Aging will change the amount of each resource available to you, so it’s important to plan your experiences accordingly.

Here’s how you can use each resource to live your best life:


You have excellent physical health and limited personal responsibilities when you’re young. Pick low-cost experiences like taking up a hobby and going on a quick road trip. Your health may decline as you age, so take advantage of your physical abilities while you can.


Saving all your earnings leaves you with nothing but a number on a balance sheet in your later years. Focus on maximizing your joyful experiences instead.

Also, folks often overestimate how much money they’ll need when they’re older. Avoid this by planning how to use your time, energy, and money to enjoy things that truly make you happy. After all, it’s smarter to invest in enjoying life early on than to spend it all on healthcare later.


You’ll have plenty of time and wealth as you age, but your health is far from guaranteed. Spend those years on more relaxing experiences—picture sipping a mimosa at a luxury resort.

Keep in mind that experiences continually enrich your life, providing fulfillment through lasting memories, lessons learned, and relationships formed.

I’ve outlined the “time-bucket” method already, so segment your life into defined periods and plan the key experiences you wish to have within each timeframe.

Challenging the ‘Spend All’ Mentality


So, you know what Bill Perkins’ “Die With Zero” is all about, and perhaps you’re feeling a tad skeptical about this seemingly radical notion. The idea of splurging all your hard-earned cash might sound like a ticket to financial ruin at first glance. But before you brush it off, let’s dive into what Perkins is really getting at.

First off, he isn’t advising you to go on a reckless spending spree. What he’s pushing for is a mindset shift towards prioritizing life experiences over a hefty bank balance. Let’s get real—When was the last time anyone raved about how much money someone had in their account at their funeral?

His core argument revolves around the notion that hoarding wealth just for the sake of it only leads to missed opportunities for genuine joy. Instead, he proposes adopting a “time-bucket” strategy to ensure a lifetime filled with meaningful moments.

Now, the “Spend All” mindset might not resonate with everyone. Yet, it prompts us to ponder whether chasing wealth for wealth’s sake is the true path to fulfillment. As Perkins aptly puts it, “You can’t take it with you,” so why not use it to craft a tapestry of cherished memories while you still can?

This idea will evoke resistance in some of us—Perkins invites us to introspect where this resistance stems from. What’s so revolting about minimizing the unused remnants of our toil before kicking the bucket? He bluntly points out that if we spend our lives amassing wealth only to leave it untouched, we’ve squandered our most precious resource—time.


Generational Wealth and Charitable Giving

Now that you’ve learned how to maximize your positive life experiences let’s consider what happens to your wealth after you’re gone. One effective way to ensure your wealth benefits future generations is through generational wealth and charitable giving.

Generational wealth means passing down wealth from one generation to the next through trusts, family businesses, or gifting. Doing this provides financial freedom and resources for your children and grandchildren to pursue their dreams.

Charitable giving is another way to use your wealth for good. Instead of waiting until you’re gone to donate, consider giving while you’re alive. You get to witness the impact of your generosity firsthand and ensure your money is used effectively.

Bill Perkins suggests that waiting to give until later is unnecessary. By donating now, you can make a difference in causes you care about and see the impact of your giving in real-time.

Remember, managing your money is about living the richest and most fulfilling life possible. This means not only maximizing your own experiences but also using your wealth to benefit future generations and make a positive impact on the world.


Peak Net Worth and Wealth Decumulation

In “Die With Zero,” Bill Perkins suggests determining your peak net worth and ceasing active wealth building after that while still leading a normal financial life. Instead of saving excessively, he advocates spending down or decumulating once you have more money than you can meaningfully spend on experiences in your lifetime.

Here are some tips for decumulating your wealth:

  • Give your children their inheritance earlier so they can enjoy it while you’re alive, giving you the satisfaction of witnessing its impact.
  • Donate to charity now rather than waiting until after you’ve passed away. This ensures your giving has an immediate impact and allows causes you care about to benefit from your investment sooner.
  • Invest in experiences that bring you pure joy and fulfillment. Remember, the more energy you expend, the more wealth you accumulate, which you can exchange for meaningful life experiences.
  • Take calculated risks early in life when you have less to lose and more time to enjoy potential rewards. Often, the biggest risks yield the highest rewards.


For the Non-Wealthy

This book isn’t really for folks who are just getting by financially. If you find yourself in this boat, you’re probably stretching every dollar to make ends meet.

As Bill puts it, people in poverty are likely squeezing the most out of every penny and opportunity anyway. So, in that case, I’d say check out “The Millionaire Fast Lane” by MJ DeMarco instead.


Final Thoughts

As someone who’s always played it safe with money, this book really pushed me out of my comfort zone. Perkins’ central message—that we should spend our hard-earned fortune on experiences instead of hoarding them – seemed so radical at first. Yet his time-bucket strategy has slowly but surely altered the way I’m planning my life’s adventures.



Have you read this book already? Will you give it a go now that you’ve read my review? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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8 thoughts on “Die With Zero by Bill Perkins: A Book Review”

  1. I remember when I spent 8k in Africa on an amazing trip at 27 years old my friend said ‘dude this trip costs 60 years Jon 150k’ and I argued and argued …. it was an amazing trip (one of many!) that I have been taking dividends on for almost 20 years now … I am good for retirement at 45 and have saved/invested well – but have always lived like this and this book just made me dig in more ….

    GREAT read and thanks for the summary sir!

  2. Subscribe to get more great content like this, an awesome spreadsheet, and more!
  3. I recently read this book and It made me rethink my strategy. I wonder if the 3% and 4% rules are too conservative? If so what numbers should we be aiming for?

    • Hi PICU MD – Absolutely! While the 3% and 4% rules are good starting points, they can be too conservative if you’re focused on maximizing life experiences.

      The “Die With Zero” philosophy encourages a more personalized approach to spending. Focus on the experiences you truly want in life and adjust your spending accordingly. It’s about prioritizing what matters most, not sticking to a rigid rule because ultimately it’s about *your* personal goals and values.

    • Thank you! Yes, I read it too. It’s a good reminder for all of us, but especially as physicians who are often around people at the end of life, to have this perspective on money and it’s value.


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