Die With Zero – Summary With Notes and Highlights
A practical guide to getting the most out of your money – and your life. Including highlights, recommendations, and a full summary of the book.
🚀 The Book in 3 Sentences
Aim to have roughly $0 left in your bank account when you die – otherwise you’ve saved too much.
Money is a resource that helps you live your best life – not an end in itself.
Invest in experiences when you’re young, to get compounding returns on your memories.
Die With Zero is a practical guide for getting the most out of your money, and your short time on earth. It helped me realise that money is only as valuable as the life experiences you buy with it. Spend your life obsessing about your bank balance, and you’ve missed the point.
🧭 How I Discovered It
👤 Who Should Read It?
Die With Zero is definitely for people who have a decent income, some financial security, and have already looked into saving up. Also for young people planning their long-term future.
It doesn’t apply to:
🤑 Big Spenders –
people who are a bit YOLO and spend all their money on fun stuff. If you’re in this category, Bill would say: it’s great that you’re enjoying life. But you need to save up, to avoid a stressful retirement.
❌ People with no disposable income
– This book is definitely not aimed at people who are only making enough money to live on. If you’re in this category, then by definition you need to spend your money right now just to survive, with almost nothing left over. Like Bill says: ‘…people in poverty are probably already doing all they can to get the most out of their money and their life.’ In that case, the book I’d recommend is The Millionaire Fast Lane by MJ DeMarco.
☘️ How the Book Changed Me
I used to think that spending money on experiences and things in my 20’s was a bit frivolous. Shouldn’t I put it all in the S&P 500, to get compounding interest? Die With Zero made me realise that not having those experiences when I’m young is way more wasteful.
I now think of money as a tool for getting things I actually care about, not as an end in itself.
I’ve started to notice that being money-focused stops me from asking ‘what experiences do I want to have in my life’?
✍️ My Top 3 Quotes
“The sad truth is that too many people delay gratification for too long, or indefinitely. They put off what they want to do until it’s too late, saving money for experiences they will never enjoy.”
“When the end is near, we suddenly start thinking, What the hell am I doing? Why did I wait this long? Until then, most of us go through life as if we had all the time in the world.”
“We all get one ride on this roller coaster of life. Let’s start thinking about how to make it the most exciting, exhilarating, and satisfying ride it can be.”
📒 Summary + Notes
“If you’ve got any money left in your bank account by the time you die, you’ve done something wrong”.
That’s the core message of this book. And it’s pretty controversial. But I think Bill backs it up.
His first argument is that the money we earn represents life energy.
💡 Money = Life Energy
We all need to make and spend money to survive – buy food, pay rent, cover the bills.
Once we’ve covered basic expenses, we use our leftover time and money to buy life experiences like going travelling, reading books, going to the cinema, etc.
Beyond basic survival, life is about having fulfilling, meaningful experiences. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs illustrates the different levels pretty well:
Now, in an ideal world we’d directly trade in our life energy (in the form of work) for fulfilling experiences. But in the real world, money is the middleman. We need to trade in life energy for money, so we can:
b) afford fulfilling experiences.
Bill argues that most people focus way too much on saving money. Even as they get older, they carry on trading in their valuable time, all for cash they’ll never spend.
Let’s say you die at the age of 85 with $10k left in the bank. That money represents two things:
The extra several months you worked to earn that $10k
All the experiences that you didn’t spend that money on: holidays, amazing meals, or (maybe the most valuable thing) a few extra months of retirement.
Bill would say that all the life energy you traded has basically been wasted. You sacrificed so much of your precious time to get it, and now it’s just gathering dust.
The antidote for most people, says Bill, is to spend more money when you’re young.
📈 1. Why You Should Save Less
There are three main reasons for saving less, especially when we’re young. Increasing Earning Power, Memory Dividends, and Old Age.
Let’s break those down.
💸 Reason 1: Increasing Earning Power
The first reason for investing in experiences early is that our earning power generally increases as we get older. So what seems like a big chunk of money when we’re 20 years old is much less significant when we’re 40 years old with a house, some kids, an established career, and a lot more money coming in.
$20 buys you less and less happiness, because you take the small things for granted (food, cinema tickets, books) and start focusing on big-money things like a new car, or fixing up your house.
So not doing something relatively cheap when you’re 18 years old to save money is like taking $10 from your kid’s pocket money to pay rent. It makes no difference to the adult, but it’ll make the kid miserable 😭
So don’t obsess about saving $10 here and there when you’re young. You’ll get way more enjoyment from spending that money right now than in 30 years’ time.
♻️ Reason 2: Memory Dividends
Unlike material possessions, which seem exciting at the beginning but then often depreciate quickly, experiences actually gain in value over time: They pay what I call a memory dividend.– Bill Perkins
Here’s the idea: every year, good experiences we had in the past give us a return on investment. That’s because all of these experience create memories.
Let’s say you go on an amazing 2-month hike through Italy with your friends when you’re 20 years old. You’ll probably have at least 50 years to enjoy those memories, and talk about the trip whenever you hang out.
Compare that with hustling at work for all of your 20s and 30s to save up money, and then going on a trip to Italy when you’re 40. Sure, you’ll be more financially secure. But you’ll have missed out on almost 20 years of good memories, extra life experiences, and group bonding:
The longer you wait, the less time you give your experiences to earn compounding interest.
👴🏻 Reason 3: Old Age
This graph illustrates how, as we get older, even though our spending power usually increases (and we can afford to do expensive things), our actual ability to do all that stuff steadily decreases. We can’t travel as far, do tough physical activities like skiing, and we have less energy.