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March 31, 2022

Die With Zero Review: How This Book Changed Our FIRE Journey

Andy Hill & Nicole Hill

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Congratulations! You have done everything right. All of the sacrifices your family has made are finally paying off as account balances continue to climb.

You’ve maxed out your retirement contributions year after year for almost a decade. The cars are paid off. The house is paid off. The kids have 529 accounts. Your emergency savings looks pretty cushy. 

You don’t really have to work at that job anymore – yet, you stay. You stay in order to keep saving and investing. Heck, you even have a bumper sticker on your paid-off car that lets others know that you’ve lived like no one else so later, you can live like no one else.

But are you living? I mean, you’re certainly alive…but are you living? 

When is this “later” that Dave Ramsey talks about? 

Will you be healthy enough to ski Lake Tahoe at 69-years-old? Will you even still care about your bucket list by then? 

Do you really want to die with seven figures in the bank? What are you actually saving for? What if you took that money and gave your family experiences and memories beyond their wildest dreams? 

These are the multi-million dollar questions Bill Perkins has presented to the world in his incredibly popular book Die With Zero. For many, these questions may be very convicting.

My Progression From FIRE to YOLO

After plenty of sacrifices (and some marriage counseling), my love affair with Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps gradually led me and Nicole to Coast FIRE status. With the amount we’ve saved thus far, we can almost entirely cut back on our contributions and still have around $3 million when we turn 65. 

But…after hitting Coast FIRE, I still craved something else. Deep down inside of my heart, I felt this nagging void even though I technically did everything “right” to secure our financial future. 

I didn’t know why or what it was – but it was there, and it was growing. 

On a random whim, I got a recommendation from a member of our Marriage, Kids & Money community to check out a thought-provoking personal finance book called Die With Zero by Bill Perkins. 

I didn’t know what it was but it got 5 stars on Amazon so it couldn’t be too bad. Little did I know, my brain would go into full meltdown status once I started to dive in. 

What is Die With Zero?

Die With Zero is a personal finance philosophy that encourages super savers like me to die with zero dollars in their bank account. Yes, I said ZERO. 

The Die With Zero mindset encourages the financially secure to die with zero dollars in the bank in exchange for recognizing and behaving as if you only live once (“YOLO!”). 

This also means no inheritances for the children in every sense of the word.

Now, simply suggesting an empty bank account or no inheritances to most retirement-prepared folks would be enough to cause thousands of medically-induced hospitalizations. 

Hear me out. It’ll come together, I promise.

Why Die With Zero Changed My Financial Mindset

When I was in my 20’s, I had many one-of-a-kind experiences but lived paycheck to paycheck as a result. I was young and didn’t have many responsibilities outside of my own basic needs, so cutting back on expenses wasn’t yet a concern. 

After Nicole and I got married, I felt a newfound responsibility as a man to step up and do the right thing for my family as the provider. Additionally, I worked in an industry that I really did not like or care for. 

To me, saving was a way out. I knew that if I saved enough to build up a decent cushion, that would be my ticket to bigger and better things. 

Because there was so much riding on our savings, spending used to be excruciating. At times, I genuinely felt like I was taking away from our opportunities down the road by splurging on things that weren’t absolute necessities. As I got a bit older and more comfortable with our finances, I loosened up a tad…but not much. 

My personal transition from Baby Steps Andy to the more lenient Andy gradually happened over the last two years. Die With Zero, however, initiated a pivotal change in my money mindset and future outlook. 

In his book, Bill Perkins talks about a businessman who had achieved multi-million dollar wealth but ultimately ended up feeling very regretful. He had missed out on many golden family years and memories that he’ll honestly never get back because he was too busy chasing money and numbers.

There’s another example where Perkins talks about experiences and how perspectives change over the course of a lifetime. For instance, spending a month bouncing between European countries with nothing more than a backpack is normal when you’re 21…not so much when you’re 65. 

Could you imagine the average 65-year-old sleeping on the floor of a maybe not-so-clean hostel? Probably not. 

Don’t Forget to Consider the Here and Now

The most important take-home message of Die With Zero is “whatever you can take advantage of now, consider it”. Things and experiences that seem so exciting at this point in your life will not produce the same effect 40 years from now when you can afford to do it right. We also need to consider that some opportunities may never present themselves again. 

Use your judgment for what’s realistic and ultimately enjoyable. Should you spend thousands of dollars to do a historical tour of Paris with a toddler and an infant? Probably not. Should you do it when the kids are 14 and 16? Maybe. 

What about leaving the kids something when you die? Rather than leaving an account full of money, Perkins goes on to suggest that buying them a house or paying for their college and wedding can go a lot farther. Watching your grandchildren enjoy the playset you bought them goes a lot farther. Experiences and memories ultimately go a lot farther. 

Since Nicole and I are raising our kids with financial education and continually investing for their future needs, I know they’re going to be just fine – even without an inheritance. If it turns out that they’re not fine because they don’t know how to take care of themselves, no huge chunk of money that I’ve worked my entire life for will change that. If anything, it may make things much worse. 

Most importantly, children are better served while you’re here on Earth. 

Die With Zero Review: Key Takeaways

Takeaway #1: Check Out Die With Zero!

If you find yourself in the camp of “I’ve been doing the right things financially and I’ve been saving as much as I can”, check out this book

You don’t have to like every word that Bill Perkins says. Take the bits and pieces you need to reframe your money mindset and leave the rest behind. 

Takeaway #2: Don’t Push Off What You May Be Able to Do Now

Consider experiences as being worthy of your time, money, and attention now and not something to be continually kicked down the road. While skiing in Aspen sounds wonderful when you’re 55, what if your knees can’t handle it anymore? 

Go skiing now but stay at a less expensive hotel. Do the vacation in an age-appropriate and budget-appropriate way. It won’t always be better later.

Done is better than perfect. Start crossing off those bucket list items now. If you can do it again later in life, great! Stay at a nicer hotel or do it in a different way. 

Takeaway #3: Practice Die With Zero When You Feel Comfortable

If you are in credit card debt or not living on a budget (i.e. don’t know where your money is going), this is not for you. 

Once you’ve checked off all of the boxes where you’re investing enough, know where all of the dollars are, and become more comfortable with your financial situation, check out Die With Zero

Loosen the purse strings when you feel comfortable.

Takeaway #4: Give Your Kids Experiences Instead of An Estate

Consider what it would be like to spend everything you’ve saved while you’re still here and can watch your children enjoy it. 

Rather than inheriting a lump sum of cash when you pass, what if you paid to build their dream home? The home that they’ll make memories in for decades to come. The home that your grandchildren will become adults in. Wouldn’t you rather be a witness to the joy than dead with a check?

Who Is Die With Zero Appropriate For? 

Die With Zero is appropriate for the super savers who still think that the only way out of a job they hate is to chase the FIRE movement. 

It’s for the people who are doing everything right, throwing everything they can at their 401k, and saving every extra dollar so that in 30 or 40 years they can be happy then. 

It is not appropriate for those who are still in debt, do not have sizable savings, or have not yet begun to invest in their retirement funds. Do those first.

Don’t Forget to Have Balance

As with everything, there must be a balance. You can find a happy medium between the FIRE super saver and a YOLO super spender. 

Secure your future early but don’t forget to enjoy your efforts and family while you’re still here.

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What do you think of this Die with Zero review? Does Bill Perkins' philosophy resonate with you?

Please let us know in the comments below.

Andy Hill

Andy Hill, AFC® is the award-winning family finance coach behind Marriage Kids and Money - a platform dedicated to helping families build wealth and happiness. With millions of podcast downloads and video views, Andy’s message of family financial empowerment has resonated with listeners, readers and viewers across the world. When he's not "talking money", Andy enjoys being a Soccer Dad, singing karaoke with his wife and relaxing on his hammock.

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