Money at 30: “Die With Zero” Audiobook Review
Titling a book can be a bit of a challenge — perhaps even more so in the world of non-fiction. Although your subtitle can do a lot of the heavy lifting, your main title needs to be both catchy and memorable while also laying out the premise of your work and presenting a promise you can deliver on. Well, with a title like Die With Zero: Getting All You Can from Your Money and Your Life, author Bill Perkins certainly succeeds in setting up what readers are in for. In turn, he also inspired me to part with my latest Audible credit and give the audio version of his book a listen.
While the book was released in hardcover last summer, it looks as though the audiobook came out last month (hence my discovering it on Audible). As luck would have it, also seems as though the paperback edition is out as of this week if Amazon’s info is to be believed. I also wanted to note that the book is available in Japanese and German from multiple retailers.
Getting to the book itself, as you dive into Die With Zero, you will need to face your own mortality. That’s because Perkins’ goal with the project is to help people make the most of their money while they’re alive, thus leaving as little as possible behind. Of course, meeting the challenge laid out in the title is next to impossible, but the book presents some tips, tricks, and suggestions for getting as close as you can, including calculating your life expectancy.
Despite the two works having fairly little to do with each other, one book I might compare Die With Zero to is Rutger Bregman’s Utopia for Realists. That’s because, in each case, the author shares “radical” ideas that actually make a lot of sense as they continue to lay out their cases. Furthermore, the concepts in each have the potential to make a major impact on society if they were widely adopted.
To that point, easily one of the most interesting chapters of Die With Zero is the one that involves kids and inheritance. As Perkins attests, the most common response he gets when presenting his philosophy is “what about the kids?” Sure enough, even as someone without kids, the same thought crossed my mind. This is where another one of the author’s “radical” ideas comes into play: give your kids their inherence when they need it most. To some, thinking about asking for an early inheritance might call to mind the Prodigal Son parable, but Perkins’ logic struck me as sound as he laid it out. After all, since everyone knows about the power of compound interest, why not gift your children with money sometime in their late 20s or early 30s when they can invest it — or buy a house, travel the world, or do whatever they see fit? Similarly, Perkins argues that charities you may want to support with your endowment could use your cash now instead of when you’re gone.
Just as not every reader will have children to consider in their calculations, Perkins acknowledges that different people will require different paths. Because of this, he lays out a number of options for those concerned about the very real possibility of running out of money before they die. On the other end of things, many of Perkins projections are based on the assumption that younger people will make more as they grow older (but before they retire), which is why it makes more sense to spend a larger amount of your income on experiences at these ages. Needless to say, that won’t always be the case and so it likely behooves readers to customize Perkins’ advice to their situation as the author intends.
At a runtime of just over five hours, the audiobook is a little on the short side (albeit not by much). However, even in its relative brevity, there were parts of Die With Zero that started to feel redundant to me. For example, I can’t even count the number of times that Perkins explains how there may be activities you can only do or that would be better done when you’re younger. Obviously this and similar truths are a big part of the book’s premise, but the constant reminders really start to pile up. The only other minor complaint I have is that a couple of parts come off as a bit crass or harsh — something that Perkins actually mentions in acknowledgments, suggesting that these elements were likely toned down. Personally, neither of these elements ultimately impacted my enjoyment of the book to any measurable degree, but are worth noting nonetheless.
So where do I fall on the Die With Zero philosophy? Overall, I thought it made some very compelling points — many of which I agreed with. In fact, while my wife and I do strive to save for retirement even while making a modest salary, we have also made a point to take advantage of experiences while we can and spend on such opportunities as needed. Thus, I can appreciate the mindset and honestly kind of wish I could let myself indulge in the spending he describes. Yet, at the end of the day, I’m not sure that someone in my position is cut out for this approach. Instead, I suspect that those who are currently making larger sums of money and relishes seeing their net worth rise like a scoreboard total will have more to learn from this book than I would.
With all of that said, I think that Die With Zero: Getting All You Can from Your Money and Your Life offers some important lessons worthy of contemplation. Personally, I’ve already taken some of Perkins’ words to heart and begun thinking more about some of the things I want to experience in life while I can. For that reason alone, I’d recommend giving Die With Zero a read even if you ultimately disagree with it.