Many of us have a fear of running out of money, which often prompts an accumulation of wealth, occasionally at the expense of life’s most enriching experiences. The common notion of “You can never have too much money” can set us on autopilot, directing our focus predominantly towards wealth creation.

Bill Perkins’ “Die with Zero” offers a different perspective. While he acknowledges the importance of future planning, Perkins advocates for overcoming the fear of running out of money. He presents strategies for mindful spending that can enrich our lives without compromising future security.

In this blog post, I’ll distill four key lessons from Perkins’ book.

 

Lesson 1: Life Experiences Have Their Seasons

Procrastination, a common hindrance to joy, often causes us to miss enriching experiences. We regularly delay vacations, career changes, or passionate pursuits until it’s either too late or health limitations hinder us from fully enjoying these experiences.

Many of us spend our 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s laboring hard to save for retirement, often overlooking that certain experiences are best savored in our youth. Just like fruits and vegetables have their seasons, our lives have optimal stages for various experiences.

As we age, the window for specific life-enriching adventures narrows. While you might still be alive, the “you” who can thoroughly enjoy certain experiences might not be. 

For example, a bike trip from coast to coast across the US or backpacking across Europe could be challenging to undertake in your 60s or 70s.

As Perkins points out, “Time moves in only one direction, and as it passes, it seeps away opportunities for certain experiences forever.”

 

Lesson 2: Time-Bucket Your Life 

Perkins proposes time-bucketing your life, a tool that promotes the understanding that certain experiences are more enjoyable, or even feasible, at specific ages. 

If you harbor dreams of adventures like climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro or moving to a different country, it’s crucial to employ this tool and start preparing early.

So, how does the time-bucket system work?

1️⃣ Draw a timeline of your life, from the present until your hypothetical last day. 

2️⃣ Divide it into intervals. Perkins suggests five or ten years. However, if you’re beyond your 20s or 30s, consider adopting shorter intervals—three or five years. 

3️⃣ Contemplate the key experiences you wish to have during your lifetime. The crucial step here is to actually write these experiences or events down rather than merely thinking about them.

4️⃣ Once you have your list, place each experience or event into the specific time buckets based on when you hope to or feasibly can partake in them.

The term “bucket list” is probably more familiar than “time bucket.” According to Perkins, a bucket list presents a more reactive approach to life. Upon reaching a certain age, the awareness of time’s fleeting nature prompts you to compile a list of everything you want to achieve, proceeding to check off each item systematically.

Conversely, the time-bucket system encourages a more proactive approach to life. It invites you to plan ahead and take an active role in shaping your life journey.

 

Lesson 3: Business Metrics Don’t Apply to Life 

In business, a balance sheet, including assets and liabilities, is crucial. But life can’t be quantified in the same way. We should measure our lives by the experiences we’ve had, the memories we’ve created, and the lives we’ve touched.

The emphasis on intangible wealth is a refreshing shift away from material possessions. While comfort is important, it doesn’t replace the joy and fulfillment derived from rich experiences. 

Perkins succinctly summarizes this idea by saying, “In the end, the business of life is the acquisition of memories.”

 

Lesson 4: Embrace Risk for Reward

Life is inherently risky, and Perkins encourages readers not to shy away from calculated risks, especially when the potential rewards are substantial. Be it a once-in-a-lifetime travel opportunity, a business venture, or a career change, embracing risk can lead to some of life’s most rewarding experiences.

But what if you’re a worrier? What if the uncertainty of the unknown intimidates more than it excites? If this resonates with you, begin by defining the worst-case scenario. Once you’ve done that, prepare to accept it; if it’s not acceptable, put forth some effort to mitigate the risks until they reach the lowest acceptable level, and then take the leap!

 

“Die with Zero” underscores that life isn’t a rehearsal; it’s the main event, unfolding right now. The journey holds more value than the destination, as our experiences make up the essence of our lives.

Life isn’t about what we accumulate, but what we’ve experienced along the way. Embrace these lessons, rethink your approach to wealth and life experiences, and strive for a life where you truly die with zero regrets.