If you enter into any personal finance and investing class, your chances of being struck by lightning are higher than the chances that you will hear anyone tell you that you should enjoy your money.
For most personal finance gurus, the thinking is the same. “Try and cut on your expenses as much as you can, save the difference and invest in a well-diversified portfolio.”
In his book, “Die with Zero,” Bill Perkins takes a different and exciting wave to personal finance management and investing.
Run, Then Walk
Before reading the book, my mind was fixed on the Run, then Walk technique, or as Nick Maggiulli calls it; Go big, then Stop. Nick Maggiulli writes,
“If I had to convince my 22-year-old self to save more money, here is what I would say: Go big, then stop. What I’m talking about is a savings philosophy so effective that it can put your future finances in easy mode.
It can help you to build wealth for decades while you literally do nothing. It may just be the lowest effort way to set yourself up for a nice retirement.”
He goes on to explain how it actually works.
“You save as much as early as you can, then you stop saving altogether (if you want).
Like Nick argues and clearly shows in his article, getting started early with investing can jumpstart your wealth creation journey. If you don’t believe Nick, ask Warren Buffett who started investing as early as 11.
That’s exactly how I was setting up my finances and investing journey. I was trying to save as much money as I could and quickly build a high-value portfolio.
Everything was going on well until I met Bill Perkins.
Borrow to Invest in Experiences
The first thing that struck my mind was the argument that young people should be focusing less on investing in assets and focus more on investing in experiences. Instead of saving to invest in assets, it makes more sense to borrow and spend on experiences. He writes,
“It can even make sense to borrow money when you expect to earn a lot more down the road… Borrow moderately and responsibly. And when you have many years of rising income ahead of you, it really doesn’t make sense to save 20% of your income.
That would mean forgoing memorable life experiences you could be having, and it also means working to pay a richer future self a suboptimal use of life energy, that’s for sure.”
At the young age of 20, I was averaging a savings rate of above 25%. True to my mantra, I was preparing myself to go big, then Stop.
A Better Solution To Investing in Assets
The main reason why young people should focus more on investing in experiences as Bill Perkins put it was to take advantage of their high energy levels, flexible schedules, fewer responsibilities, and great health.
“The ability to extract enjoyment from your wealth declines with age. When you are young, you have fewer responsibilities and better health to enjoy what life has to offer.
One thing that prevents people from enjoying life experiences is their health conditions. When you are old, you can barely travel for long hours.”
In short, as you grow old, you get more responsibilities and your body wears out, limiting your experiences.
While most people are saving for retirement, and postponing enjoying their wealth until their retirement age, Bill Perkins presents a better solution and diagnoses you with a condition you least expected. Before you get admitted to our Emergency Ward unit, here are your lab results and prescription as diagnosed by Bill. He writes,
“Likewise but for reasons of your inevitable aging, there will eventually be a last time you ever go wave-running, and a last time you play in a poker tournament, and a last time you’ll be able to board a plane and fly somewhere exotic. Some of these final experiences will come sooner than others but all will definitely come at some point.
That is what I mean when I say that we die many deaths in the course of our lives: The teenager in you dies, the college student in you dies, the single unmatched you dies, the version of you that’s a parent to an infant dies, and so on. Once each of these mini-deaths occurs, there is no going back.
Because of this eventual finality of all of life’s passing phases, you can delay some experiences for only so long before the window of opportunity on these experiences shuts forever.”
Why Invest in Experiences?
Experiences Over Material Things
Research and studies show that spending money on experiences makes us happier than spending money on things. Experiences gain value over time and they pay memory dividends. Material possessions seem exciting at the beginning but then depreciate quickly.
When you buy an expensive outfit, you will feel good the first time you wear it and the feeling will depreciate in the subsequent times.
But remember that great trip you went on in your primary school years, the experiences are still fresh in your mind and you will continue to receive memory dividends until you die.
The Ultimate Goal in Life is Life Enjoyment
In the book, Bill writes,
“If you spend hours and hours of your life acquiring money and then die without spending all of that money, then you’ve needlessly wasted too many precious hours of your life.
You should focus on maximizing your life enjoyment rather than on maximizing your wealth. Those are two different goals. Money is just a means to an end; having money helps you to achieve the more important goal of enjoying your life. But trying to maximize money gets in the way of achieving the more important goal.”
You Retire on Your Memories
In as much as planning for retirement involves securing your financial future when you won’t be able to work again, people focus more on creating wealth and forget to invest in meaningful experiences. Bill writes,
“Remember that the number of actual experiences available to you diminishes as you age.
Yes, you need money to survive in retirement, but the main thing you’ll be retiring on will be your memories- so make sure you invest enough in those.
The main idea here is that your life is the sum of your experiences.”
The Bottom Line
Die with zero is a good personal finance book because it flips the coin of personal finance and looks at things in a different light altogether. It ditches the old and conventional way of thinking about finance and investing.
It talks about what other finance experts don’t talk about but which is the most important.
It reminds us that even though wealth creation is important, it should not come in the way of life enjoyment.
Bill reminds us the only thing we will cherish the most on our deathbeds won’t be the figures in our bank accounts but the life satisfaction brought by the great memories from our life experiences.
How Do We Balance Life Enjoyment and Wealth Creation
The answer solely lies in an individual’s life goals and priorities. But as a guide, young people should focus more on increasing their income and invest most of their money not in assets but experiences.
Increase Your Income
One thing that will improve how you do financially is increasing your income. When you have a higher income, it becomes easier to save. You can also manage to build wealth while only saving and investing a small portion of your income.
Avoid Buying Unnecessary Things
The debate isn’t about savings vs expenses. It’s about how you can get the most out of every cent you make. It’s about cutting your supply of money to things, people, or experiences that do not benefit you in any way.
For example, living in a very expensive apartment may deprive you of funds that you may be using to invest in more great experiences or build your portfolio.
Create A “Experiences” Portfolio
The main action item from the book was creating an experiences portfolio. This is a portfolio that I look forward to funding every month so that it can help me invest in meaningful experiences.
I will not view money allocated to this portfolio as expenses but rather as investments. I look forward to investing in great experiences that will earn me memory dividends until I die.