You Should Try to Die with $0

Treat Thompson



This is a republishing of The Steady Fella Newsletter. Twice a month readers use the timeless insights on passion, productivity, philosophy, and happiness from this newsletter to build towards the life they want.

What we’ll learn (in 2 minutes):

👨‍🏫 Topic: Why you should aim to die with $0

🔍 Quote: Friedrich Nietzsche on our inability to face our problems

📜 Passage: Ernest Becker on the paradox of human existence

Aim to Die with $0

The Ant worked all summer long to store food for the winter. But the happy-go-lucky Grasshopper spent that same time playing around and having fun. So when winter finally arrived, the Ant survived, while the Grasshopper starved to death.”

Would you rather be the Ant or the Grasshopper?

The main narrative in our society is to work hard, be consistent, and save up.

Author, Bill Perkins, argues that we spend too much time following this narrative. We spend too much time in ant mode—optimizing our lives for work and saving money even after we’re financially secure.

In his book, Die with Zero, Bill argues that the minute we’re financially secure, we should start focusing on our quality of life, not our bank balance.

His point of view is that we should aim to have $0 in our bank account by the time we die. He thinks any more than that and we’ve lived sub-optimally.

We should die with zero because money is simply a means to an end. In a vacuum, it has no value. The point of life is to accumulate fulfilling experiences. We merely use money to survive and to have those experiences.

We should be trading our precious time for money and then our money for fulfilling experiences. However, many people stop at trading their precious time for money—never converting it into the fulfilling experiences that make life happy, and that becomes the story of their life.

When you die with money in your bank account, it means you left fulfilling experiences on the table. It means you wasted precious time earning money when you didn’t need to.

That’s why when you’re financially secure it doesn’t make sense to be spending precious time on making money—you already have access to all the fulfilling experiences you need.

What about the kids?

The biggest objection to dying with $0 is, “what about your kid’s inheritance?”

However, it’s quite a silly point when you think about it. The average age of inheritance in the US is 51. At 51, a big windfall isn’t that helpful. You’re better off giving money to your kids while you’re alive and while they’re still young because at 25-35, financial help is highly impactful.

Featured Quote

We labour at our daily work more ardently and thoughtlessly than is necessary to sustain our life because to us it is even more necessary not to have leisure to stop and think. Haste is universal because everyone is in flight from himself. - Friedrich Nietzsche

In this quote, Nietzsche comments on our tendency to stay busy and distracted to avoid confronting our pain, boredom, and anxiety.

Featured Passage

Man is a worm and food for worms. This is the paradox: he is out of nature and hopelessly in it; he is dual, up in the stars and yet housed in a heart-pumping, breath-gasping body that once belonged to a fish and still carries the gill-marks to prove it. His body is a material fleshy casing that is alien to him in many ways-the strangest and most repugnant way being that it aches and bleeds and will decay and die. Man is literally split in two: he has an awareness of his own splendid uniqueness in that he sticks out of nature with a towering majesty, and yet he goes back into the ground a few feet in order blindly and dumbly to rot and disappear forever. It is a terrifying dilemma to be in and to have to live with.