Why “Memory Dividends” Are the Best Asset You’ll Ever Earn

Invest in experiences. You'll be rich for the rest of your life.

A kaleidoscopic illustration of colors bursting through someone's brain.
Memory dividends are the "re-experiencing of a cherished experience." They rock.
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You might have heard about the book Die With Zero, written by a man named Bill Perkins. It came out a few summers ago. Perkins is a longtime energy trader whom the Wall Street Journal once dubbed “one of the last cowboys” in the hedge fund world. He famously generated $1 billion in a five-year span for a single firm.

Suffice to say, he’s a successful guy. But his self-help book isn’t a bunch of wolfish jargon on how to accumulate wealth. It’s actually a probing introspection on the importance of living while you still can.

One of the book’s better snippets: “Life is not a game of Space Invaders — you don’t get points for all the money you rack up in the game — but many people treat it as though it were. They just keep earning and earning, trying to maximize their wealth without giving nearly as much thought to maximizing what they get out of that wealth…”

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What Are Memory Dividends?

Instead of hoarding pennies for a hypothetical reckoning, Perkins extolls the virtues of generosity and immediacy.

Don’t wait: give to your children, give to your friends, give to your community. But most importantly, give to yourself. Within a reasonable framework of what you can afford — and with an eye toward those things that make you feel energized, inspired and alive — spend the money to do the thing. However much it costs, it will pay for itself over and over again throughout the course of your life.

Perkins calls these payouts “memory dividends.” Other writers have described them as “the re-experiencing of an experience.” The extra effort can take a toll in the short term (on your debit balance, or your sleep schedule), but in the end, will add color and texture to your life and yield stories you’ll tell forever.

Go Big, Go Home

Sometimes, on the rare and blissful occasions that I’m sitting around doing nothing at all, I’ll flash back to moments of my life that were so odd or extraordinary I’ll question whether they ever happened at all. Like running through the desert as the sun set outside San Bernardino, or shopping for bread and cabbage at a grocery store the size of a Home Depot in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Of course, travel is a surefire way to create memory dividends. Same as shelling for a concert that you must attend, no matter the Stubhub price gauging, or Game 7 of the World Series. But you can create memory dividends in small ways, too. Go on a walk with a family member when they could really need it. Read a book to your kid. Plan a special night for your significant other for no real reason.

Chances are, you’ll be able to re-experience these memories one day, and cash in on the dividends. But even if they don’t pop specifically into your brain, they may long linger in the your loved one’s head, as something vital and cherished. That’s what it really means to be rich for life.

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