Alex Trias and his wife Noki bought an apartment in Lisbon, Portugal in 2015. Now in retirement, they live off the dividends from their stocks and enjoy the relaxed Portuguese lifestyle.
Photo: Joao Esteves for CNBC Make It
If you want to retire early, there’s little room to make financial mistakes since you’re aiming to achieve a certain net worth in a lumpy timeline.
One big investment that doesn’t pay off or one large, unnecessary purchase can derail your progress and delay your plans to quit.
Through careful planning, Alex Trias was able to avoid such a setback in his journey to retirement at the age of 41.
“As far as spending money in my 20s, the truth is, I have no regrets because, for the most part, I didn’t do it that much,” Trias tells CNBC Make It.
Although the former tax attorney earned a six-figure salary, he says he bought clothes from discount retailers, took public transportation and kept his home furnishings to a minimum to keep his costs low before his retirement.
However, there are financial lessons he could have learned earlier. Here are three things Trias regrets from his 20s, and his tips for avoiding similar mistakes.
Whether in his professional life or his personal finances, Trias has learned that it’s not always worth trying to stray from the norm.
“In my 20s, I wasted a lot of time and effort trying to be exceptionally original instead of exceptionally competent,” he says.
He learned this lesson early in his legal career from one of his mentors who used a metaphor for shucking oysters: Trias’s job is to shuck as many oysters as possible, and although it might be more fun to imagine he’s searching for pearls, it would be more fun to “It’s easier for you to just focus on getting rid of those damned clams.”
In his work, Trias realized that sometimes “best practices” are called that for a reason. He had the idea that you can only move forward in your career by excelling or trying to reimagine time-tested tactics. But the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” applies more often than you think.
“The biggest regret I had financially was not my spending, but my thinking,” Trias says. “I was thinking all the time about investing low, waiting and then selling at a higher price. I can’t begin to explain the anxiety and loss this kind of frame of mind causes.”
Instead of trying to time the market, Trias recommends making saving and investing a habit.
“One thing that works really well is the almost mindless habit of saving and investing frequently [time] You get your paycheck, regardless of what might happen in the global economy or whether you think stocks are overvalued.
For average investors, Trias says it’s not worth the time, and it makes you feel stressed and worried about your investments all the time.
“I guess trying to pay attention [to your net worth] “Month to month or even year to year is likely to be counterproductive,” Trias says. “Focus not so much on the end result but on the habits you form.”
When he and his family first moved abroad, Trias says he was surprised to learn how little they actually needed in terms of finances and spending money.
“I always thought that to be happy, we needed four bedrooms, or fill the void — I had a laundry list of needs,” he says.
Fortunately, it didn’t take long for him to realize that he could happily live on less.
“It took us about six months of living a much more simple way to realize not only that we didn’t need it, but it actually turned out that we didn’t want to. We didn’t need anything close to what we thought we needed.” For retirement,” he says.
You may be different. Maybe your idea of a comfortable retirement includes being able to afford a personal chef, or being able to eat every meal at a restaurant.
Do some exploring when you’re young to figure out what you really want your retirement to look like, and then think about what it will take to get there. It might be easier than you thought.
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