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53-year-old early retiree shares 3 regrets from his 20s

If you want to retire early, there isn’t a ton of room to make financial mistakes since you’re aiming to hit a certain net worth on a truncated timeline. 

One big investment that doesn’t pay off or a major unnecessary purchase could derail your progress and delay your plans to quit working.

With careful planning, Alex Trias managed to avoid such a setback on his journey to retire at age 41.

“As far as spending money in my 20s, the fact is I have no regrets because, for the most part, I didn’t do it very often,” Trias tells CNBC Make It.

Though the former tax attorney had 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 prior to retiring.

There are financial lessons he could have learned earlier, though. Here are three regrets Trias has from his 20s and his advice for avoiding similar mistakes.

1. Trying to be ‘exceptionally original’

Both in his career and in his personal finances, Trias learned that it’s not always worth it to try to stray from the norm.

“In my 20s, I wasted far too much time and effort trying to be exceptionally original as opposed to being exceptionally competent,” he says.

He learned this lesson early in his law career from a mentor who used a metaphor of shucking oysters: Trias’ job is to shuck as many oysters as possible, and though it might be more fun to imagine he’s looking for pearls, “it’ll be a hell of a lot easier for you to just concentrate on shucking those goddamn oysters.”

In his work, Trias realized that sometimes “best practices” are called that for a reason. He had the idea that you can only get ahead in your career by standing out or trying to re-imagine time-tested tactics. But the old adage of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” applies more often than you’d think.

2. Thinking timing is more important than consistency

3. Overestimating his needs

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