'It's never too late to start again:' Over 40s share life lessons for young people

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Navigating the decades from your 20s to your 40s can be tough. And getting to your 40s and beyond while happy and successful may be even more daunting. 

But the r/AskReddit community solicited some sage advice on the topic, posing on Monday the question: "People who are 40+ and happy with their life, what is your advice to people in their 20s?"

On Wednesday the topic had 87,200 upvotes and 14,100 comments. 

Answers ranged from practical life advice ("Take care of your teeth. This is the only set you're ever going to have...," from user Thirty_Helens_Agree) to inspiration ("Chase your dreams! Life goes by SO fast. You don't want to be 80 yrs old and regretting not traveling, pursuing your passion, etc," wrote SharCooterie) to tips for success.

Here are five of the best answers on the subject of success. 

'It's never too late to start again'

"All in my 20's I thought I couldn't just restart my career or dump a useless boyfriend or go back to school because I was already on a certain trajectory. Made my choices now I gotta make the best of it," wrote Reddit user Purplelicious.

But "that's total bulls---. You have no idea how incredibly young you are and how much time you have to do whatever you want to do.

"When I figured this out, I found the man of my dreams, had a kid in my late late 30s, dropped my entire career in my late 40s and started a new one at 50 and it's awesome," Purplelicious said.

In fact, an October report from job site Indeed found that almost half (49%) of full-time workers have made a "dramatic career shift." And for the other half of those surveyed, 65% said they were thinking about or had previously considered switching careers.

And now, the Covid-19 pandemic "is forcing the fastest reallocation of labor since World War II," according to an analysis by the Wall Street Journal published on March 29

"I'm so excited for everyone taking a leap into the great unknown," Purplelicious said in an update to the original comment.

"You got this! And if you are sad or upset or frustrated with life that's OK too. You have time and it will pass. You have no idea what comes next and you have so much time to explore! I am still figuring things out...."

'None of it matters if you can't enjoy it'

"Relax and don't get overly angry," wrote GWS1121. "...[T]he real lesson is to accept that things won't always go the way you want them to and that's OK.

"Didn't marry your perfect spouse? That person doesn't exist — align expectations to reality and appreciate those who love you for who they are. Or find new people," GWS1121 wrote. "Didn't buy the perfect car? Oh, well, it still gets you where you're going. ...Didn't get that promotion? Don't be so sure it would have worked out the way you think it would have....

"Point is, relax, enjoy the ride, work to your goals but remember none of it matters if you can't enjoy it along the way," GWS1121 wrote.

The comment is in line with what Scott Galloway, a successful serial entrepreneur and professor at New York University's Stern School of Business, calls the "equation for life well lived."

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Scott Galloway on the 'Algebra of Happiness'

"Science shows there is an arc to happiness. Specifically, it looks like a smile," Galloway previously told CNBC Make It.

"So, your younger years, your childhood, your teens, your college years [and] young adulthood are the stuff of college football games, time with friends, sexual exploration, experimentation — a lot of great stuff. And, you're taught that the world is yours for the taking and you believe it," he said. 

"Then, about your late 20s, early 30s, s--- gets real."

But in your late 40s and early 50s, "something wonderful happens," where you begin to appreciate what you do have, said Galloway.

"The message to young people is the following: if you find yourself in your 30s stressed out, maybe disappointed at times, that's natural. Happiness is there and it's waiting for you," he said.

'Start saving now for your retirement' 

"Start saving now for your retirement. Avoid debt. Floss daily. Exercise daily," wrote Reddit user Lipsweater.

While Lipsweater did not elaborate, fellow Redditors responded to the comment with additional advice.

"I could have set up a 6% pre-tax retirement account in my early 20s," wrote Mattdan79. "I wasted 10+ years and now will have to work another 10 years to make up for lost time."

"The biggest regret my dad has was not starting some sort of savings for retirement when he was in his 20s," added Sirhc798. "He didn't start putting money into his 401k until he was 30 or so. If you don't have access to a 401k, look into getting an IRA or something you can just chip something into every week or month."

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Here's how much money you should have saved now

Indeed, almost one quarter of Americans (22%) have less than $5,000 in savings for retirement, according to data from Northwestern Mutual's 2019 Planning & Progress Study. And almost half of respondents (46%) didn't know how much they had saved. Only 16% had saved $200,000 or more.  

And a 2020 TD Ameritrade report, which surveyed 2,000 U.S. adults ages 40-79 with at least $25,000 in investable assets, found nearly two-thirds of 40-somethings had less than $100,000 in retirement savings and 28% of those in their 60s had less than $50,000.

Experts recommend you save $1 million to be able to retire. So if you haven't already investing saving for retirement, now is the time to start. The power of compounding means that the sooner you start investing, the more each dollar will have time to grow.

'Think twice' about buying an expensive car

"Zero debt is an amazing feeling," wrote Noisebarn, who self-identified as a 40-year-old.

So in particular, "think twice before dropping that down payment on that fully loaded 2020 dream mobile that offers nothing but looks and depreciates value quickly," Noisebarn said.

In fact, good rule of thumb is to spend no more than 10% of your gross annual income on the purchase price of a car, according to finance expert Sam Dogen. And don't forget you'll also have costs for things like maintenance and gas.

"The thrill of owning a new or 'new-ish' used car lasts for only several months, but the pain of paying the same car payment will last for years," Dogen previously wrote for CNBC Make It

Also, the money that you spend on a car — an asset that depreciates in value — could be better invested somewhere that you will get a return on your money, Dogen said.

'Don't stop doing the things you love' 

"Don't stop doing the things you love," wrote Denaris21.

"Even though I have a wife, kids, job etc., I still make time to play video games, draw, write stories, read comics, play basketball, listen to music, etc. There is no reason to become a miserable old bastard!"

Denaris21 added that it takes effort to make time for hobbies. "Apart from working out (which I do at 6 am before everyone else wakes up) ... I only game on the weekend if I get the chance, I read ebooks on my phone when I'm killing time in the day ... and I can usually find a few hours in the week to draw. I still make time to chill out with my wife in the evenings and do things with kids.

"I just fit my hobbies in between them. I also don't watch much TV or go out, but that's just me," Denaris21 wrote. 

Kevin O'Leary explains why devoting time to creative pursuits will make you better at your job
Being creative is important, says Kevin O'Leary

Kevin O'Leary, start of ABC's "Shark Tank," also said pursuing your passions is important. O'Leary himself takes time for photography, playing guitar and cooking among other things, and it makes him better at his job, he said.

"In business, you need the yin and the yang," he tells CNBC Make It. "You want to be a little artistic sometimes — that's the chaos of art — and then the discipline of business. If you're too much of any one of those you're not creative and very often not successful." 

And according to Brigid Schulte, the author of "Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time," "neuroscience and research" show that "you need a space where you're calm that leads to insight," she told The New York Times.

Having a hobby can be a way to improve your ability at work, but it can also help you "sink into the wonderful experience of being alive," Schulte said.

Disclosure: CNBC owns the exclusive off-network cable rights to "Shark Tank."

See also: 

95-year-old billionaire Charlie Munger: The secret to a long and happy life is 'so simple'

Self-made millionaire: This is the formula for happiness

'Never spend more than this much of your income on a car,' says millionaire finance expert

Warren Buffett's partner Charlie Munger shares his advice for living a rich and successful life
Warren Buffett's partner Charlie Munger shares his advice for living a rich and successful life