This blog post first appeared over at ClarkHoward.com.
Unless you’re a fictional character, you’re likely to have a few financial regrets in your life. Hopefully they can be counted on a single hand, and if you’re lucky they’re long in your past. Either way, almost all of us have made cringe-worthy financial decisions, which can often follow us years or even decades into our adulthood.
When asked about their financial regrets, members of the popular Facebook group The Non-Consumer Advocate had these regrets to share:
Buying a house
Not surprisingly, people both shared that they regretted buying and not buying a house. While one woman reported her regret over “buying a money pit of a house,” other people regretted “buying too much house” or “buying a house before we were financially stable.” Specifically, people regretted “Paying PMI” (Private Mortgage Insurance) that comes with putting less than a 20% down payment onto a house.
On the other hand, holding off on buying a house can also lead to regret, as another person lamented that “I wish I’d bought a house before house prices became completely out of my reach.”
College and student loans
Although a college degree can lead to a meaningful and well paying career, one person regretted “getting a college degree that didn’t lead to a specific job/career. I chose based solely on interest and it’s pretty much worthless today.” Similarly, another person shared that “I regret going to college for a career where there is huge competition for few jobs and using a lot of student loans to do so.”
Of course, entire tomes could be written about student loan regrets, but one group member specifically regretted “taking so many student loans ‘for living expenses’ when I had a full scholarship! Now my husband is helping repay what I spent on dinners with my ex!” Another had the honest response that “by far my biggest regret is using student loans to buy clothes, a fancy keyboard, a car, etc.” Ouch!
But like house buying, the regrets swing to both sides as one woman looked back and shared the regret of “not getting a master’s degree when it was cheap.”
Considering that 40% of first time entering college students do not complete their bachelor’s degrees, it’s smart to think twice before choosing a major and taking out student loans.
Whether a borrower or a lender, there were ample regrets in this category as well. The practice of “co-signing a loan” was a common regret, specifically “both lending and borrowing from family.”
With the average wedding costing $32,641, it’s no wonder that couples regret the money spent on a single day. One former bride put it all on the line when she wrote that she regretted “a wedding that lived up to other people’s (who weren’t paying) expectations. Should have had my dang potluck and gone with a pretty sundress I could wear again.”
All the stuff
Throw a few things into your cart at Target and it adds up a bit, but multiply that action through the years, and it’s enough to create a bottomless pit of financial regret. People shared everything from “frittering away money on mindless purchases I didn’t need or even want very much instead of saving more.” to “my biggest financial regret would have to be buying so much needless stuff that I truly could have lived very nicely without over the years. Had I saved all of that money instead it would have been an excellent addition to my retirement nest egg.”
Parents are particularly susceptible to this regret as one mother shared that “much of the stuff I bought at Target when my kids were little – because that is just what people did . . . especially the plastic ‘crap’ that broke. Also, having too many things – to the extent that I did not know what I had.”
Of course, buying so much stuff inevitably leads to owning too much stuff which led to this person’s regret. “Buying. All. The. STUFF. And now wanting to get rid of it all.”
Not contributing to retirement/HSA
This one is a personal regret as I was in my job a full three years before anyone talked to me about the retirement plan and the employer match that I was qualified for. My heart drops into the depths of my stomach when I think of all the compound interest that I missed out on, especially since I’m now long vested in that same job.
I try not to feel too stupid, as this is a common financial regret as can be seen in this person’s similar story. “Not taking advantage of the employer 401k match at my first job out of college. I didn’t educate myself on what it was and didn’t put anything toward retirement. I kick myself when I think about how much I could have saved and how much it’ll cost me in the future for not starting earlier.”
At least I’ve kept my money squarely in my 403b unlike this woman who confessed to “emptying a $3000 retirement account in order to pay for preschool for my then 3 year old. (So stupid!!!)”
This person shared a HSA (Health Savings Account) regret related to her’s husband’s employer. “My husband was at his current job a year before we found out HSA was an option and his employer adds 1k to it every year.” Oops!
No piece about financial regrets could be complete without a focus on credit cards. Whether it’s the common story of “getting every single department store credit card out there and maxing them out and making only the minimum payments.” or “getting a credit card in college,” many people dig themselves into financial holes with credit card use. Others need to learn their lessons over and over again as evidenced by this woman who shared that she paid off, “my credit card when I got my portion of my father’s estate and charging it right back up. Dumbest move ever. I won’t let that happen again. My dad would have kicked my ass from the grave.”
Whether your financial regrets run from minimal to catastrophic, the important thing is to accept the past and do everything you can in the present to get back to financial wellbeing. Any maybe, just maybe you can learn from these people’s mistakes and avoid a regret to two.
“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”
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