This is why so many people still have financial regrets, study says
A study by Bankrate.com finds about six out of seven of American households have some kind of regret when it comes to their finances — with the most common regrets involving the amount of money they have set aside in savings.
“The concerns about not saving actually outweigh the concerns and regrets that people have about debt by about a 2-to-1 margin,” said Bankrate.com’s financial analyst, Greg McBride. “People‘s biggest financial regret is that they didn’t start saving for retirement early enough. That’s followed by not saving enough for emergency expenses.”
McBride said it is never too early to start saving for retirement:
“There’s no better time than the present to start saving for retirement,” he said. “Regrets about not saving for retirement earlier only grow with age. That regret is actually highest among those that are age 73 and over.”
Specific regrets varied by age group.
“For all the talk about student loan debt and young people and the impact it’s having, it is not their biggest financial regret. Among Millennials, the biggest financial regret is not saving enough for emergencies,” McBride said. “What sets the Millennials apart from preceding generations is that they’ve done a better job of putting money aside for emergencies. So there’s at least the recognition there.”
Among Americans who do report having financial regrets, plans for addressing these regrets can be broken down into quarters, according to the study. About one half have already begun to address their regrets. One quarter plan to get around to them in the next year. The fourth quarter reports having no plans at all to address their biggest financial regrets.
According to McBride, “those whose biggest financial regret is debt show the highest propensity to actually be doing something about it — putting the hammer down and really paying down the debt.”
Among those who have no plans to address their biggest financial regrets, McBride said there were two likely explanations.
For some people, financial regret is not a big enough issue to worry about resolving, so they “have figured out a way to kind of make it work. But they do have some regret because of the limits it has on their lifestyle," McBride said.
Meanwhile, people in low-income brackets may not able to address their regrets, even if they'd like to, McBride said.
“They just simply don’t have the financial bandwidth to be able to make serious headway against whatever their financial regret is, given their low level of household income,” McBride said.
Upper- and middle-income households tend to have the biggest regrets about both credit card debt and student loan debt, according to the study. McBride said credit card debt often results from “living a little too large for the income,” while student loan debt among these income brackets is common because “these are likely professional households that went to school and accumulated some debt in the process, but may not have an income that justifies the level of debt that they’ve taken on.”
About one in seven households say that they have no financial regrets at all. This response was most common among highest-income households and older Americans.
“For all the talk about regrets about not saving for retirement earlier, the fact is that there is a segment of retirees and soon-to-be retirees that, they’ve made it, they feel comfortable with where they are, and they have no financial regrets,” McBride said.
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