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The top 6 regrets of the dying

You've heard this before: No one on his or her deathbed ever said, 'I wish I had spent more time at the office.' Here are the other things you'll likely regret.

By MSN Money Partner Jun 19, 2013 12:28PM

This post comes from Angela Brandt at partner site Money Talks News. 

MoneyTalksNews logoFor the past few years, a list of the most common regrets of the dying compiled by a palliative care nurse has been making the rounds online.

Woman Looking Out a Window © Keith Brofsky, Photodisc, Getty Images

Are you going to have remorse for the same reasons? We'd argue that avoiding these regrets is not only affordable but good for your personal finances.

Let's take a look at them.

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

Be like Frank Sinatra and do it your way. So you're not a rich, famous and handsome man with your pick of the ladies. That doesn't mean you can't pursue and hopefully fulfill your dreams.

Ask that crush on a date, then think of something romantic, creative and frugal to woo them -- a milkshake and a sunset worked on me.

Not fulfilled in your current job? Launching a proper job search is a remedy.

Bronnie Ware, the nurse who compiled the list, says unfulfilled wishes were the most common regret among her patients. Those who had that regret "had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made."

2. I wish I had not worked so hard.

Just because you don't kill yourself on the job doesn't mean you'll be broke.

Consider this: Dutch workers are on the job about 400 fewer hours a year than Americans, yet they have "robust personal savings," says Bloomberg. Americans average almost 1,800 hours per year at work versus less than 1,400 for the Dutch. Not only that, but the Dutch were listed fifth in the world a few years back for life satisfaction. Americans weren't even close.

"By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle," Ware says.

Another case in point: Harvard researchers forced a group of professionals -- accountants, lawyers, investment bankers and the like -- to back away from their workaholic tendencies by logging off of the matrix after office hours and actually taking their allotted time off.

In the study, a control group performed normally, meaning they worked 50 or more hours each week, skipped part of their vacation time and were constantly on call. The career-minded individuals who clocked a regular 40-hour schedule and left their work cellphones at the office when they went home "reported increased learning and development and better communication with their teams and, most surprisingly, they actually produced more total output than their workaholic colleagues," the four-year study found.

In addition, they noted higher satisfaction with both their job and in finding the proper balance of personal time.

3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

In a brilliant infographic inspired by Ware's work, Addicted2Success illustrates regrets of dying people, including those who regretting not having said "I love you" more often -- a problem easily remedied at no cost. Others addressed speaking one's mind in order to not harbor resentment and resolving conflicts rather than holding a grudge.

"Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others," Ware wrote. "As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result."

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

Technology makes this easier and cheaper than ever.

Facebook, anyone? Shoot a text. Compose an email. Support the dying Postal Service and write a letter.

Ware says that everyone misses friends when dying. Keep in contact and you won't have that longing. "It all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks -- love and relationships," she adds.

 5. I wish I had let myself be happier.

Laugh a little and smile more, and it could increase more than your mood. The Wall Street Journal says a study of more than 10,000 young Americans found that those who reported being happier and more positive had a higher income by age 29.

"The analysis suggests happiness isn't just linked to higher income -- it's helping generate it. That could be because happier young adults are more likely to earn a college degree, get hired and promoted, be more optimistic and less neurotic," the Journal says.

6. I wish I had saved more for retirement.

This regret comes from Addicted2Success and was not on Ware's list. Perhaps it should have been.

A recent study shows that 28% of Americans don't think they'll have enough money saved to retire comfortably, according to The Journal. Also, 57% of U.S. workers surveyed had less than $25,000 in savings.

Remember that it's never too late to start saving.

"Failing to plan for the retirement years leaves people destitute in their old age. When that happens, their last moments on earth can be very difficult and miserable," Addicted2Success says.

Do you worry that you'll have regrets near the end of your life? What steps are you taking to avoid them?

More on Money Talks News

Jun 19, 2013 3:17PM
The biggest regret most don't realize until it no longer matters, is how really, how fast the years go by, especially after 50. People put off important things believing there's always tomorrow. In my youth  old people would tell me this exact same thing, of course it had no impact. But yesterday I was 50, and all of a sudden I'm 65! 
Jun 19, 2013 1:49PM
The underlying theme is: Having lots of "things" does not buy happiness.  Live within your means, take care of those you love and tell them so, and learn what is really important in life at an early age.  The rest will fall into place.
Jun 19, 2013 3:10PM
I am elderly and I can truly say that I have done all these things that have been "wished for" and I am as happy as I can be.  And I am not rich, but I have enough.  Somewhere along the way I learned to follow Jesus and it has been the best of the best.  Hard times and hurts have been part of the journey--but I have survived with joy.  However, physical pain is my daily companion--all part of passing on to the next place.  YES!
Jun 19, 2013 1:44PM

Most will say these days: "I wish I could visit one more website or Facebook again"

Get a life -- go outside!!!!

Jun 19, 2013 2:54PM
I have 4 weeks vacation every year & I make sure my family uses them.  We have been on 28 cruises & traveled throughout the USA & out of the country.  My friends and family say why do you travel so much & my response is "I don't know how long we have on this planet so I want to make sure i make the most of it while we are here".  I know several people who put away money & wanted to wait for retirement to start traveling & never saw one day of enjoyment as they died in their 50's before retiring.
Jun 19, 2013 1:33PM
A sad but true reflection of the times, where few are interested in the future of their own soul.  These might be worth adding to the list: being more respectful and kind to others, devotion to God, honesty, being of use to others, living a clean upright life free of drugs/alcohol and earning an honest living, and charity... "It is better to shoot for the stars and miss than aim at the gutter and hit it."
Jun 19, 2013 1:52PM

I take as much vacation as I feel the desire for.  Don't work yourself to death with long hours.  The only thing long hours ever got me, was more long hours.  Just remember, no one on their deathbed ever wished they had spent more time at the office.


In my job, I am on call 24 hrs.  However, I have decreed Sunday to be Nextel free day and the hell with what may happen.  So far, nothing has.  And I don't take it on vacation.


Do things for others less fortunate than you.  When you stand before God on judgment day, it may give your defense attorney something to plea bargain with!

Jun 19, 2013 2:36PM
We're all going to regret somethings we did do, and somethngs we didn't do.   But, there is no do-over.  Do the best you can now to improve yourself and try to do better moving forward.  Confess your wrong doings to God with a sincere heart; and you are forgiven.  In the end that's all that matters
Jun 19, 2013 3:26PM
I heard/read some good advice recently,  spend your money on experiences not things. You will have a much more fulfilled life in the end. 
Jun 19, 2013 4:05PM

#7.  Some may regret letting MSN convince them to delay taking social security.

Save plenty now, retire when you want (early) instead of the societal norm for retirement age, and for heavens sake, take your social security when you need to, not a moment later.  Free yourself up while you are young enough to enjoy it.

Jun 19, 2013 3:38PM
My father, who passed away at the age of 59, always told me, "Kid, make sure you make time for yourself or you'll forget who you are and become what you don't want to be."  So even if I don't have 4 weeks vacation, I still make sure to make time being with the people I love the most and doing the things that I love to do.
Jun 19, 2013 2:48PM
Theme from a recent sermon at my church was, "Love well to be well loved."  Translation, don't wait for others to love you first.
Jun 19, 2013 5:03PM

my great regret now that I am in my 70's is that I can't do the things I loved, skiing,motor cycles racing,sailing the

world, never got past mexico. I guess I should be happy because I did many things. I used to be

criticized for taking time off for skiing, I am happy I did it.

Jun 19, 2013 2:31PM
It's not what you regret having done  it's what you didn't do that you regret.
Jun 19, 2013 3:58PM

In one of my classes, they said another somewhat common saying is "I am glad this is over with".


I remember that because  my mother said that.


Its not all sunshire and rainbows for everybody.

Jun 19, 2013 4:15PM
I regret watching my parents work and pay their bills as honest decent people, only to be fleeced in the end by Social Security and Medicare. They paid in so much and received about 5% of the return from these programs. They could have invested in the stock market and done better. It's disgusting that this was a forced thing upon them only to have the money spent foolishly on welfare trash and lazy bums who are "disabled" or spend beyond their means and file bankruptcy once the bills show up.
Jun 19, 2013 1:49PM
I have absolutely no regrets......Whats wrong with me???
Jun 19, 2013 4:21PM
I didn't sleep with everyone I had the chance to.
Jun 19, 2013 2:57PM
If I'm asked, my number 1 regret at that moment might be that I'm dying.  LOL!

You all can dog 'blamee', but get real, to a certain point what this person has said is true for a large number of people. And it's not just the whiners and those who "didn't plan."


blamee: "I was onboard until the whole "wish I had saved more for retirement" propaganda thing was snuck in.  With Social Security and Medicare about to go belly up "under-funded," and 0-percent interest rates causing negative savings, you can forget about retirement. Most of you will be like my neighbors who ran out of money and both committed suicide just as their last dime went out the door. Remember "Abreit Macht Frei" because work is just the long walk to the American gas chamber on the United States of Ambien drugged out line at the wrong end of the 9mm. 

"Deniability" is a great thing for our government. The people are the SS; not them. It's never the government's fault. You will never retire. You will work until you are too old, too tired, too worn out, too broken to work anymore. And then you will live until you run out of money and have to die prematurely."


Think about it people, the price of a gallon of gas, a gallon of milk, a loaf of bread, has TRIPLED in the past 15 years. Have our salaries tripled? Uh, I don't think so. In many areas, homes that were nice, decent $75,000 homes (read: AFFORDABLE) years ago cost $200,000 now.

My advice? Start paring down now and be prepared to live simply, and simply live. You best evaluate NOW what happiness means to you, and figure out how you're going to live it; don't wait til old age is upon you and then starting wringing your hands.

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