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What's your biggest financial regret?

A new online survey sheds light on money mistakes people have the most remorse about.

By Karen Datko Jul 5, 2012 5:30PM

Image: Woman with paperwork (© Getty Images)What do Americans regret the most when it comes to how they manage their money? By far, it's routinely spending too much.


That's the finding of a June online poll by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, which, among other accompanying advice, recommends we strive to become "financial adults." (Amen to that.)


The survey posed the question: "My biggest financial regret is that I …" Here's what people picked:

  • Habitually overspent, 53%.
  • Inadequately saved, 18%.
  • Haven't bought a house, 10%.
  • Bought a house, 5%.
  • Haven't sufficiently prepared for retirement, 14%.

Being a financial adult means you don't obsess over past blunders, but you do try not to repeat them. (Post continues below.)

Among NFCC's advice:


Set goals. It's so much easier to save when you have something you're looking forward to. What is it that you really want? It's very personal. For instance, buying a house is not for everyone. My goals include:

Create a budget. You need to compare your income with your outflow, and figure out where to trim and adjust if it's out of whack or doesn't include saving. NFCC offers a helpful worksheet


Track your spending. If you are habitually overspending, you really need to track what you spend down to the penny. NFCC suggests you do this for an entire month at least twice a year. Some may need to do it every month, at least for a while.

Create an emergency fund. Your stash of cash will give you resources and peace of mind when the unexpected happens. Your budgeting and saving regimens won't be disrupted. 


We love the advice about financial adulthood.

This may involve making hard choices, changing attitudes, behaviors, and lifestyle, but it is unlikely that financial decisions made on auto-pilot will result in a smooth landing. Be financially mature by understanding the nuts and bolts of personal finance, and acting on that knowledge.

What's your biggest financial regret, picking from the five above? Or perhaps yours is not on that list.


More on MSN Money:

Jul 6, 2012 10:32AM
MSN can you please do something about these dating site spammers?!!
Jul 6, 2012 7:58AM

Decades from now, they could re-run this article just as is because nothing will change. Americans are stupid with money and they always will be. With Americans, it's all about instant gratification and nothing about the long-term. Then, of course, they look to blame someone else because they've got no money. How many times have you heard "I can't retire because of Obama." What load of crap. Obama wasn't president 30 years ago when you should have been saving, ya pussy.

Jul 6, 2012 10:36AM
If you would just save 10% of your net income, and never-ever-ever spend it, it will change your life. I promise.
Jul 6, 2012 1:16AM
spending all my money on stupid **** cause i thought my job was recession proof!
Jul 6, 2012 1:33PM
Started a business with a friend in an industry I knew nothing about. The store was 300 miles from my house. The friend turned out to be a disorganized pathological liar and embezzeler. $200K mistake that took about 10 years off my life.
Jul 6, 2012 12:12PM

omg where would i begin


going to law school, not earning enough money to begin to save for retirement, credit cards ... lets just say i have lots of them.

Jul 6, 2012 7:09PM
Not becoming a school teacher. I could have been paid a good salary, ridiculous benefits, fat pension, and 3 months vacation every year. No gig in the world is so cushy.

Oh, and I never could be fired or let go, unless I killed or molested one of my students. Actually, I'm not sure even that can get you fired.
Jul 9, 2012 11:43AM
Getting married to the wrong woman.
Jul 8, 2012 3:38PM
Not learning how to work the 'system'!  
 I've busted my **** for over four decades.  I own a businesses (employing 10-15 others), I built my own house, I repair everything myself, only pay cash and only for needed stuff etc. etc. etc.  ad nauseam! 
I really pains me when offering an employee more shifts / hours I am turned down because said employee does not want to have their benefits reduced.   Must pay better than work, why else would the want to stay attached?  Granted, my employees only make between 1.5 & 2 times minimum wage but around here that ain't too shabby.   IDK, the public trough must be good 'cause these same people always have money for data plans, drinking, gambling and dining out.  I think I'll blame my parents, they are the ones that, through example instilled a positive work ethic in me.

Jul 8, 2012 12:47PM


biggest regret is putting money in the stock market and not a cat house.  The return would have

been much better,  less stressful, and for sure more memorable..

Jul 6, 2012 6:00AM
My biggest regret is not buying gold and silver 12 years ago. It was a great investment, and it still is.
Jul 6, 2012 12:27PM

2000: Putting a six-figure 401K into an index fund in a rollover IRA . . . and then moving the whole thing into GE at $154, just months before the crash.

Jul 8, 2012 3:42PM
My biggest financial regret is not buying gold a decade ago.

For those who think we have a gold price bubble, you may be right, but look at the 10 year history. It may still be safer than currency for now.
Jul 6, 2012 9:57AM

My biggest mistake, was buying GM bonds, before the bankruptcy. I was naive, and thought Americans would support a company from there own country, instead of supporting the Japanese auto makers.

Recent TV show about veterans who were serving in Pearl Harbor, followed by a Toyota commercial,

makes a person wonder who really won that war.

In the cash for clunkers program, seventy percent of the vehicles purchased, were from foreign mfgs.  

Americans are there own worst enemy, and deserve this economy, and are responsible, for the coming disaster ahead, when the country goes bankrupt.

Jul 6, 2012 12:24PM
Investing Thousands of $ & a good chunk of my life , and limb in Main street when there is a WAL-MART !
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