Survey: Americans reveal their biggest financial regrets

Written on Jul 10, 2018

Financial regrets can have long-lasting consequences, and according to a recent survey from Student Loan Hero, 76% of Americans have some form of financial regret.

Most financial regrets come from the same basic principle - spending more than you save.

In the past year, not saving enough was the top regret of 46% of survey respondents. Half of respondents regretted not saving more for retirement, and just over one-third would contribute some of their spending to a 401(k) plan or IRA if they could recover the funds.

The next largest financial regret was spending too much on unnecessary items, cited by 42% of respondents. Dining out was the largest indulgence by far, with 51% saying they needed to cut back on their restaurant bills. That was more than twice the percentage that regretted buying clothes/shoes (22%) or paying too much for cellphones and service (20%).

Smokers and drinkers expressed a need to cut back, with 15% saying they spent too much on cigarettes and 10% citing excessive bar expenses. Among other regrets, 14% of respondents tended to overfill their grocery cart, and 10% say they need to cut back on coffee.

Over the past five years, two categories of overspending stand out. One-third of Americans regret overspending on clothes, while 38% wish they had spent less on entertainment such as streaming services and cable TV.

The third-largest financial regret in the survey concerned debt. Approximately 30% of respondents said they failed to pay off as much debt as they wanted to over the past year. Credit card debt was the primary debt regret, with 47% of respondents regretting credit card purchases.

Credit card debt is generally the highest interest rate debt that people have. As of May 2018, the average APR was 16.73%. Credit cards make impulse buying easier, and impulse buying is more likely to result in regrettable purchases.

Other debt regrets include student loans (16%), medical debt (15%), auto loans (9%), and personal loans (8%). Only 5% regret taking out payday loans - the same percentage that regret mortgage debt. That may reflect few consumers taking out payday loans, or it may show that payday loan consumers find the alternatives to be worse.

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