Older Americans’ Biggest Financial Regrets and How to Avoid Them

We all make mistakes, and we all have regrets. That’s part of the deal when you’re a human being.

We got to wondering: What do old people regret the most, financially speaking? If they could go back in time, what would they do differently — especially when it comes to money?

A researcher at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Business School recently found out. Economics professor Olivia Mitchell conducted a survey of nearly 1,800 older Americans with an average age of 72. “What’s your biggest financial regret?” she asked.

The answers may surprise you. Your average 72-year-old has regrets about how much longer they should have worked and whether they started claiming Social Security too early, among other things.

Pay attention to the 72-year-olds. Because if we know what they would do differently, then we still have time to change things before it’s too late.

Here are the top five financial regrets, along with our suggestions for how to handle them.

1. ‘I Should Have Saved More for Retirement’

Let’s start with the biggest one. An eye-opening 57% of older Americans regret that they didn’t save more for retirement during their working years.

That’s more than half! (Yes, obviously we are advanced mathematicians here at The Penny Hoarder.)

Actually, this shouldn’t come as much of a shock. Any number of studies have found that lots and lots of American families have virtually nothing saved for retirement.

Our advice here is really straightforward: Learn from your elders and start saving for retirement now. If your employer offers a 401(k) plan, sign up for it and learn how to maximize it. If that’s not an option for you, set up automatic withdrawals on payday into a Roth IRAsa type of individual retirement account. If you haven’t gotten around to this yet, the sooner the better.

If you’re already saving for retirement, dig a little deeper and sock away a little more. Even an extra $25 a week could make a…

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