6 Financial Regrets Older People Face

There's never a bad time to learn from the money mistakes of your elders. It may not amount to much right now, but you'll be thanking yourself someday.

When it comes to money mistakes, there is no age limit. We all make them. And one way or another, we all learn as go.

In money matters, hindsight always becomes 20/20 eventually. With time, ongoing practice, and smart financial planning, we can all get better with our money and set ourselves up for the long haul. However, money wisdom can also come with lasting regret that falls under the umbrella of “if I only knew then what I know about money now.” And saving those pennies for the rainiest days is always important.

Ultimately, some money mistakes are more difficult to rectify than others, often leaving a lasting mark on our credit as well as our memories. So unsurprisingly, many older Americans say that if they could go back in time, financially speaking, there are some key things they’d do differently. Their regrets all turned out to be pretty similar, so listen up and learn from your elders!

According to The Penny Hoarder, this recent study at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Business School asked nearly 1,800 older Americans what they financially regret the most. And a couple of their answers might surprise you.

With a brighter financial future in mind, let’s learn from their biggest money missteps. Shall we? Here are 5 of the biggest regrets older Americans most frequently claim to have, as well as some hard-earned tips on how to avoid a similar financial fate.

Borrowing Money in Their Younger Years

When we’re younger, borrowing money doesn’t sound like a bad idea. But typically, that’s because nothing “bad” has yet happened to our financial status. For many of us, until we’ve been hit with that first sizable bill racked up while shopping and dropping a shiny, new credit card, we can’t fully wrap our minds around the potential debt we could be digging ourselves into.

Borrowing money might seem like the quickest and easiest solution to a financial bind, but exhaust all of your options first. Otherwise, the money you owe may become a new and longer-lasting financial bind.

All too often, it’s a lesson too often learned the hard way. When our credit is in good standing and we need money, borrowing it can seem like a very appealing option. Paying later might alleviate immediate financial stress, but you’ll be tacking on a bigger, and often growing, stressor.

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Obviously, the more we spend, the more we will have to pay off. And there’s no sure way to know how long that will take. When interest rates are involved, there’s always the chance it will be longer than one could ever anticipate when they were being offered the money they needed on what looked like a silver platter. With borrowed money, there are always strings attached, and those strings could interfere with your long-term goals.

“Many elderly people find that they cannot retire or cannot enjoy their retirement years because they need to pay off the debt they accumulated earlier in life, including credit card debt, student loans, and a mortgage,” per The Penny Hoarder.

If you think you need a loan, think long and hard. No amount of borrowed money is worth setting yourself up for inescapable debt and lasting regret. And if you need to borrow money, do your homework. Know what you’re getting yourself into before you agree to terms you may never be able to get out of.

Not Saving For Retirement All Along The Way

When you’re no longer “on the clock,” you’ll hopefully have more time on your hands to do all the things you want to do. No matter how big or small your retirement dreams are, you’re going to need money to live on.

Financial experts and those who’ve learned through experience tend to agree: not saving for retirement is a big mistake with lasting, and sometimes mounting, consequences. Statistically, it’s also a mistake that remains alarmingly easy for the average person to make.

Reportedly, 57% of older Americans say they regret not prioritizing a retirement fund when they were still working. Many did not save a dime. Their advice, in retrospect, is to get proactive with your retirement savings. Or, as Benjamin Franklin so famously put it, “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you could do today.”

coins in glass jar representing retirement fund

Start saving for retirement right now. If your employer offers a 401(k) plan, don’t miss your chance to take advantage of it. The sooner you sign up, the sooner you can start maximizing your retirement savings.

If signing up for a 401k isn’t an option, don’t despair. Just explore what else is out there. Many retirement plan options are geared toward those who need less traditional options. The sooner you do, the sooner you’ll find a plan you qualify for, no matter your work situation.

Read More: Best Ways to Save For Retirement Without a 401k

Retiring Too Soon

Preparing for retirement can help you arrive at financial freedom, but you should work as long as you can if you’re serious about getting there.

According to The Penny Hoarder, 37% of retired Americans “regret not working longer.” Many say they wish they’d kept working once they hit their 60s with a bigger nest egg in mind.

There are two reasons for this regret. For starters, they would have continued to watch their retirement savings grow and had steady income continuing to come in. Secondly, they would have been able to delay their social security for a longer period of time.

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As we previously reported, one study found that most retirees are taking out their social security too soon, whether they regret it or not. “When you choose to start taking your Social Security benefits can make a huge difference and how much money you receive, and 96% of Americans are not taking Social Security at the optimum time to get the most benefits, a new study has found”

Sadly, however, millions of Americans have to keep working whether they want to or not. Many people who are still working over 60 say they can’t afford to retire, no matter how ready they are. On top of that, not all senior citizens are able to keep working, even if they also can’t afford to quit. This only adds to their financial regrets.

Having various savings funds in place can prove to be a big help. Build a solid emergency fund and start investing in your retirement savings today. There’s no telling what life will throw your way. No matter what, it’ll help give yourself a financial cushion to fall back on when you need it most, especially if you are forced into retirement.

Not Investing in Insurance

Investing in long-term care insurance may not sound like fun, but not doing so could lead to a much more unfun and potentially scary situation someday. That’s why 40% of older adults say they regret not having long-term care insurance, which covers things regular health insurance and Medicare typically won’t.

Will you need nursing home care? Will you live in an assisted living facility? And should you need it, will you be able to afford in-home medical care and in-home assistance? There’s no definite way to know for sure just yet. But it’s definitely worth being prepared for in any way within your immediate means.


Long-term care insurance can provide a significant amount of comfort, security, and one less financial regret down the road. Unfortunately, many Americans say it costs too much, no matter what their budget allows. Currently, long-term care insurance premiums are higher than ever, while benefits are seemingly shrinking.

While there’s no denying its priciness, there’s no way around its usefulness. Long-term care insurance could prove very worth the price if you can afford it. Make sure to shop around and get the best possible plan for you and your budget.

Overspending Like There’s No Tomorrow

We all choose to spend money on things we can’t afford from time to time, and it almost always comes back to haunt us in one way or another. That’s why many older Americans say it’s best to kick this poor money practice to the curb ASAP. And many wish they’d done so sooner.

Many senior citizens regret spending too much money in the past. This regret includes borrowing more than they needed, which makes perfect sense. After all, many banks will give borrowers a maximum amount, whether they can afford to pay back what they’re being offered or not.

woman panicking after a shopping spree

Overspending in the present can lead to a never-ending pile of debt to pay off for years and years to come. So before you overspend, think about what it’s worth to you. And if you’re living beyond your means today, you might be setting yourself up for a very messy and even dire situation when you’re older.

Sit down and draw up a long-term budget. It’s key to factor your financial health far beyond this moment. But you need to start by bettering your financial health today, so you’ll be more stable when it counts.

Read More: Budgeting Questions to Keep Your Spending in Check

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