13 Most Common Financial Regrets Americans Have - How Many Do You Share?

Little mistakes and major financial mishaps make us wish we could turn back the clock.
Updated March 13, 2023
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Living your best financial life can be a challenge, especially when the economy is tumultuous. So you try to do everything right: pay off your debt, save in the right way, and be as frugal as you can without going overboard. And yet, mistakes will be made.

Which ones did Americans regret the most in 2022? Now we know, thanks to a recent poll at Forbes Advisor. They enlisted OnePoll to survey 2,000 respondents to get to the bottom of the issue.

Didn’t shop around for better banking rates or fees

mavoimages/Adobe couple sitting at home doing online banking

One of the sacred rules of consumer finance is to shop around and compare rates from different lenders. This is especially important for a bigger purchase such as a home.

It’s possible that the 3% of people who have regrets didn’t have the time to comparison shop in 2022, especially since the housing market was unpredictable. With sales happening at record speeds and inventory scarce, time was of the essence.

Didn’t save enough for children’s education

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Let’s face it: College is expensive, and tuition rates are ever increasing. That’s why it’s important to start saving as early as possible so you’re prepared when the time comes to send your kid to university. You also need to study up on different kinds of financial assistance, including scholarships.

Still, 4% of Americans admitted that they regret not saving more for their children’s education.

Bought a car

DimaBerlin/Adobe frustrated female sit inside car at driver seat putting chin on hands

Five percent of respondents confessed that they wish they hadn’t bought a car in 2022. This likely includes people who bought new vehicles, as conventional financial wisdom advises against such a purchase. New cars depreciate in value 20% in the first year.

Those who bought used cars might have had unexpected repair bills, or simply spent a large amount of money that proved to be untenable for them.

Lent money to the wrong person

www.doglikehorse.com/Adobe man asking for money

Lending someone money is seldom an easy or wise proposition, but we often do it out of the goodness of our hearts. In one survey, 59% of respondents said they opened their wallets for a loved one and something went wrong.

Unpaid debts lead to damaged relationships, which is why it’s not surprising 6% of folks in the OnePoll survey regretted lending money to the wrong person in 2022. No good deed goes unpunished.

Withdrew from retirement savings

Richelle/Adobe answering question about borrowing from retirement

People borrow from their retirement savings for a host of reasons: paying the bills on time, emergency issues, Beyoncé tickets, you name it. However, while there are some positive reasons for tapping into this retirement accounts, there are also potential penalties, taxes, and fees.

You’re also borrowing against your future, which 8% of Americans wished they hadn’t in 2022. So only make a move like this when you know for sure that you can pay it back quickly.

Made an unsuccessful financial investment

Clement Coetzee/peopleimages.com/Adobe worried female thinking while working

If you’re looking for ways to boost your bank account, then investing in the stock market is often a good, long-term move. However, 9% of Americans had bad luck with an investment last year.

A likely culprit? Cryptocurrency came crashing down in 2022, which hurt investors in currencies such as Bitcoin. Still, other investments — perhaps in the real estate market — may be to blame as well. That’s why it’s wise to work with a financial planner to reach your goals.

Made an impulse purchase

RedUmbrella&Donkey/Adobe woman walking with colorful shopping bags

Unless you have the financial savvy and willpower on par with Warren Buffett, there’s a good chance you’ve made an impulse purchase or two in your lifetime. Perhaps you splurged on a designer handbag or sprang for an expensive but desirable piece of art.

We don’t advocate impulse buys, as you can end up like the 10% of respondents who wish they hadn’t made one in 2022. Here’s hoping they at least got to enjoy it before remorse set in.

Didn’t contribute to my retirement savings

CameraCraft/Adobe old gray haired woman looking in few coins left on the table

One of the most important things you can do to ensure the future health of your finances is to save money for retirement. Ideally, you can invest through your employer, who may offer a match for your 401(k) contributions to maximize your savings.

Do this so you avoid the fate of the 10% of folks who admitted they regret not kicking more money into their retirement accounts. You’ll thank yourself later.

Paid bills late

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Everyone knows that it’s bad to pay your bills late, but sometimes it’s beyond your control. Maybe you lost track of an invoice, or perhaps financial strain forced you to choose what to pay on time and what to let slip. It’s a regret that 14% of respondents had to deal with last year.

To avoid running short of money, you should build an emergency fund, which will spare you the late fees and dings to your credit that can result. And if you need those funds to make ends meet, maybe you should try cutting back on your spending.

Didn’t make a budget or track my spending

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We’ve said it once, we’ll say it again: You need a budget, and no, we’re not exaggerating. If you’re not tracking your spending then you’re likely wasting money and missing opportunities to manage your cash flow.

So don’t wind up like the 22% of folks in 2022 who said they wished they had a budget. It’s a simple way to keep yourself on the right financial path.

Took on too much credit card debt

Kawee/Adobe man hands holding the head trying to find money to pay credit card debt

Credit cards can be used to boost your financial health, especially if you utilize rewards and pay your balance in full every month. But plenty of folks also found themselves buried under credit card debt, as 29% of respondents admitted in 2022.

This kind of debt is expensive, too, as the vast majority of credit cards have high interest rates and come with annual fees. So buyer beware. And if you're in debt, know there are simple steps you can take to get out of debt.

Spent above my means

Astarot/Adobe nervous senior man tapping hand on his forehead

Do you shop for designer clothing but don’t make enough to afford the purchases? Maybe you booked an expensive vacation, or constantly hail Lyfts instead of taking public transportation. No matter the culprit, spending above your means will come back to haunt you.

That’s why it’s the No. 2 regret on this list, with 37% of respondents wishing they hadn’t spent so recklessly in 2022.

Didn't save money

vchalup/Adobe man showing pocket as no money symbol and jar with coins

It’s not surprising in the least that the No. 1 financial regret that people reported last year was not saving enough money. In fact, 56% of folks named this as a regret in 2022.

We get it — it’s rough out there. A Bankrate.com survey showed that 10% of people have no savings at all, and almost half have less squirreled away than they had the year before. Still, do everything in your power to start saving money, even just a little bit. It’s worth the sacrifice.

Bottom line

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Everyone makes mistakes in literally every facet of life, and that includes with our finances. That’s why plenty of Americans admit to making money mishaps that they come to regret down the road.

If you’re in dire straits, though, there are steps you can take to ease financial distress. These tips may help you avoid any future pitfalls that will drain your bank account.

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Author Details

Cat Lafuente Cat Lafuente is a Florida-based writer and editor with extensive experience in digital and print content spaces. Her own personal finance journey — particularly consolidating debt and paying it off, in turn boosting her credit score and becoming a homeowner — inspired her to join the FinanceBuzz team; she hopes she can help others do the same.

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