8 common financial regrets of retirees

older man on bench
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These are valuable lessons for those of us not yet at retirement age.

How many times do you wish you could do something over, and do it differently? Retirees are particularly well-placed to reflect on financial decisions they've made in life – or didn't make – and to provide guidance to those of us not yet at that stage in life. What follows is a list of 8 common regrets that retirees have. Avoid that same regret by taking action now.

1. Not retiring early enough

A survey of retirees between 62 and 70 with $100,000+ in investable assets found that half of respondents wished they'd retired up to four years earlier than they did. Those who were 60 and older by the time they retired said they "regretted waiting so long."

2. Falling for the "siren call" of credit cards

One man told the Washington Post that he and his wife racked up debt in the early stages of their marriage, forcing one to give up the credit card and rely on cash. "That’s a hard discussion we should have had early in our marriage. Like, on our first date."

3. Being impatient

You won't get rich overnight. Even the smallest amounts of money ($5 or $10) set aside from an early age add up. Remember the adage: “Bears and bulls make money. Pigs get slaughtered.” Instead think, “grow rich slowly.”

4. Not working hard enough on career development

When you're good at your job, you are able to "maintain income and savings continuity." Show up, have a good attitude, produce to the best of your ability. Always be looking for opportunities to develop your career. Ask for that raise when you feel you deserve one. One retiree recommends serving on the board of a professional organization, which expands one's network.

5. Working too much

Many people wish they hadn't been chained to their desks for so many years and absent from their families' lives. It's said that $75K is the magic number when it comes to feeling happiness; no matter how much more than that you may earn, you won't feel any happier. "Try and find work-life balance, so that you can make money doing what you love, but also have the free time to use it."

6. Not prioritizing health from an early age

One contributor quoted a catch phrase from a German health insurance company: "Health is not everything. But without health everything is nothing." Invest time and effort into your physical wellbeing. Stay active, eat well, sleep enough. Another retiree said she didn't expect to be disabled by 52 and regrets not having disability insurance.

7. Not planning for retirement from the beginning

Many people say that if they'd made a financial plan years earlier, they would've changed certain habits. They should have learned about the stock market, how to invest, the difference between a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA. They wish they'd consulted with financial professionals and asked for help when they needed it.

8. Buying too much house

"A house isn’t an investment. It’s a home." Buy just what you need for your family. Don't be house-poor and on the hook, financially and time-wise, for cleaning, property maintenance, and furnishings.

For further reading, see this article on our sister site MNN: There are 2 keys to successful aging: exercise and friends

8 common financial regrets of retirees
These are valuable lessons for those of us not yet at retirement age.

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