Admit it: You’ve probably made some mistakes with your money over the past year. In fact, you might have some big financial regrets. If you do, though, you’re not alone.
GOBankingRates surveyed more than 5,000 adults across the U.S. to find out what money mistakes are weighing most on their conscience. We asked, “Of the following, which has been your biggest financial regret in 2017?” Respondents could choose one of these seven answers:
Falling into debt
Living above my means
Not investing in the stock market
Not saving enough money
Paying for college
Spending money on non-essentials
Keep reading to discover the biggest money mistakes people make that they now regret.
Most Common Regret Is Not Saving Enough Money
More than one-third of Americans — 36 percent — said their biggest financial regret of 2017 was not saving enough money. Ironically, “save more, spend less” was the most popular financial resolution for 2017, a separate GOBankingRates’ survey found. Clearly, many Americans had trouble sticking to that resolution during the year. In fact, other surveys show that saving money is a challenge for a lot of adults.
One-third of Americans have $0 saved for retirement, found GOBankingRates’ 2017 Retirement Savings survey. But there’s an even bigger percentage without cash reserves of any kind: 39 percent of Americans have nothing in a savings account, found a separate survey.
After not saving enough, Americans’ second-biggest financial regret for 2017 is spending money on non-essentials, with 23 percent of respondents choosing this answer. A full 11 percent chose not investing in the stock market and falling into debt as their biggest regret. Paying for college and living above my means were the least common regrets with nearly 8 percent and 7 percent of respondents, respectively, choosing these options.
See the Full Results: More Than Half of Americans Have Less Than $1,000 in Savings in 2017
Regret Over Not Saving Grows With Age
Young adults are most likely to regret paying for college, with 15 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds choosing this as their top regret. In fact, this is their third-biggest money regret, behind “not saving enough money” and “spending money on non-essentials.”
The survey found that older Americans are more likely to regret not saving enough money. Among adults 45 and older, 38 percent said this is their top financial regret.
Although GOBankingRates’ Retirement Savings survey found that older adults are more likely than younger adults to have money in savings, the fact that they’re closer to retirement age or already in retirement might have them regretting that they haven’t done more to build their nest eggs. In fact, they might fear never being able to retire.
This survey also found that the older you get, the more likely you are to think you’ve spent too much on non-essentials:
22 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds regret spending on non-essentials.
23 percent of 25 to 54-year-olds have this regret.
25 percent of 55 to 64-year-olds have this regret.
29 percent of adults 65 and older regret spending on non-essentials.
Older Americans also are more likely than younger adults to regret not investing in the stock market. Adults ages 65 and older had the highest percentage of respondents choosing this as their top regret — 14 percent — followed by 13 percent of adults ages 55 to 64.
Although a separate GOBankingRates’ 2017 Debt survey found that older Gen Xers are deeper in debt than other age groups, this survey found that millennials and young Gen Xers are more likely to regret falling into debt. Adults 25 to 34 years old and 35 to 44 years old had the highest percentage of respondents — about 14 percent — who named this as their top regret.
Men Regret Not Investing, Women Regret Not Saving
Men are much more likely than women to regret not investing in the stock market. The survey found that nearly 15 percent of men chose this as their top financial regret versus about 9 percent of women. Ironically, GOBankingRates’ latest survey on financial fears found that men are more likely than women to have a fear of losing money in the stock market.
Men also are more likely to regret falling in debt and paying for college:
12 percent of men regret falling in debt versus 11 percent of women.
10 percent of men regret paying for college versus 6 percent of women.
Women, on the other hand, are more likely to regret not saving enough and spending on non-essentials. Although “not saving enough money” is the top regret for both genders, 41 percent of women versus 33 percent of men chose this answer.
Women lag behind men when it comes to saving money, other GOBankingRates’ surveys have found. A higher percentage of women than men have less than $1,000 in a savings account — 62 percent versus 52 percent. And 36 percent of women versus 33 percent of men have $0 saved for retirement.
As for spending on non-essentials, 25 percent of women chose this as their top regret versus 23 percent of men. Women might be more likely to worry about throwing away money each month because their biggest financial fear is living paycheck to paycheck, another GOBankingRates’ survey found.
Keep Reading: Survey Reveals Americans’ Biggest Money Fears in 2017
Money Regrets Vary by State
Although not saving enough money is the top regret in most states, residents in some states feel much guiltier about this. Alaska residents are the most remorseful when it comes to saving money, with 61 percent of respondents in the state choosing not saving enough as their top regret. It’s also one of the states with a high percentage of empty savings accounts.
Spending money on non-essentials is the top regret in Washington, D.C., Minnesota, Montana and Wisconsin. Washington, D.C., also has the highest percentage of respondents who named living above my means as their top regret — 21 percent.
At 22 percent, Wyoming has the highest percentage of respondents who regret falling into debt — closely followed by Nevada at 21 percent. It’s not surprising, considering that debt is the top cause of financial stress in both of these states, a separate GOBankingRates’ survey found.
Kentucky and Maine have the highest percentage of respondents who regret not investing in the stock market, with about 20 percent of respondents in both states choosing this option. And at 24 percent, Hawaii has the highest percentage of residents who regret paying for college. This might be because education is the No. 1 source of financial stress in Hawaii.
Methodology: This GOBankingRates survey posed the following question to 5,037 Americans: Of the following, which has been your biggest financial regret in 2017? Respondents could choose one of seven answers: 1) Falling into debt, 2) Living above my means, 3) Not investing in the stock market, 4) Not saving enough money, 5) Paying for college 6) Spending money on non-essentials, or 7) Other. Responses were collected through a Google Consumer Survey conducted from Nov. 7 to Nov. 9, 2017, and responses are representative of the U.S. online population. The survey has a 4.5 percent margin of error.