[Survey] 46% of Americans Wish They’d Done This With Their Money in the Past Year

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More than three out of four Americans have financial regrets, according to our new survey of over 1,000 adults.

From overspending on entertainment to not saving more for retirement, most people wish they’d handled their money differently in the past year.

Unfortunately, no one has a time machine to undo past financial mistakes. But there are ways to fix missteps and improve your finances for the future.

Here are the full results of our financial regrets survey, along with tips on what to do if you’ve made similar mistakes.

Key findings: Most adults regret spending too much and saving too little

It’s safe to say almost all of us have made mistakes when it comes to money. After all, few of us learned financial literacy skills in school.

As it turns out, many U.S. adults share similar financial regrets. Here are just a few of the findings our survey uncovered:

  • 46% regret not saving more money

  • 50% wish they’d saved more for retirement

  • 38% regret entertainment purchases, while 33% regret clothes purchases

  • 51% think they need to cut back on restaurants

  • 47% regret taking on credit card debt

  • 24% claim not to have any financial regrets

Read on for a closer look at the full results.

Nearly half of respondents wish they had saved more

A large group of respondents in our survey — 46% — said their No. 1 financial regret of the past year was not saving more.

Women were especially likely to have this regret, with 55% saying they wished they saved more compared with 37% of men.

Without savings on which to fall back, you could be in trouble if there’s an unexpected circumstance. Natasha Rachel Smith, a personal finance expert at TopCashback, recommends that everyone have an emergency fund.

“Ideally your emergency fund should have between three and six months’ worth of income to cover any costly surprises like damages or medical expenses if you happen to lose your job,” said Smith.

If you can, Smith advised saving even more so that an unplanned expense doesn’t leave you with nothing.

“You should start by estimating your cost of critical expenses, such as housing, food, health care, utilities, transportation, debt, and personal expenses, to grasp a better idea of how much money should be in your emergency fund based on your lifestyle,” said Smith.

Once you’ve got your goal in place, automate part of your paycheck to go into a savings account every month. Over time, you can build up your emergency fund for a greater sense of financial security.

50% wish they’d set aside more for retirement

Saving for retirement is another priority, and you’ll be better off the sooner you start. According to our findings, 50% of adults wish they’d saved more for retirement in the past year.

When asked what they’d do if they could regain the money they spent in the past year, 34% of adults said they’d put it into a 401(k) or individual retirement account (IRA).

These findings line up with a recent study from Northwestern Mutual, which found that 21% of Americans have nothing saved for retirement. It said 1 in 3 adults have less than $5,000 saved, and 33% of baby boomers have $25,000 or less.

Considering the latest rule of thumb states you need more than $1 million to retire comfortably, these findings suggest a crisis for many Americans. Whatever your age, think about what you can do to set aside more of your paycheck for retirement.

Some financial experts recommend saving 10% to 15% of your paycheck, though you might set aside more if you’re starting late. You could invest in your employer-sponsored 401(k) or a Roth or traditional IRA. If your employer offers a 401(k) match, try your best to maximize that benefit.

“It is widely known that young adults, especially those in their 20s, don’t make retirement savings a financial priority because they just can’t imagine getting old,” said Smith. “Open a retirement account as early as you can and faithfully contribute towards it. It is never too early to start saving for retirement.”

According to our survey, it’s possible that not everyone realizes that saving for retirement should take priority. We found that 24% of respondents wished they’d saved more for a vacation and 23% wished they’d saved for a house.

Although both are important goals, they might have to take a back seat if you haven’t started saving for your golden years.

People overspend the most on entertainment, clothes, and cars

If people aren’t saving as much money as they’d like, what are they doing instead? According to our survey, people overspend on entertainment, clothes, and cars.

Thirty-eight percent of respondents said they spent too much on entertainment in the past five years, 33% spent too much on clothes, and 13% overspent on a car.

According to Smith, 20-somethings might find it especially difficult to limit their spending.

“Your 20s are typically considered the ‘prime time’ of your life, filled with temptations and distractions,” she said. “Spending too much on nonessentials has so many ramifications for retirement savings and the ability to save up for large purchases, such as a down payment on a home.”

To protect your wallet, Smith recommends following the “50/20/30 rule” of budgeting. “The rule states you should spend only up to 50% of your after-tax income on essentials, such as housing and food; 20% on financial priorities, such as debt repayments and savings; and 30% on lifestyle choices, such as vacations,” she said.

By creating and sticking to a budget, you can prevent yourself from spending past your means.

More than half of adults think cutting back on restaurants will help

Saving money is tough if you feel like you have to cut back on other areas. According to our survey, many adults think they need to cut back on restaurants, clothes, and cellphones.

When we broke down the above categories by gender, we found one stark difference: 30% of women said they overspent on clothes and shoes, compared with only 13% of men.

This finding perhaps reveals the influence that social pressures have on our spending habits. Next time you’re considering a pricey purchase, take a second to examine where your desire to buy originated.

47% of adults regret taking on credit card debt

Considering most adults regret spending their money on nonessentials, it’s not surprising that nearly 1 in 2 adults regret taking on credit card debt.

Jonathan Holloway, director of digital strategy at NoExam, knows how difficult it can be to pay off credit card debt.

“My biggest financial regret was using credit cards while in college,” he said. “Of course, my delivery driver job did not pay well enough to keep up with the credit card bills. Eventually the amounts got too high.”

When he couldn’t repay his debt, it was sent to collections.

“This marred my credit well after college, even after I had settled the debts and repaid all student loans,” said Holloway. “I guess you could say the regret was actually not having the self-discipline to limit spending while in college.”

As of May 2018, the average national APR on credit cards was 16.73%, a high rate that makes credit card debt difficult to pay off. Falling behind on payments can drag down your credit score, making it difficult to qualify for personal loans, mortgages, or other financial products.

If you’re prone to overspending, limit your credit card use until you can curb that habit. By paying off your balance in full every month, you’ll be able to avoid most interest charges.

Only 16% of respondents regret their student loan debt

Considering the average student in the Class of 2017 graduated with $39,400 in debt, it might be surprising to learn only 16% of respondents said they regretted taking out student loans. That said, 54% of respondents felt what they spent on their college education was worth it.

Tuition rates are higher than ever, but a college degree remains valuable. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a college degree correlates with higher income.

But before taking on a ton of debt, you might compare tuition costs and select an affordable school. You could also get a part-time job as a student to minimize the amount you borrow.

“My biggest financial regret is that I didn’t work full time during grad school so that I didn’t have to take out student loans,” said J.R. Duren, a personal finance expert at HighYa. “At the time, I felt like it would be impossible for me to work 40 hours a week and do well, so I chose to forgo a heavy work schedule in favor of freeing up time to study.”

Now that he’s still paying off $100,000 in student loans 10 years later, Duren wishes he had chosen to work and study at the same time.

Before borrowing student loans, make sure you understand your options for repayment. If you already have debt, look into options for paying off your debt faster, such as student loan refinancing. If your bills are too burdensome, consider applying for an income-driven repayment plan.

1 in 4 Americans claim not to have financial regrets

Reports on financial health in the U.S. paint a concerning picture. Many people have little saved for retirement, and only 4 in 10 could cover a $1,000 emergency expense with savings, according to Bankrate.

Collectively, more than 44 million Americans owe $1.48 trillion in student loans. In the first quarter of 2018, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, household debt reached $13.21 trillion.

According to our survey, however, 24% of adults don’t have any financial regrets in the past year.

On the one hand, this finding suggests that a large group of Americans are savvy when it comes to personal finance. Another interpretation, though, is that people think their finances are in better shape than they are.

If you haven’t checked your finances lately, take the time to look over your spending and saving. By taking a close look at your habits, you can make sure you’re on track toward meeting your financial goals.

It’s never too late to take control of your finances

If you regret your past financial choices, you’re not alone. The majority of Americans regret spending too much, saving too little, or taking on debt.

Although money mistakes can haunt you, they don’t have to control your life. If you have major debt, for instance, look for strategies to pay it off faster. If you haven’t saved for retirement or built your emergency fund, come up with a plan to start today.

Besides following a budget, you might also search for ways to increase your income. Asking for a raise or switching jobs could lead to a higher salary. Or you could start a side hustle, such as renting out a room on Airbnb or driving for Uber, to boost your earnings.

Remember, no one was born an expert in personal finance. But you can become a money pro thanks to online resources or books on personal finance.

Instead of feeling bad about past mistakes, use them as an opportunity to learn. That way, you can make the right financial decisions for your future.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

Here are the top 8 lenders of 2020!
LenderVariable APREligible Degrees 
Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.

Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.20% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.99% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.99% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.89% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of December 13, 2019, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.

Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.

The information provided on this page is updated as of 12/13/2019. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at hello@earnest.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.

© 2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.

2 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student loan Refinance: Fixed rates from 3.46% APR (with AutoPay) to 7.61% APR (without AutoPay). Variable rates currently from 2.31% APR (with AutoPay) to 7.61% (without AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.31% APR assumes current 1 month LIBOR rate of 2.31% plus 0.75% margin minus 0.25% for AutoPay. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your credit history and the term of the loan and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account.

3 Important Disclosures for Figure.

Figure Disclosures

Figure’s Student Refinance Loan is a private loan. If you refinance federal loans, you forfeit certain flexible repayment options associated with those loans. If you expect to incur financial hardship that would impact your ability to repay, you should consider federal consolidation alternatives.

4 Important Disclosures for College Ave.

College Ave Disclosures

College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.

1College Ave Refi Education loans are not currently available to residents of Maine.

2All rates shown include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.

3$5,000 is the minimum requirement to refinance. The maximum loan amount is $300,000 for those with medical, dental, pharmacy or veterinary doctorate degrees, and $150,000 for all other undergraduate or graduate degrees.

4This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a refi borrower with a Full Principal & Interest Repayment and a 10-year repayment term, has a $40,000 loan and a 5.5% Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $434.11 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $52,092.61. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.

Information advertised valid as of 1/1/2020. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.

5 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Mortgage lending is not offered in Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association.
As used throughout these Terms & Conditions, the term “Lender” refers to KeyBank National Association and its affiliates, agents, guaranty insurers, investors, assigns, and successors in interest.

This term represents the actual cost of financing to the borrower over the life of the loan expressed as a yearly rate.


There are no origination fees or prepayment penalties associated with the loan. Lender may assess a late fee if any part of a payment is not received within 15 days of the payment due date. Any late fee assessed shall not exceed 5% of the late payment or $28, whichever is less. A borrower may be charged $20 for any payment (including a check or an electronic payment) that is returned unpaid due to non-sufficient funds (NSF) or a closed account.


For bachelor’s degrees and higher, up to 100% of outstanding private and federal student loans (minimum $5,000) are eligible for refinancing. If you are refinancing greater than $300,000 in student loan debt, Lender may refinance the loans into 2 or more new loans.
For eligible Associates degrees in the healthcare field (see Eligibility & Eligible Loans section below), Lender will refinance up to $50,000 in loans for non-ParentPlus refinance loans. Note, parents who are refinancing loans taken out on behalf of a child who has obtained an associates degrees in an eligible healthcare field are not subject to the $50,000 loan maximum, refer to https://www.laurelroad.com/refinance-student-loans/refinance-parent-plus-loans/ for more information about refinancing ParentPlus loans.


Borrower, and Co-signer if applicable, must be a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident with a valid I-551 card (which must show a minimum of 10 years between “Resident Since” date and “Card Expires” date or has no expiration date); state that they are of at least borrowing age in the state of residence at the time of application; and meet Lender underwriting criteria (including, for example, employment, debt-to-income, disposable income, and credit history requirements).

Graduates may refinance any unsubsidized or subsidized Federal or private student loan that was used exclusively for qualified higher education expenses (as defined in 26 USC Section 221) at an accredited U.S. undergraduate or graduate school. Any federal loans refinanced with Lender are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment.

All loans must be in grace or repayment status and cannot be in default. Borrower must have graduated or be enrolled in good standing in the final term preceding graduation from an accredited Title IV U.S. school and must be employed, or have an eligible offer of employment. Parents looking to refinance loans taken out on behalf of a child should refer to https://www.laurelroad.com/refinance-student-loans/refinance-parent-plus-loans/ for applicable terms and conditions.

For Associates Degrees: Only associates degrees earned in one of the following are eligible for refinancing: Cardiovascular Technologist (CVT); Dental Hygiene; Diagnostic Medical Sonography; EMT/Paramedics; Nuclear Technician; Nursing; Occupational Therapy Assistant; Pharmacy Technician; Physical Therapy Assistant; Radiation Therapy; Radiologic/MRI Technologist; Respiratory Therapy; or Surgical Technologist. To refinance an Associates degree, a borrower must also either be currently enrolled and in the final term of an associate degree program at a Title IV eligible school with an offer of employment in the same field in which they will receive an eligible associate degree OR have graduated from a school that is Title IV eligible with an eligible associate and have been employed, for a minimum of 12 months, in the same field of study of the associate degree earned.


The interest rate you are offered will depend on your credit profile, income, and total debt payments as well as your choice of fixed or variable and choice of term. For applicants who are currently medical or dental residents, your rate offer may also vary depending on whether you have secured employment for after residency.


The repayment of any refinanced student loan will commence (1) immediately after disbursement by us, or (2) after any grace or in-school deferment period, existing prior to refinancing and/or consolidation with us, has expired.


After loan disbursement, if a borrower documents a qualifying economic hardship, we may agree in our discretion to allow for full or partial forbearance of payments for one or more 3-month time periods (not to exceed 12 months in the aggregate during the term of your loan), provided that we receive acceptable documentation (including updating documentation) of the nature and expected duration of the borrower’s economic hardship.

We may agree under certain circumstances to allow a borrower to make $100/month payments for a period of time immediately after loan disbursement if the borrower is employed full-time as an intern, resident, or similar postgraduate trainee at the time of loan disbursement. These payments may not be enough to cover all of the interest that accrues on the loan. Unpaid accrued interest will be added to your loan and monthly payments of principal and interest will begin when the post-graduate training program ends.

We may agree under certain circumstances to allow postponement (deferral) of monthly payments of principal and interest for a period of time immediately following loan disbursement (not to exceed 6 months after the borrower’s graduation with an eligible degree), if the borrower is an eligible student in the borrower’s final term at the time of loan disbursement or graduated less than 6 months before loan disbursement, and has accepted an offer of (or has already begun) full-time employment.

If Lender agrees (in its sole discretion) to postpone or reduce any monthly payment(s) for a period of time, interest on the loan will continue to accrue for each day principal is owed. Although the borrower might not be required to make payments during such a period, the borrower may continue to make payments during such a period. Making payments, or paying some of the interest, will reduce the total amount that will be required to be paid over the life of the loan. Interest not paid during any period when Lender has agreed to postpone or reduce any monthly payment will be added to the principal balance through capitalization (compounding) at the end of such a period, one month before the borrower is required to resume making regular monthly payments.


This information is current as of November 8, 2019 and is subject to change.

6 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.

Splash Financial Disclosures

Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers.

7 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 1.76% effective November 10, 2019.

8 Important Disclosures for LendKey.

LendKey Disclosures

Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it  endorse,  any educational institution.

Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of  5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.

As of 12/019/2019 student loan refinancing rates range from 1.90% to 8.59% Variable APR with AutoPay and 3.49% to 7.75% Fixed APR with AutoPay.

1.99% – 6.89%1Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Earnest

2.31% – 7.36%2Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit SoFi

2.06% – 6.81%3Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Figure

2.62% – 6.12%4Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit College Ave

1.99% – 6.65%5Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Laurel Road

1.99% – 7.06%6Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Splash

1.85% – 6.13%7Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit CommonBond

1.90% – 8.59%8Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Lendkey

Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print to help you understand what you are buying. Be sure to consult with a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time.