[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 6 lenders of 2018!
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 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.47% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% 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 Month/Day/Year, 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 08/21/18. 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 ourstudent 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 Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

Savings example: average savings calculated based on single loans refinanced from 9/2013 to 12/2017 where borrowers’ previous rates were disclosed. Assumes same loan terms for previous and refinanced loans, and payments made to maturity with no prepayments. Actual savings for individual loans vary based on loan balance, interest rates, and other factors.

Application detail: 5 minutes indicates typical time it takes to complete application with applicant information readily available. It does not include time taken to provide underwriting decision or funding of the loan.

Instant rates mean a delivery of personalized rates for those individuals who provide sufficient information to return a rate. For instant rates a soft credit pull will be conducted, which will not affect your credit score. To proceed with an application, a hard credit pull will be required, which may affect your credit score.

Total savings calculated by aggregating individual average savings across total borrower population from 9/2013 to 12/2017. Individual average savings calculation based on single loans refinanced from 9/2013 to 12/2017 where borrowers’ previous rates were provided. Assumes same loan terms for previous and refinanced loans, and payments made to maturity with no prepayments. Actual savings for individual loans vary based on loan balance, interest rates, and other factors.

3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student loan Refinance:Fixed rates from 3.899% APR to 7.804% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.470% APR to 6.990% APR (with 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 2.470% APR assumes the current index rate derived from the 1-month LIBOR of 2.08% plus 0.64% margin minus 0.25% ACH discount. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, and the term of the loan and other factors, 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. *To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit inquiry. Unlike hard credit inquiries, soft credit inquiries (or soft credit pulls) do not impact your credit score. Soft credit inquiries allow SoFi to show you what rates and terms SoFi can offer you up front. After seeing your rates, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries (or hard credit pulls) are required for SoFi to be able to issue you a loan. In addition to requiring your explicit permission, these credit pulls may impact your credit score.
  2. Terms and Conditions Apply. SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)

4 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.

5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

  1. Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). The following table displays the estimated monthly payment, total interest, and Annual Percentage Rates (APR) for a $10,000 loan. The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) shown for each in-school loan product reflects the accruing interest, the effect of one-time capitalization of interest at the end of a deferment period, a 2% origination fee, and the applicable Repayment Plan. All loans are eligible for a 0.25% reduction in interest rate by agreeing to automatic payment withdrawals once in repayment, which is reflected in the interest rates and APRs displayed. Variable rates may increase after consummation. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.08% effective July 25, 2018.

6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Education Refinance Loan Rate DisclosureVariable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of October 1, 2018, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.22%. Variable interest rates range from 2.72%-8.32% (2.72%-8.32% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the borrower’s loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Fixed interest rates range from 3.75%-8.69% (3.75%-8.69% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Lowest rates shown require application with a cosigner, are for eligible, creditworthy applicants with a graduate level degree, require a 5-year repayment term and include our Loyalty discount and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. The maximum variable rate on the Education Refinance Loan is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of their loan.
  2. Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer with the Education Refinance Loan. Borrowers should carefully review their current benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans and replace those with the benefits of the Education Refinance Loan. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision at http://www.citizensbank.com/EdRefinance, including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.
  3. Citizens Bank Education Refinance Loan Eligibility: Eligible applicants may not be currently enrolled. Applicants with an Associate’s degree or with no degree must have made at least 12 qualifying payments after leaving school. Qualifying payments are the most recent on time and consecutive payments of principal and interest on the loans being refinanced. Primary borrowers must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or resident alien with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. Resident aliens must apply with a cosigner who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. The cosigner (if applicable) must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a cosigner will be required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at anytime. Interest rate ranges subject to change. Education Refinance Loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/consumer credit agreement, verification of application information, certification of borrower’s student loan amount(s) and highest degree earned.
  4. Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  5. Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
  6. Co-signer Release: Borrowers may apply for co-signer release after making 36 consecutive on-time payments of principal and interest. For the purpose of the application for co-signer release, on-time payments are defined as payments received within 15 days of the due date. Interest only payments do not qualify. The borrower must meet certain credit and eligibility guidelines when applying for the co-signer release. Borrowers must complete an application for release and provide income verification documents as part of the review. Borrowers who use deferment or forbearance will need to make 36 consecutive on-time payments after reentering repayment to qualify for release. The borrower applying for co-signer release must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. If an application for co-signer release is denied, the borrower may not reapply for co-signer release until at least one year from the date the application for co-signer release was received. Terms and conditions apply.
  7. Estimated average savings amount is based on 14,659 Education Refinance Loan customers who saved on loans between August 1, 2017 and July 31, 2018. The calculation is derived by averaging monthly savings across Education Refinance Loan customers whose payment amounts decreased after refinancing, calculated by taking the monthly payment prior to refinancing minus the monthly payment after refinancing. We excluded monthly savings from customers that exceeded $4,375 and were lower than $20 to minimize risk of data error skewing the savings amounts. Savings will vary based on interest rates, balances and remaining repayment term of loans to be refinanced. Borrower’s overall repayment amount may be higher than the loans they are refinancing even if monthly payments are lower.

2.47% – 6.99%3Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit SoFi

2.47% – 5.87%1Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Earnest

2.47% – 8.03%4Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Lendkey

2.95% – 6.37%2Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Laurel Road

2.48% – 6.25%5Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit CommonBond

2.72% – 8.32%6Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Citizens

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.