What do Americans regret the most when it comes to how they manage their money? By far, it's routinely spending too much.
That's the finding of a June online poll by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, which, among other accompanying advice, recommends we strive to become "financial adults." (Amen to that.)
The survey posed the question: "My biggest financial regret is that I …" Here's what people picked:
Habitually overspent, 53%.
Inadequately saved, 18%.
Haven't bought a house, 10%.
Bought a house, 5%.
Haven't sufficiently prepared for retirement, 14%.
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Being a financial adult means you don't obsess over past blunders, but you do try not to repeat them.
Among NFCC's advice:
Set goals. It's so much easier to save when you have something you're looking forward to. What is it that you really want? It's very personal. For instance, buying a house is not for everyone. My goals include:
Retiring at the earliest possible time with sufficient funds to enjoy life the way I want to.
Making another inexpensive trip to Italy. The money to pay for the entire trip will be saved in advance. I'll use a credit card to get the best possible exchange rate while I travel and then pay the bill in full when I get back.
Create a budget. You need to compare your income with your outflow, and figure out where to trim and adjust if it's out of whack or doesn't include saving. NFCC offers a helpful worksheet.
Track your spending. If you are habitually overspending, you really need to track what you spend down to the penny. NFCC suggests you do this for an entire month at least twice a year. Some may need to do it every month, at least for a while.
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Create an emergency fund. Your stash of cash will give you resources and peace of mind when the unexpected happens. Your budgeting and saving regimens won't be disrupted.
We love the advice about financial adulthood.
This may involve making hard choices, changing attitudes, behaviors, and lifestyle, but it is unlikely that financial decisions made on auto-pilot will result in a smooth landing. Be financially mature by understanding the nuts and bolts of personal finance, and acting on that knowledge.
What's your biggest financial regret, picking from the five above? Or perhaps yours is not on that list.