5 biggest regrets by retirees

Retirement is a wonderful time for most retirees.

During the Thanksgiving holiday, a family member was discussing her travel and vacation plans for her coming year and showing pictures of work that she had done to her home. She lamented that now that she was retired, she could do what she enjoys and make the improvements to her house. She expressed few regrets, except that she didn’t retire sooner.

I recently came across two interesting reads that got me thinking about regrets for those in their later years. One was a book that I thought would be depressing but was surprisingly uplifting and inspirational by Bronnie Ware called “The Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departed.” In this book, Bronnie, who had been a palliative caregiver for many years, discussed five themes that she learned from her patients when they discussed what regrets they had or things that they would’ve done differently. They were:

  • I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  • I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  • I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  • I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  • I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Bronnie, who writes an inspiring blog, used these regrets and what she learned from people that she cared for, to change her life. Her book is an inspiring read and lives up to its billing as a “courageous and life-changing book.”

The other reading that I came across is perhaps less morbid and inspirational but nonetheless provides insights into how regrets in later life can change the lives of others. It’s a recent ‘Weekly Adviser Tip‘ from BlackRock that discusses findings from a recent research study done by the company. The research found that “there’s a gap between retirement goals and investor confidence in achieving them.” It also explored the question of what regrets retirees had and the top 4 were:

  • 36% said they would have started investing for retirement earlier/contributed to their 401(k) sooner and at maximum levels.
  • 32% said they would have spent less money.
  • 21% said they would have worked longer.
  • 12% would have sought professional financial advice.

As the study was done by an investment firm, it isn’t surprising that the regrets revolve solely around the financial aspects of retirement. However, as those of you who read my columns know, I view retirement in a more holistic manner and feel that finance is only one aspect of retirement. The need to evaluate the heath, wellness, attitude and level of involvement of a retiree are also vital aspects for retirees to achieve and safe and thriving retirement.

So I’d like to add my own list of what I’ve found to be the 5 biggest regrets of retirees based upon what I’ve learned from retirees when considering the larger view of their later years. They are:

  • I wish that I had saved more money.
  • I wish that I had been more knowledgeable about money and/or had a trusted financial adviser to work with.
  • I wish that I had taken better care of my health.
  • I wish that I had gotten involved in the things that I really love sooner in life.
  • I wish that I had spoken sooner with my children about the needs and desires for my later life.

For those of us planning on retirement, we should view these regrets and lessons like Bronnie did in her book, and reflect on them as ways in which they can also change the way we save and plan for our own retirement today.

How about you? What regrets do you have in your retirement or later years?

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