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Consumers regret not saving

By Marcie Geffner ·
Thursday, July 12, 2012
Posted: 6 am ET

Consumers seeking help with their personal finances report a variety of regrets: overspending, inadequately saving, insufficiently preparing for retirement, buying a house and, somewhat contradictorily, not buying a house.

That's according to a recent online poll of more than 2,200 people who stopped by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, or NFCC, website in June.

Habitually overspending was the most common regret, cited by 53 percent of the respondents and far outweighing other financial concerns, according to the NFCC. That's not surprising, given the survey population.

Yet other regrets also made the list. Eighteen percent reported feeling regretful that they hadn't saved more. Fourteen percent looked back regretfully at not better preparing themselves for retirement. Ten percent wished they'd bought a house -- and another 5 percent wished they hadn't.

NFCC spokeswoman Gail Cunningham said in a statement that most people have financial regrets, but it's important not to dwell on past mistakes.

"Instead," Cunningham suggests, consumers should "look forward and take action by constructing a plan that recognizes the realities of the situation, repairs financial damage and moves in a positive direction toward financial security."

That's good advice, and here, courtesy of the NFCC, are some tips to turn around financial regrets.

  • Set financial goals. Long-term and short-term goals create a financial framework and vision that keeps spending on track.
  • Create a budget. Without a budget, danger signals are missed and spending can easily spiral out of control.
  • Track spending. Write down every cent that's spent for 30 days, and take advantage of opportunities to adjust spending to meet financial goals.
  • Be financially organized. Create a cash-flow calendar that shows sources of income on anticipated payment dates and bills that are to be paid from that income.
  • Automate now. Automatic bill-pay services can protect against late or missed payments that can result in credit impairment and late fees.
  • Expect the unexpected. Guard against unplanned expenses by creating a financial safety net. Even small amounts consistently deposited into a rainy-day savings account can create an adequate cushion for most short-term emergencies.
  • Prepare for the future. Start planning for retirement now even if the date is far in the future. Time gives young investors a very long window of opportunity to turn small sums into a fortune.

Follow me on Twitter: @marciegeff

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