The Bankrate promise
At Bankrate we strive to help you make smarter financial decisions. While we adhere to strict , this post may contain references to products from our partners. Here's an explanation for .
Have you ever loaned money to an ex, but never got it back? Did you see a job listing at your company and realize you could have asked for a higher salary? Or maybe you wish you had learned more about mortgages and investing before taking the plunge?
It’s normal — and common — to regret a financial decision. But just because it’s common doesn’t mean the hit to your bank account doesn’t sting. Around one in two (48 percent) of those with a financial regret say their stress over that regret has increased over the last year, as of a June 2023 Bankrate survey.
Finance pros aren’t immune from making mistakes, either. Bankrate spoke to seven popular “fin-influencers” who know how it feels to regret how they managed their money. Here’s what they learned as a result — and how you can avoid their mistakes.
Key Bankrate financial planning insights
- Around three in four Americans don’t feel financially secure. Only 28% of U.S. adults say they are completely financially secure, as of June 2023. 72% say they are not financially secure, including 26% who expect to never be completely financially secure.
- Reaching the American dream comes at a steep cost. Among those who don’t own a house but aspire to homeownership, 46% say their hurdle is not having enough income, 42% say home prices are too high and 40% say they can’t afford the down payment and closing costs, as of March 2023.
- Most Americans have at least some emergency savings. 22% of U.S. adults have no emergency savings as of May 2023, the second lowest percentage in 13 years of polling.
Carmen Perez: Even if it’s overwhelming, don’t ignore debt
My biggest regrets were ignoring my debt after I graduated college and not managing my money effectively. If I had done even a 20 percent better job of doing both, I would have savings in the bank and wouldn’t have eventually had my credit wrecked and gotten sued for my student loan. I felt overwhelmed by my credit card and student loan debt, so I just buried my head in the sand and chose to live my best life over spending time learning what my relationship with money was and how I could improve it so my future self wouldn’t have to pay the consequences. I learned that when it comes to money, what you do in your 20s matters and sets the stage for long-term, rippling effects. Avoid my mistake by getting organized with your money!
Carmen Perez is the founder of Much, a budgeting app that helps people manage their money. Carmen built Much after paying off $57,000 of debt in two years and nine months.
Charly Stoever: Negotiate your salary and benefits
My biggest financial regret is not learning how to negotiate my salary in my 20s and going for the low-paying, exploitative nonprofit jobs. I found myself taking these low-paying jobs because I didn’t want to “sell out.” I grew up with the Mexican immigrant mindset that I should be grateful to have a job and to stick it out, even if it’s toxic. Then I realized that the nonprofit industrial complex can be just as bad, or even worse, as the private sector, because at least in the private sector, people are paid better and have perks like health insurance and a 401(k) employer match. Looking back, I wish I’d hired a Latinx salary negotiation coach to help me work through my limiting beliefs around asking to get paid more. If you think you’re not getting paid enough, speak to someone who can help you advocate for yourself!
Charly Stoever (they/he/papi) is a nonbinary Latinx money coach helping their clients become millionaires. They’re a formerly undocumented Mexican American, twerker and ex-stock broker who hosts the Unicorn Millionaire podcast.
Chloé Daniels: Paying off debt first isn’t necessarily best
My biggest financial mistake was paying off my low-interest rate debt early. I paid off about $40,000 of debt in two years (at a 3.54 percent interest rate) because I thought that being debt-free was the most important thing! Knowing what I know now, I wish I had been investing that money instead. The loudest voices in the personal finance space at the time were big advocates of debt freedom. I had also seen my parents struggle with debt for most of my life, so I believed the narrative that all debt is bad and dumb. What I didn’t understand is it’s a more nuanced decision, and not all debt is bad — especially when we’re talking about low-interest rate debt. The biggest lesson I took away from it was to educate myself on my options.
Julien Saunders: Do thorough research before buying a house
My biggest regret was buying a home in 2007 without fully understanding the true cost of ownership. I was in my late 20s finishing up graduate school and didn’t even know that the HOA payments were due in addition to the mortgage payment. After the second month, I found myself immediately over budget. To make matters worse, a few months later the Great Recession began and the value of the home and my tiny retirement portfolio would eventually be cut in half. I placed too much value on old sayings like “Real estate always goes up in value” and too little value on the underlying mechanics of the loan and how it would affect my overall well-being. You should seek unbiased feedback and always conduct thorough financial analysis of the decision to ensure you can afford the purchase. Otherwise, you may be putting your entire financial health at risk.
Julien Saunders is co-creator of the award-winning blog and podcast, rich & REGULAR, and author of Cashing Out, Win The Wealth Game By Walking Away. He is also a podcaster, producer and Host of the video series, Money on the Table.
Kevin L. Matthews II: Patience is key in the stock market
My biggest regret early on was not understanding that investing in the stock market requires patience. After investing for three weeks, I took a loss on my very first stock. Had I remained patient, that stock would have been worth thousands today. I had a finance professor who, in the middle of the financial crisis in the fall of 2009, said that buying bank stocks was one of the smartest things to buy. I was a college student without a lot of money and the thought of taking $300 and turning it into $3,000 sounded like an amazing value proposition. I didn’t know that level of return would not happen overnight. My lesson was that I should never invest based only on the recommendation of others. I advise people to learn more about researching and evaluating potential investments rather than trying to find the hottest investment ideas.
Kevin Matthews II is a No. 1 bestselling author and the founder of BuildingBread, an education company that helps first-time investors enter the stock market with confidence.
Leandra Peters: Don’t expect to be repaid when you loan money
My biggest financial regret was loaning a partner money, thinking I would get it back. This was a recurring blunder until I realized I cannot loan money to anyone again. Repaying me was never their priority (heck, why would a 0 percent loan be anyone’s priority?), and it did nothing but enable their bad financial habits while fostering resentment within me. My approach to loaning money is much different now — now, I just give money without any expectation of that money ever falling back into my own hands. Consider it a selfless and generous gift. Or don’t. Do what you want. I’m just a girl on the internet. At the end of the day, disappointment is rooted in expectation. By steering clear of expectations, you’ll simply hold onto a lot more joy (and a lot more money!). The emotional toll inflicted by unpaid debts often surpasses the absence of the money itself.
Leandra Peters is a San Diego-based finance enthusiast who’s (DTF) Down to Finance. Her mission is to help people level up their personal finance game, crush their debt and invest in the stock market.
Taylor Price: Make every dollar count by using rewards and deals
One of my biggest financial regrets is not realizing the power of making every dollar count. Spending smart can transform your daily life. Many people are unaware of the rewards and offers waiting to be claimed through cards and programs. I missed out on incredible opportunities to save and maximize my money by not paying attention to these perks. Spending smart can make a world of difference. Deals, discounts and offers can add up to significant savings. This can mean the difference between building an emergency fund or struggling financially. It can also allow you to donate and make a positive impact. To avoid leaving money on the table, I recommend downloading Savvy. It’s an app I founded with an amazing team to unlock unbeatable deals, maximize card rewards and get your money’s worth.
Taylor Price is the founder and CXO of Savvy, the app that helps you unlock unbeatable deals, maximize card rewards and spend smart.
Financial mistakes can be learning experiences. If you want to learn more to avoid financial choices in the future, speaking to a financial advisor can help you set a budget, create a debt payoff plan or learn to invest wisely.
If you want to tackle your finances on your own, these actions can help: