Buyer’s remorse—we’ve all felt it at one point or another. Now a new survey says it may be haunting our retirement savings efforts.
The survey, done for Schwab Retirement Plan Services, asks a simple but potentially revealing question. If participants could go back in time, would they forgo past expenditures in order to boost current retirement savings?
Nearly two-thirds of those responding to the survey, or 64%, said they would. The money they are most likely to regret spending was on relative luxuries. The answers may cause you to think twice when you consider whether to spend on various things.
The most regretted category of spending? It was restaurant dining, with a whopping 55% of respondents saying they wish they’d spent less on that in their younger days. That big regret was followed in turn by spending on expensive clothing, at 31%, new cars, at 28%, and vacations, also at 28%. Rounding out the “Big 5” spending regrets: New technology gadgets, with 26% saying they don’t think it was worth burning up money on all that latest tech gear that just became outmoded anyway.
So the next time the urge to splurge on a filet at a steak house hits, will you do burgers on the grill instead? Will you steer clear of upscale malls and your local Lexus dealership? And resist the allure of this year’s new smartphone? The difficulty that people have in following advice to spend modestly is among the reasons that retiring with debt and carrying it beyond age 75 has become the new normal.
Of course, it’s also possible to become too frugal and discover that you don’t need to spend as much in retirement as you predicted.
There was one large category of spending that stood out for inspiring far less regret among respondents—spending for education. Specifically, taking out student loans was cited by 12% of respondents as an expenditure that in retrospect they wish they had not made. Helping a child pay for student loans was cited by 10%, and paying for children’s private school, by 8%.
“The survey shows that if given the chance, many Americans would have spent differently on short-term pleasures, especially compared with spending that supports their families’ long-term happiness and success,” Schwab said. “Participants understand the value of their 401(k)s and the importance of saving for retirement.”
Well, they do now.