What are the biggest financial regrets among people in Britain?

Pound coins (file photo)
Pound coins (file photo) Copyright Peter Byrne/AP
By Indrabati Lahiri
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A new survey has revealed some of the biggest financial regrets among people in Britain.

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About 51% of Britons have revealed that they have a number of financial regrets, according to a survey by savings and investment specialist Unity Mutual.

While Britain’s cost of living crisis may be slowly improving, everyday prices still remain uncomfortably high for a vast number of consumers. The Office for National Statistics’ latest public opinions and social trends’ report highlights that around 46% of UK adults saw a hike in the cost of living between 31 January and 11 February 2024.

The survey, spanning across 2,000 UK respondents aged between 18 and 80, highlighted that one of the biggest regrets impacting about 46% of respondents included not putting any money into a savings account every month.

For 43%, spending money on useless things was a big regret, while 34% wished they had more financial knowledge and education earlier in life. Approximately 29% regretted not choosing a more lucrative career or job.

Moreover, 24% revealed that they regretted not ear-marking enough money for a monthly pension, while the same percentage wished that they had thought of setting up a pension earlier.

For 12% of respondents, one of the biggest regrets was not marrying a richer spouse, which climbed up to 19% for respondents in their 70s.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, people in their 20s were much more worried about money than people in their 70s. It was also highlighted how about 18% of those in their 20s also turned to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as gambling and drinking to deal with these worries.

On money advice, 38% revealed that they would tell their younger selves not to get into debt at all.

As reported by This Is Money, Clare Seal, money expert and the creator of the My Frugal Year Instagram account said: “If you’re hoping to turn your financial situation around, it can feel like a big, daunting task- so try to break it down into smaller, more manageable tasks.

“Focus on habits, rather than grand gestures, because these small, consistent acts are what will make a big difference over time.

“Once the saving habit is established, you’ll find it easier to contribute more once your income increases or your outgoings ease off. The same goes for paying off debt, contributing to a pension, or pretty much any other positive financial habit that you want to start.”

More Britons are stressing about their financial situation

Furthermore, the survey found that 58% of respondents admitted to worrying about their current financial situation, with women worrying 10% more than men on average. Also, 43% said that this stress was leading to them being worried all the time, whereas 55% reported anxiety disorders.

It was also highlighted by 39% of those interviewed that it had an adverse impact on their mental health, with the same percentage also pointing out that it came in the way of them enjoying day-to-day life. The survey found 33% felt feelings of helplessness with their current situation.

Coming to the things of particular concern, 58% of Britons stress about the cost of living overtaking their finances, whereas 35% worry about their savings not being enough in case of emergencies. Meanwhile, 18% stress about their pension pots not having enough in them, whereas 28% worry about sudden and expensive home repairs.

Respondents in their 20s and 30s were anxious about the rising mortgage and property costs, potentially because they are the likeliest to be on the market for a new house, whereas 21% of people in their 40s were more concerned about their existing mortgage inching up.

On better managing financial stress, personal finance expert Lynn Beattie from Mrs Mummy Penny, said: “Firstly keep a daily spending diary. The simple act of writing all your spending into a notebook at the end of each day is the key here," as reported by Unity Mutual.

“Think about those daily purchases: were they a need or a want? Were there any emotions linked to them? After a few weeks, you will see real patterns forming and can use this information to create a budget based on solid information.

“Secondly, create a reality budget of actual spending, and compare this to your income. You can then create a target budget where you can shave savings from most categories.

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“Cancel any unnecessary direct debits, negotiate better deals on your bills, and then see how you can reduce your day-to-day spending on things like food and fuel. This method takes some time commitment but will give you a real understanding of your spending and a goal to aim towards that will give you a much tighter control of your financial situation,” Beattie added.

Rising debt has added to financial worries

According to July 2023 research by Moneyhub, in the previous six months, about 24% of people under 35 took out overdrafts, whereas around 19% took out payday loans. Moreover, 29% of people with payday loans, and 22% of borrowers with personal loans needed them to handle day-to-day expenses, amidst the soaring cost of living. These included for things like food, mortgage, rent and fuel.

In December 2023, Mental Health Foundation found that 58% of people with children 10 years or younger had applied for or upped their unsecured debt, in order to be able to afford essential bills. Moreover, 32% of these parents were also very worried about how they would repay this debt.

On the other hand, 12% of parents with young children, classified as 10 years or younger had amassed over £4,000 of debt in the last year, due to essential day-to-day costs.

Suzanne Homewood, managing director at Moneyhub, said, “Credit is a lifeline for many, but when it is being used to cover everyday expenses and make up for a shortfall in income, it is often a sign of a much bigger issue, and potential future vulnerability that isn’t today being taken into consideration at the point of application.”

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