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The top regrets of retirees

If you could, what financial advice would you give your younger self?

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The goal is to live without regrets, right?

Yet that’s not always easy, particularly when it comes to planning for retirement.

A new poll found that retirees, especially women, made some mistakes they wish they hadn’t.

Global Atlantic just release a report based on data from more than 4,200 pre-retirees and retirees in the United States. The company wanted to examine how expectations for retirement costs aligned with reality.

They often didn’t.

Thirty-nine percent of retirees reported spending more than they expected.

“The risk of running out of money is real,” the report said.

More than more than half (55 percent) of retirees said they have retirement planning regrets. Here are their top disappointments, according to the Global Atlantic survey.

— They ended up having to rely too much on Social Security.

Read more: What you don’t know about Social Security could cost you a lot of money

— They didn’t pay down debt before retiring.

A large number of baby boomers — people born between 1946 and 1965 — are reaching retirement age with a mortgage, according to research from Fannie Mae’s Economic & Strategic Research Group.

“Paying off the mortgage, once a widespread rite of passage for homeowners approaching retirement, has become less common in recent years,” the Fannie Mae report said. “Concerns are mounting that the increased prevalence of housing debt among older homeowners could compromise financial security in retirement.”

Read more: Yes, you should pay off your mortgage before retiring.

Read more: These retirees say: Pay off that mortgage before retiring.

— They didn’t save enough.

Read more: Can you save half your income so you can retire early? FIRE advocates say it’s possible.

Nationwide, in its own survey, found that the average age workers start saving for retirement is 31.

Here’s how almost a decade of investing can make a difference, according to calculations in the Nationwide report. Let’s say an employee is paid twice a month and contributes $50 per pay to a retirement account that earns a 6 percent annualized return. If the worker started saving at 23, she would have accumulated $217,150 compared with $128,578 if she waited to save at 31. That’s a difference of $88,572. If the employee bumped up her contributions to $100 per pay, account would be worth $434,299 compared to $257,156 or a difference of $177,143.

“The difference is more than just added accumulation, of course,” the report says. “It represents the effect of compounding, the process in which an asset’s earnings are reinvested to generate additional earnings over time. All other things being equal, the more time a saver allows their assets to grow, the more compounded growth occurs, the report said.

I hear from retirees all the time that they wished they had saved earlier in their working life.

“While age 31 seems relatively young to think about retirement, it means most employees are missing out on nearly a decade of savings, asset accumulation and the associated potential for compound returns,” said John Carter, president of retirement plans for Nationwide.

Turns out in the Global Atlantic survey, women are more likely than men to have retirement planning regrets — 62 percent compared to 47 percent for men. However, once they realized their mistakes, more women than men adjusted their lifestyle to cut expenses such as eating out and traveling.

Ultimately, no use lamenting about the past. If you have regrets don’t spend too much time kicking yourself. It is what it is. Instead, follow this advice from the late poet and author Maya Angelou who said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

Read more:

3 myths about this early retirement movement

You have $100,000 in student loans. Should you save for retirement or pay off debt?

Advice for retirees rattled by Trump

Your thoughts

What retirement planning advice would you give to your younger self based on what you know now? Send your comments to Please include your name, city and state. Put “Retirement Regrets” in the subject line.

Retirement rants and raves

I’m interested in your experiences or concerns about retirement or aging. What do you like about retirement? What came as a surprise?

If you haven’t retired yet, what concerns you financially?

You can rant or rave. This space is yours. It’s a chance for you to express what’s on your mind. Send your comments to Please include your name, city and state. In the subject line put “Retirement Rants and Raves.”

MaryLib Guercio of Lafayette, La., had quite a few observations about retirement.

“Getting old is not for wimps,” she wrote. “Saving is critical, but not all can save enough to cover costs. Government investment in training and equipping seniors to manage at home would be more compassionate and cost less in tax dollars than nursing home care. Providing visiting nurses, using smart technologies to monitor health, funding programs such as SNAP that bring food and a human being into homes are other areas of cost-effective care for the elderly and infirm. Healthcare costs are the most expensive area of expenditure for most seniors. Finally, more and more physicians are refusing to admit Medicare patients into their practice. They will allow existing patients to ‘age into’ Medicare and be served, but if one moves or needs a specialist, it’s not easy to find doctors who will accept you.”

At 75, Jürgen Daartz of Palos Park, Ill., says he’s not ready to retire, writing, “I am still working at least half-time. I have my own small software company and I work from home. I enjoy working. I am in excellent health. I run four to five miles daily and/or ride my bicycle. I have additional income from my company and we — my wife is 78 — have not had to touch our savings. I plan to be around for a while. I really enjoy my job running my company for the mental stimulation primarily. We have no mortgage or credit card debts or other financial obligations. I waited to take Social Security benefits until I was 70 years old. That was possible because of my part time job.”

Allyn Keiser of New York wrote, “I’m in my mid-seventies and working as a consultant helping executives become more effective at work. I’ve only been doing this for the last dozen years, but I feel like everything I’ve done previously has prepared me for this. I see it as a calling, and I’d like to keep at it as long as I’m able. I actually tried retiring before I started this career, and found that whatever I tried — volunteering, travel, taking courses of interest — didn’t fill up my need for intellectual stimulation and engagement with others. I still volunteer and I still travel, but I feel like I have a much more fulfilling life with the dimension of work included.”

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