Study: Spending Problems Top the List of Money Worries and Regrets for Americans

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New research from MoneyRates.com finds that not saving enough is the No. 1 financial regret for Americans and that this problem may be having a ripple effect across their long-term financial outlook.

“Debt problems can turn into a vicious cycle. Being burdened with debt makes you focus on immediate financial problems, and this in turn prevents you from any kind of long-term planning, so things like saving for retirement continue to get neglected.

Too little savings and too much debt dominate the list of Americans’ financial regrets, according to a new survey by MoneyRates.com, with 62 percent of poll respondents citing one of those issues as their No. 1 money regret.

Of that group, 40 percent cited not saving enough as their top worry, while 22 percent said the same of accumulating too much debt. When asked about their financial worries, 35 percent said that having enough money to meet essential expenses was their top concern, making it the most-cited option for that question, slightly ahead of having enough money to live a comfortable lifestyle (34 percent) and well ahead of having enough to meet savings goals (19 percent).

Overall, the survey indicates that many Americans – if not most – have struggled with spending or saving issues. The survey also indicates that those who have had these problems may be less able to focus on larger financial goals. The top worry for people who cited debt as their primary regret was “meeting essential expenses.” The top worry for everyone else was “maintaining a comfortable lifestyle.”

The near-term pressures that come from overspending can also make it very difficult to take on far-reaching challenges such as saving for retirement, says Richard Barrington, CFA, senior financial analyst for MoneyRates.com.

“Debt problems can turn into a vicious cycle,” says Barrington. “Being burdened with debt makes you focus on immediate financial problems, and this in turn prevents you from any kind of long-term planning, so things like saving for retirement continue to get neglected.”

When asked what they would spend a $10,000 windfall on, respondents again returned to the theme of past overspending. Forty-one percent of respondents said they would use this windfall to pay off debt, making it the most common answer to this question, ahead of placing it in savings or investments (35 percent) and making purchases for themselves or a loved one (12 percent).

Barrington says that the survey results show how money mistakes in the past can continue to harm consumers in the future – unless they leave behind the behaviors that started the problems.

“By definition, regret is a backward-looking emotion,” says Barrington. “But if you want to avoid having those types of regrets repeatedly, it’s a good idea to let what you don’t like about your past behavior inform how you make decisions in the present and plan for the future.”

The poll also revealed differences between the money anxieties of men and women. While both men and women cited not saving enough as their No. 1 regret – 37 percent of men and 43 percent of women chose this option – women seemed more conservative when it came to their worries. The top worry for women was having enough money to meet essential expenses (39 percent), while men worried most about having enough to maintain a comfortable lifestyle (35 percent).

You can read the entire survey analysis at http://www.money-rates.com/research-center/top-money-worries-regrets-2014.htm.

Methodology

The survey was conducted for MoneyRates.com by Op4G in June 2014. It surveyed 2,000 U.S. adults age 25 or older, with an even split between men and women.

About MoneyRates.com

MoneyRates.com has been a leading source of information on bank rates, personal finance, savings accounts and investing since 1999. The site seeks to provide the highest rates on CDs, money market accounts and high-yield savings accounts. MoneyRates.com is owned and operated by QuinStreet, Inc. (NASDAQ: QNST), one of the largest Internet marketing and media companies in the world. QuinStreet is committed to providing consumers and businesses with the information they need to find, research and select the products, services and brands that best meet their needs. The company is a leader in visitor-friendly marketing practices. For more information, please visit QuinStreet.com.

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