What if you had a chance to do it all over again?
If someone offered you another shot at any aspect of your life, would you take it? Surprisingly, when it comes to personal finance and preparing for retirement, many people would answer with a resounding “no.” According to a recent study by BodyLogicMD, only 3 percent of surveyed seniors say they would do anything differently when it comes to their finances.
This sentiment is best represented by one of the people interviewed, Helen, 90, who says,
“I don’t have any big regrets. I just tried to do what my momma taught me to do.”
With nearly half of those surveyed saying they would not relive their lives given the opportunity, it’s clear that Helen is not alone in her sentiment. However, the same study reveals that these people are most likely to regret not saving more money.
Studies show that 1 out of every 3 people have no money saved toward retirement, and another 79% of baby boomers have less than $5,000 saved. With so many people lacking the savings to enable comfortable retirement, it’s no wonder money was the primary thing on the minds of so many of the seniors surveyed.
This sharply contrasts with many frugal millennials. Unlike some of their baby boomer parents who were brought up in the wake of the post-WWII economic boom, millennials have become accustomed to instability. The collapse of both the banking and real estate industries, a sluggish global economy, and hard-fought upward mobility has made them a cautious generation.
Entering adulthood with significant college debt and fewer opportunities for the same well-paying jobs of those from generations past, many are realizing the challenges they face coming into their own. This has lead millennials to take decidedly different steps to prepare for their own financial futures. Many are investing earlier in savings accounts and making the decision to postpone moving out on their own until they can manage more stable financial situations.
Yet, while millennials are drowning in college debt, many baby boomers and their parents' biggest regrets were not finishing their education or not attending school at all. Camille, 70, says her biggest regret is,
"That I didn't finish nursing school. [...] I was too immature to understand that the intensity was really important. [...] I should have stayed there and I should have toughed it out for two more years."
As younger generations have learned to navigate early on to avoid the economic pitfalls of their parents, it’s clear that baby boomer parents have taught their children a great deal already. Whether through conscious action or not, their children have received a valuable lesson on the importance of taking the time to plan for their futures.
One way young people may have learned this lesson was through people like Nieva, 74, who says,
“... I didn't pursue my education further. I could have been probably a good PR person, you know. But I choose to stay home because I want my children to be successful, and I've raised two good ones.”
By sharing her desire to have furthered her own education, she taught her children about the value of pursuing educational goals for themselves.
Others may have learned the consequences of remaining idle when it comes to pursuing career goals from a loved one who feels similarly to interviewee, Charlotte, 65, who confides:
“... I kind of wish in some ways that I had directed my own career instead of letting it just flow.”
It’s stories from those like Charlotte that have taught many young adults that the benefits of taking an active role in the workforce significantly outweigh the cost of putting in the energy.
That being said, it’s easy to see how young people might lose track of other aspects of life in favor of their notorious workaholism as they’ve grown up feeling the pressure to immediately seek higher education and economic accomplishments.
It’s to those individuals where the advice from another interviewee, Lynette, 65, may be best served. She shares,
“[I would’ve] not been so uptight about reaching certain goals and just letting some things go their own course. I’ve been pretty driven and it’s not a bad thing, but I think I overlooked some things in relationships.”
Just about every person in the study can attest that prioritizing relationships and experiences outside the workplace are equally key to achieving success.
Whether talking them through the process of opening a retirement account or encouraging them to take that trip to Disney World, members of more experienced generations have a wealth of wisdom to impart upon young people. When it comes to preparing for the future and making the most of every decision, the first step may be to listen to the stories of those who know best.