5 Biggest Retirement Regrets Everyone Experiences
Therapists and life coaches say these are the most common regrets they see.
For many older adults, the transition to retirement is a time of reflection—and not everyone likes what they see. With a bit of distance, you may realize that you have some regrets as you take inventory of your youth. But while this may sound like a troubling way to enter this next life stage, it doesn't have to be, experts say. In fact, examining your life and deciding purposefully how to move forward can be deeply empowering as you begin retirement.
If you haven't yet reached this particular phase of life, you have even more time to course-correct and make the most of your younger years. The key is knowing which common pitfalls most people report regretting and avoiding them today.
While there's no one regret that every retiree will have experienced, all three of the experts we spoke to—all life coaches and psychology experts—shared that a handful of specific regrets loomed large in the minds of their clients. Read on to learn which five retirement regrets applied to almost everyone and how you can reverse those mistakes before it's too late.
Not putting health first
When you're young, it's easy to take your health for granted. However, with each passing year, most people become increasingly aware of the central role good health can play in your well-being and happiness.
"Many retirees voice regrets about prioritizing work over their physical health," says Bayu Prihandito, a certified life coach and the founder of Life Architekture. "They worked long hours, skipped meals or exercise, and now face health issues. To avoid this regret, it's crucial to balance work and health throughout your career, not just in retirement."
Lachlan Brown, founder of the website Hack Spirit, which focuses on psychology, relationships, and personal development, says you can mitigate this regret by being proactive about your health as soon as you realize the shortcomings of your current habits.
"Focus on what you can control now. Adopt healthier habits, seek medical advice, and remember that it's never too late to start making better choices for your well-being," he advises.
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Not having deeper relationships
When many people stop working, they realize just how much of their social circle existed within the walls of their workplace. Experts say that it's common to regret not nurturing deeper relationships outside of work that you can take with you into the retirement years.
"So many retirees say they wish they had spent more time with family and friends instead of getting caught up in the daily grind. Careers, while important, often come at the expense of missed memories and experiences with loved ones," says Brown.
However, the psychology expert says that if you feel this regret, it's never too late to reconnect with loved ones. In fact, without work in the picture, you now have more time to prioritize these bonds.
"Start by reaching out and rekindling relationships. Spend quality time with your grandkids, children, or old friends," he suggests.
Not making time for self-discovery
Many retirees find that in the absence of work, their sense of purpose and identity becomes murky. When Prihandito sees this in his clients, he says it's usually because they've neglected to make time for self-discovery in their younger years. Without having a firm foundation for who you are and what you like, retirement can be a dizzying and distressing experience as you scramble to figure out what will drive you moving forward.
"Many of my clients regret not having invested time in getting to know themselves better before retirement," says Prihandito. "Work often defines our identity, and when that disappears, a sense of loss can come up. My advice is to explore hobbies, interests, and passions before retiring, to build a robust sense of self that goes beyond our professional identity."
Not planning financially
While many people note that they regret putting their jobs over their health or happiness, the opposite side of that coin is that it's also common to regret not planning better financially for retirement.
"A frequent regret among retirees is not having prepared adequately for post-retirement finances. To alleviate this, emphasizing early financial planning, diversification of investments, and seeking professional guidance can help retirees enjoy financial security in their golden years," says Smita D. Jain, a personal empowerment life coach and executive coach.
Though Prihandito notes that "it's crucial to start planning and saving for retirement early," it's never too late to get started. Even five or 10 years of saving can help create a financial safety net for your retirement years.
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Being overly cautious
When you look back on your life, many of the moments that will stand out the most are those that challenged and defined you. If you're overly cautious in your younger years, you run the risk of missing out on those meaningful experiences.
"Many retirees wish they had taken more risks, both personally and professionally. They feel they played it too safe and missed out on potential life-changing opportunities. It's important to remember that it's never too late to take calculated risks and step outside of our comfort zones," says Prihandito.
Brown agrees that playing it safe or putting off adventure for another day can leave you feeling regretful in your later years.
"Many retirees mention the places they didn't get to see or experiences they missed out on because they kept delaying their travel dreams for 'someday.' If you're able, explore local spots, take day trips, or plan longer vacations. Even if you can't travel far, explore your local surroundings, and indulge in new experiences," he advises.