After perusing the UK personal finance Reddit thread, I came across a post asking people to name their biggest financial regret. Amongst the many depressing and amusing suggestions, there were several people who claimed that they had “no regrets” and that the others admitting regrets should just “enjoy life”.
At first, I thought that was a rather strange answer to the question as surely, being honest with yourself, there must be something that you regret purchasing.
Despite that thought, I came later to reflect on what enjoying life means.
Certainly, it means something vastly different to each and every one of us; however, in the context of a financial regret, what does it mean to enjoy life?
Did they mean they don’t regret anything, or that they are not bothered by those regrets? Or did they mean spend recklessly and not worrying about the consequences even if that means ending in £20k of credit card debt?
Presumably enjoying life in the context of financial regrets could mean anything, I propose, that includes partying, buying expensive cars, boozing, going on expensive holidays, having an expensive hobby, and eating at the finest restaurants.
All of these things: 1. Cost lots of money, 2. (Admittedly) Can be fun and 3. Are part of massive lifestyle creep over time. As someone seeking FI, 1 & 3 are things that will only hinder my journey to FI.
Often it is said that you regret the things you did not do more than those you did. That is something I have kept in mind when making decisions (not just financial ones) throughout my life- but will I regret not doing these expensive things because I have chosen to become financially independent?
Deep down, having done many of these thing in the past, I think the opposite is true. I think of all the times I went out on a ‘bender’ spending lots of money on food and drink only to feel hungover the next day. The times I went on holiday and spent my way around a city without a care. The times I spent money to make myself feel better or to impress people I didn’t like. Yes I had fun (mostly), made friends and whatnot, but looking back, I could have been less foolish and saved more with little loss socially or otherwise. That money would now be growing in an ISA or where ever and I would be closer to my goal of FI because once I have FI the options to enjoy life become far greater without the little problem of working 5 days a week!
So, the saying rings true, you regret the things you didn’t do more than those you did. I don’t regret having a good time in my youth, but I do regret not taking control of my finances over a decade ago and putting away as much as I could. If I had, I would be wealthier, happier and closer to being financially independent.
However, I am not going to wallow in regret and despair over that, and nor should you. As the Chinese proverb says the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today. Now, where’s my spade?