Most people pursuing financial independence, such as myself, do it with a clear purpose. That purpose is often to change life for the better.
I generally believe that the FIRE community is really good at focusing on the things that really matter in life. The whole point of achieving financial independence is often to spend time on things that really matter. It is to remove the shackles of living paycheck to paycheck in a job you don’t really like. FIRE people do their best to avoid having any regrets in life.
Previously, I have read quite a few articles about what people regret on their deathbed. The topics are typically “working too much”, “not staying in touch with friends” and “worrying too much about everybody else”.
But one thing is regretting things on your deathbed, another thing is to regret things while you still have a good part of your life left.
I recently found a few Reddit and Quora threads that asked older users of the platforms a single question: “What do you regret in life so far?”.
You could call the older users the Elders of The Internet, and therefore I decided to make a list of the Elders’ biggest regrets in life. It gave me something to reflect on and I hope that is the case for you too.
1. Being in the wrong relationship
This one broke my heart. It is definitely one of the things that people regret most in life.
There was a married man who had been married for many years, but had never forgotten about his highschool sweetheart. He recently got divorced and realized that he had wasted his own and his wife’s time.
Many people had been living in abusive relationships for far too long.
Some people married too young because they felt they had to when all of their friends got married.
I counted more than 30 Elders who had been in the wrong relationship, which qualifies it as one the biggest regrets in life.
2. Choosing the wrong education/career
As someone pursuing financial independence, it did not surprise me that choosing the wrong education or career is one of the biggest regrets in life.
Many people are spending time in jobs they don’t like.
It often comes down to initially choosing a wrong education or going too far down a career road.
Some people have been told to “pick an education they like” only to find out that they can’t get a job within that field.
Some people have been told to “pick an education that there is a demand for” only to find out they hate the jobs that follow along. They spend too many years on an education and take on huge student loans only to find out that they don’t like the jobs that follow with it.
I believe people should get much more guidance on finding an education/career that makes sense from an interest and demand point of view. I also believe re-training should become much easier and cheaper in an ever-changing world.
3. Not taking care of your health
Many of the Elders regret not taking care of their health.
Obviously, many people regretted allowing themselves to become fat by eating too much and exercising too little.
Surprisingly many people regretted drinking too much alcohol and taking too many drugs. This was much more common than I had thought.
Also, not taking better care of their teeth was one of the Elders’ biggest regrets in life. It is supposedly very painful not to do so!
They mentioned that they didn’t feel the effects of their behavior when they were younger, but that it really came back to haunt them in their adulthood. If you are young, one of the best investments you can make is in your health.
4. Not valuing family or friends enough
This one also broke my heart.
One of the Elders replied “not saying ‘I love you’ when I had the chance”.
Some people had treated friends or spouses badly and taken them for granted.
It is a cliché, but people don’t realize what they have before it’s gone. This was a regret for many of the Elders.
A lot of people also had a falling out with family members or friends only to realize at a later point in life how stupid it was and missing out on many good years together.
Not valuing family or relationships enough was a very common regret for the Elders, and some people never got the chance to reunite before it was too late.
5. Not saving money early enough
Surprisingly few talked about money when they reflected on their biggest regrets. I guess this is a good thing.
However, one regret occurred quite a few times, which is adding fuel to my financial independence fire.
The Elders regretted not saving more money when they were young. I guess they found out too late how money can start working for you over time.
The biggest regrets in life are all about wasting time
The Elders of Reddit and Quora are smart. In the thousands of comments, they come up with so many interesting stories and insightful reflections about their biggest regrets in life.
If there’s one core reason that sums up all of the points above, it is the fact that it all comes down to wasting time.
Wasting time in the wrong relationship.
Wasting time on the wrong education and in the wrong job.
Wasting time by mistreating their bodies.
Wasting time by not valuing family and friends.
Wasting time by not saving money early enough.
How can we make sure that we don’t end up with the same life regrets as the Elders?
We can start by learning from their mistakes.
Then we can do everything in our power to make sure that we don’t waste time. Get out of a wrong relationship, make a plan for quitting the job you don’t like, treat your body well, say “I love you” often and let your friends know how much they mean to you – and of course, save money!
We should find out what truly matters in our life and then strive to spend most of our time doing that.
Your turn: Do you have any regrets in your life? What have you done to live your life to the fullest? Let me know in the comments! 🙂