The Biggest Regrets In Life According To Older Reddit Users

regrets in life

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! 🙂

14 comments

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14 comments

aGoodLifeMD April 15, 2018 - 03:20

I got your link from Millionaire Doc above. What I find most interesting about this list is how different it is from a list written by people on their deathbed from a book written by palliative care health provider Bronnie Ware.
I think you could slightly rewords here and there for more overlap, but there are differences.

I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. …
I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. …
I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. …
I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

Reply
Carl April 19, 2018 - 22:20

Thanks a lot for your comment. Yes, you are very right. There’s some similarities and some differences. In both cases, I would argue that the sooner you realize these things, the better 🙂

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BucketBabe April 14, 2018 - 10:19

It really does all come down to time wasted. I recently calculated how many days I have left if I am given 30 more years and the number is under 11,000 days. I recalculate that every so often to make sure I’m squeezing the most life out of my days now. It has been a visual reminder of just how short life really is.

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Carl April 14, 2018 - 13:25

That is a very scary, but super cool exercise! When you look at your life in number of days left, it becomes so obvious that you really need to spend your time wisely.

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Susan @ FI Ideas April 14, 2018 - 02:59

This is a really though-provoking post. First, I am so glad I married the right person! I feel so sorry for people who did not and stay anyway. I worked in engineering for my career and I have mixed feelings about it. I enjoyed a lot of things. Designing, troubleshooting, caring about my customers, having great laughs with some awesome coworkers. But there was so much time feeling trapped in that cubicle. Being able to save enough to leave at age 51 was the best decision. So far, my regrets in life are minor. I really do need to floss more! Thanks for a great article. Made my day.

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Carl April 14, 2018 - 13:24

Thanks for the honest comment, Susan! Overall, it seems like you have made very good choices in your life 🙂 I think it is hard to find a job where all parts are fun. For me, I also enjoy meeting awesome people, problem solving and the relatively hectic environment (I never just sit and wait for time to pass), but I really don’t like the unpredictability and amount of hours I work. I know that it will have to change when I get kids some day.

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Millionaire Doc April 12, 2018 - 21:35

Great advice from elders who have been down the road of life. A “successful” life without happiness and fulfillment is a formula for regret.

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Carl April 13, 2018 - 22:49

Thanks, Doc! I agree – and it is better to realize that sooner rather than later.

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Michelle | Operation Husband Rescue April 12, 2018 - 15:58

If you wrote a book on this subject it would be a bestseller, I’m sure. Sometimes people are shortsighted, and it takes something like an Elder laying out all their regrets to show them what an opportunity youth is.

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Carl April 12, 2018 - 19:16

That’s a great idea 🙂 You are very right, people are very shortsighted – I have a tendency to be shortsighted myself, but reading the Elders’ wise words really made me think.

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Aparna @ Elementum Money March 23, 2018 - 17:31

Quite an interesting post. Makes you realise that better to think carefully before spending time or money early on in life to be happier in future.

Another thing I realised reading your post is how it might be more beneficial to think long term and avoid the temptation of instant gratification, be it about healthy habits or money saving behavior.

Thanks for consolidating such interesting insights!

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Carl @ MoneyMow March 25, 2018 - 22:17

Thanks, Aparna! I’m happy you liked it.

Yes, finding that sweet spot between short term and long term happiness/pleasure/gratification is what I try to strive for, although it is easier said than done.

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GrowtoRetire March 23, 2018 - 16:12

I’ve said it a thousand times… TIME is our most valuable asset. That’s why I try to be efficient and waste no time at all in everything I do.

House? Near where you work.
Car? Easy to park or consider even a motorcycle.
Shopping? In the morning is a lot faster.

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Carl @ MoneyMow March 25, 2018 - 22:15

You are so right! Time is the only real asset of importance, and yet time is being wasted in so many places. I like your way of optimizing different elements of a normal day to free up more time.

Reply

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