4 Ways to Deal With Financial Regret

For me, a Ford Expedition is the ultimate picture of regret. When I was young, I just had to have one. I was young and I was successful, so why not? So I did what everybody else does (the first clue that I was making a BIG mistake), and I took on a $600 car payment. Ouch. Let me tell you what those five years of $600 payments cost me. If I’d invested that money in my 20s instead of paying the bank, I’d have more than $1 million extra sitting in my retirement account in my 60s. That “must have” vehicle cost me a million dollars. One SUV. One million dollars. I still twitch a little when I see an Expedition.

Related: How to Retire a Millionaire on $10 a Day

Maybe your picture of regret looks a little different. It may be that closet of high-end clothes you rarely wear or the 75-inch Ultra HD 4K TV in the family room. Everybody has regrets, especially when it comes to finances. But not everybody deals with regret in the right way. You could let that mistake weigh you down and keep you from moving forward, or you could deal with it and move on. Here are a few suggestions to help.

1. Own Your Mistake

Don’t blame somebody else. Don’t point the finger at your life situation or your spouse or a great marketing ploy. You made a mistake with your money. Period. And guess what? That’s okay—as long as you learn from that mistake. Refusing to take responsibility leaves you open to repeat your mistake. And that’s not okay!

2. Forgive Yourself and Move On

I get it—forgiving others is a whole lot easier than forgiving yourself. But staying angry at yourself doesn’t get you any closer to your retirement dreams. It just keeps you discouraged, and when you’re down, you’re more likely to make mistakes—including money mistakes. It can be a dangerous downward spiral. Just don’t go there! Your past doesn’t determine your future unless you let it, so move on.

3. Let it Motivate You

Regret is a useless emotion unless you respond to it with action and a willingness to change. When regret rears its ugly head, use that feeling to kick your retirement planning into high gear. Redouble your efforts to get out of debt. Increase how much you put away each month. Alter your vacation plans so you can catch up on your retirement savings.

4. Tell Your Story and Help Others

Mama Hogan taught me lots of life lessons through storytelling. I plan to do the same with my boys. When it’s time, I’ll tell them my Expedition story. I want them to build on my victories and learn from my failures. You can tell your story too. I know that’s a little scary, but God can use you to influence others. And wouldn’t it feel great to know that you kept somebody from making the same mistake?

Think about regret like the rearview mirror in your car. Check it every once in a while to remind you to make better financial decisions. But think about why the rearview mirror is so small compared to the windshield—because you drive by looking forward, not backward! That big windshield offers hope for what lies ahead. And hope is what you need to keep driving toward that retirement dream!