Americans want to save tomorrow's retirement — just not as much as they want cars, clothes, and vacations today.

It’s obvious people think they should’ve saved more money throughout their lives — but new research tells us what expenses they regret and what they consider worthwhile.

Investment company Charles Schwab polled Americans with 401(k) accounts about their retirement plans and learned a few things about hindsight…

  • Two-thirds of Americans (64 percent) wish they’d spent less and saved more
  • They particularly regretted “meals out, expensive clothing, new cars, and vacations.”

But they didn’t regret “spending on more enduring and significant items” like:

  • Housing
  • Weddings
  • Student loans
  • And tuition for their kids

“The survey shows that if given the chance, many Americans would have spent differently on short-term pleasures,” says Steve Anderson, Schwab’s president, “especially compared to spending that supports their families’ long-term happiness and success.”

Cutting future regrets could relieve stress and save more money now

Close to half of respondents also (40 percent) said their No. 1 “source of financial stress” now is saving for retirement.

Why the anxiety? Schwab found the top three obstacles keeping people from saving more are…

  • Covering unexpected expenses: 40 percent
  • Refusing to sacrifice quality of life: 34 percent
  • Paying down credit card debt: 31 percent

And while those Americans say they don’t regret paying tuition for their kids, they might further stress when their kids need help paying back student loans — which more than a third of parents expect happening.

If you’re like most Americans, you would rather save for retirement conveniently…

Considering letting work help out…

The anxiety of money management might explain why 62 percent of people “expect their 401(k) to be their largest source of retirement income,” according to Schwab.

Those findings are backed up by a similar joint study from Wells Fargo and Gallup last winter, which determined Americans love 401(k)s. As reported, “most people who have 401(k)s believe they are the best way to guarantee they have cash when they aren’t working anymore.”

The Wells Fargo study also found Americans considered work-sponsored accounts “practically required” for good savings, which correlates with Schwab’s results…

  • 88 percent called a 401(k) a “must-have” benefit
  • And 90 percent said they’d “think twice before accepting a job that didn’t offer one.”

If you’re considering options, keep in mind the bonus perk some companies offer on top the 401(k) itself.

“The good news is that many 401(k) plans today offer investment advice,” said Catherine Golladay, a senior vice president at Schwab, “and that advice isn’t meant just for the affluent. It’s meant for everyone.”

If you’re not that lucky…

…Consider letting a professional help out

While Americans evidently understand the importance of their 401(k)s, most don’t get how to get the most out of them—and in fact, tend to care more about Netflix.

As Schwab’s Anderson explains: “… Participants understand the value of their 401(k)s and the importance of saving for retirement, but the findings suggest that they need guidance to prioritize their financial obligations and make the most of their assets.”

For example…

  • Most people (71 percent) want advice about their 401(k)s
  • But only 53 percent believe they need it.


  • Most people (73 percent) say they know what portion of their salary to put into a 401(k)
  • But only 54 percent say they know how much money they need to retire comfortably.

While Schwab sells various investment and retirement advice packages, lots of financial advice is free. Before paying someone for it, learn more at’s educational section on Personal Finance.

Find the right tools to manage your money day to day so you can budget without a hassle and avoid problems caused by no cash flow.

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Meet the Author

Gideon Grudo

Gideon Grudo

Writer for

Grudo is a freelance writer, editor, and content strategist based in Brooklyn, NY. Previously he was the digital editor of Air Force Magazine and the managing editor of South Florida Gay News.

News, Retirement

income, money management

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Article last modified on October 9, 2018 Published by, LLC . Mobile users may also access the AMP Version: Want to Save More Money? Cut Wasteful Spending - AMP.