The statute of limitations on regret

Recently I read a blog post so glum I wondered how I might do a well-being check on its anonymous author. “The vacation high wears off” at The Quest for $85,000 describes the aftermath of a trip to visit aging family members. Now the writer's own life feels “shorter” and the three years until her husband's retirement seem unbearably long.

She writes:

It's three more years of watching our precious time on this planet circle the drain. This is what one gets when one spends every single f*cking cent with no regard for the future…I am regretful beyond belief.

If I could only have one more chance…Just enough money to live on for as long as we are alive, enough to enable us to do the things we'd like to do before we die, enough money to enable us to help those people and those causes around us that we'd like to help. … I have too much time on my hands and too much time to wish for something I can't have right now.

Thanks to previous financial mistakes (overspending, hoarding), the couple must watch every penny. I don't know if the writer, who blogs as “The Quest,” works outside the home (or whether she can work at all). I do know that they live in Los Angeles, which she refers to as another big mistake.

I also know that she needs to move on.

Learning From the Past

Constantly berating herself over past money mistakes is no way to live. Framing the next three years as 1,095 days of drain-circling will surely drive her mad. It will also waste that time — and time, like land, is something they're not making more of. Those three years are to be lived, not endured.

I take this so personally because it's so familiar. Far too often I focused on just getting through the days rather than living them.

It wasn't only those gray-shrouded days that were lost, either. Later on, in the midst of changing my life, I spent additional time obsessing over what I could have done, what I should have done, all those years.

Important tip: You cannot change the past. You can only learn from it. That's why I propose a statute of limitations on regret.

A Second Chance (Sort Of)

Understand: I'm not saying that you shouldn't fix the financial messes you made. Accepting responsibility for actions (or inactions) is what adults do. What I'm saying is that regret is self-defeating and ultimately pointless.

Short-term regret can be useful if it turns a mistake into an object lesson: No more bank fees! I'm going to start tracking my spending.

But it doesn't do you a damn bit of good to moan about how much money you wasted on bank fees all those years. Nor does it help to bang your head on the wall every time you think of all the Stuff that you bought and discarded, or to wish you'd put more into retirement when you were younger.

The author probably won't get that second financial chance she so desperately wants. What she does get is a chance to change.

A Meaningful Life

Things aren't completely dismal. For example, they've saved $69,000 of their $85k retirement goal. The Quest also recently ditched a car that had given her nothing but trouble. Although getting around via L.A. public transit can be challenging, she's going to do it. (She has to: They're a one-car couple now.)

So she's clearly capable of prioritizing and making crisp choices. Her next one should be to ditch the regret, or at least to give it an image makeover.

Oscar Wilde said that “experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.” If you turn regret into “experience,” you'll have a fighting chance at remaining true to your goals. The Quest has already learned from experience: She acknowledges that because of past overspending she can't have the life she wants right now.

The next step: to see this new way of living as a consequence, not a punishment. The difference is saying “I goofed and I will now look for ways to fix it” vs. “I goofed and I must now punish myself endlessly.”

The Quest and her husband fouled up financially. The consequence: being super-careful with money for at least the next three years. But these years need not be lived like a long stretch in solitary. It might not be the life they wish they could afford, yet there are ways to live richly on a budget.

Doing without the things they want won't be easy at first — or maybe ever. In time they should feel some measure of pride at having taken charge of their finances. Smarter choices now will mean less anxiety in the next stage of their lives.

Don't Dwell on the Past

Does a statute of limitations on regret really work? As they say in the 12-step programs, it works if you work it.

Occasionally I still want to dent the drywall with my own noggin when I think about past money blunders. However, those occasions are fewer and farther between. When they pop up, I remind myself that I can't retrofit the past with smarter behavior.

Agonizing over goofs and gaffes is an energy suck. It doesn't matter what you should have done. What matters is what you do next.

So why not declare your own statute of limitations on regret? You have nothing to lose but self-recrimination. Believe me, you won't be sorry about that.

Shout-out to The Quest: If you're reading this, I hope you'll join us. I also hope you do okay on the Los Angeles bus system.

J.D.'s Note

I know some of you hate it when I editorialize on other author's articles, but I'm going to do so here. I love this post. For years, I too beat myself up over past decisions. I made myself miserable, and eventually made things miserable for those around me. For the past few years, I've been fixing those mistakes.

So, I agree with Donna: Don't dwell on the past. And I would add, don't fuss about the future. Sure, you need to plan for tomorrow, but you shouldn't spend all your brainwidth worrying about tomorrow. Be in the moment. Live for today. Enjoy what you've been given. It's a blessing. The past is gone and irrelevant; you can't control the future. Do what you can to make the best decisions in this moment, and that will maximize your chance of success.

More about...Psychology

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Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago

LOVE this post! I think we need to stop being so mean to ourselves and get on with our goals. It’s easier said than done sometimes when you feel like you’ve already “missed the boat.” This post is a good reminder to keep moving forward 🙂

Jen
Jen
8 years ago

I was just reliving some of my psychology college days and got an Albert Ellis book out of the library. He has lots to say about accepting what’s already happened and not holding ourselves to a standard that’s not only unachievable but not what we’d expect from anyone else.

http://www.rebtnetwork.org/whatis.html

Jacq
Jacq
8 years ago
Reply to  Jen

Agree – Ellis is great for this stuff. Plus you have to love someone who uses the term “musterbation”.

Beth
Beth
8 years ago
Reply to  Jen

I think Ellis is on to something 😉 What upsets me is not feeling like I’m living the life I thought I would be — I’m still missing the husband, kids, house, dog, higher paying job, etc. I feel regret when I think about not having those things. Yet when I look back at my decisions, I can’t help but feel I did the best I could most of the time. I didn’t get married — but I didn’t marry the wrong guy either. I didn’t find my career calling right away, but I met some fantastic people and had… Read more »

Kristen
Kristen
8 years ago
Reply to  Beth

One of my favorite passages (from Mary Schmick and popularized in a song by Baz Luhrman, from the Sunscreen speech):

Don’t waste your time on jealousy;
Sometimes you’re ahead,
Sometimes You’re behind.
The race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself.

Beth
Beth
8 years ago
Reply to  Kristen

What a nice way of putting it! Thanks for sharing.

Mindy
Mindy
8 years ago
Reply to  Jen

Great topic!! One book I return to again and again is David Burns’ “Feeling Good” – which is based on Ellis’ work. The book is filled with **practical AND compassionate** techniques – GREAT, HELPFUL and VERY EFFECTIVE ways to actually feel BETTER — and even FEEL GOOD! If you want to feel better, and release a lot of your regrets, help yourself by READING THE BOOK!! You’ll thank me! 🙂

Jacq
Jacq
8 years ago

This sounds like classic Kubler-Ross stages of grief that she’s going through. 1 – Denial 2 – Anger 3 – Bargaining 4 – Depression 5 – Acceptance You’re asking her to be at stage 5 when she may need to go through 2-4. Exhorting someone to “snap out of it” will sometimes make someone MORE depressed (ie. what’s wrong with me that I’m not looking at things the “right” way and dwelling on this?) Regret isn’t always a bad thing – she’s probably using it to remind herself not to go back to her old habits again. So it serves… Read more »

Jason @ WorkSaveLive
Jason @ WorkSaveLive
8 years ago

It’s extremely common for anybody that has made a mistake with money to regret that decision or their actions. I’ve coached a few hundred people and I’m not sure one of them hasn’t wished they would have saved for retirement earlier, would not have gone into debt, or managed money better. The reality is that every person on the planet can look back in regret something, but what good does that do? The only good to look back on the past is to learn from mistakes you made. You can learn from them or you can help others avoid the… Read more »

TB at BlueCollarWorkman
TB at BlueCollarWorkman
8 years ago

And tucking in the spending for a few years isn’t purgatory. It’s about the people in your life and enjoying yiour time with them, not about spending pieces of paper. Go hiking, go on walks, sit and talk in your kitchen over a cup of joe… there’s a bazillion free things to do where you can live and enjoy the company of those you love!

chacha1
chacha1
8 years ago

perhaps especially in Los Angeles. Soooo much great free (or low-cost) stuff to enjoy here.

Carrie
Carrie
8 years ago

This is a great post!

I still mull over a bad decision made almost 2 years ago and it drives me crazy. The only way I can shake it is to try and put the energy into fixing it.

Annelise
Annelise
8 years ago

Brilliant! I *love* the self-help-style articles on this site, such as JD’s story and posts like this one. For a few years I had a similar, but slightly different, problem – I used to obsess over a very happy period in my life that had ended, and spent a long time trying to recreate it or cling on to the remnants of it and not really moving on with my life. I was full of regret for letting that happy situation slip through my fingers. It took me a while to realise that this happy time had only come about… Read more »

Barb
Barb
8 years ago

Thank you so much for this post. I may need to piggyback a blog off of this one. As a wife who spent all of her late husband’s life insurance in a short period time and regularly wants to kick myself in the head, I know that accomplishes absolutely nothing. Life is what you make of it now!!

MelodyO
MelodyO
8 years ago
Reply to  Barb

Barb, I’d love to read a post about your experience (if you and/or JD is interested, of course). I’m curious to know what led you to the decisions you made, because my mom did the same thing with my dad’s life insurance, and we always said that she spent it one $100 bill at a time.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  MelodyO

Ditto. Your experience, Barb, could help others arm themselves against grief-overspending. That is, if you feel you could revisit that publicly.
Who knows: It might help you to kick the habit of kicking yourself. As you write about what happened it may come into sharper focus.

Barb
Barb
8 years ago
Reply to  MelodyO

Melody and Donna I have been thinking about that, although Ive never written for JD before (only on my blog). I will say that in respoonse to all the extreme travel articles my origina intent was to write an article on frugal road tripping for the rest of us. Perhaps this will be a better fit. While I cannot speak for your mom, I can say the first year of widowhood I was in a foreign country away from family and basically ate and ordered stuff online. also I had teenagers and figured that they had suffered enough and deserved… Read more »

Lois
Lois
8 years ago
Reply to  Barb

Barb, My husband passed away 8 years ago, but he didn’t have life insurance. We also didn’t have any savings. Since then, I sold the higher priced house and put the proceeds into a down payment on a townhome, which I love. I had a couple of different jobs, but now have a stable one for the last 5 years. One daughter got married and one just graduated college, and in 2 years I should be graduating myself. My husband started a small business, which I work at in my “spare time”. It’s not a lot of money, but helps… Read more »

Alison Wiley
Alison Wiley
8 years ago

Having a background in counseling, I do think The Quest person is in Kubler-Ross’s ‘grief’ stage. I think Donna is saying she needs to not stay STUCK in her grief — which I think is a courage issue. Funny, I just wrote about cultivating courage in our lives http://www.diamondcutlife.org/on-being-a-matador-part-ii/

. . . And I like it when JD adds his own thoughts at the end of guest posts! 🙂

That Other Jean
That Other Jean
8 years ago

Well, yeah. We’re retired, with considerably less money than we thought we’d have. I think occasionally about the money we should have banked instead of spent, but if you dwell on that sort of thing, it will drive you nuts. I’d rather spend my time figuring out how to get the absolute best out of the life I have now, rather than dwelling on what I might have had if we’d been more careful with our cash. I’m a great deal more mindful with our money now that I have to be, and that has been a great benefit. And… Read more »

Cindy
Cindy
8 years ago

I love this article. So much of this has to do with attitude. Yes, mistakes were made, and yes, that means three years of work before retirement. But why can’t those be creative, productive, fun years making frugality a game and not an obligation? It’s a hard balance, I know, and seeing frugality as fun is much easier when it isn’t necessary, but Donna is so right: Let it go. Great article!

notpollyanna
notpollyanna
8 years ago

I think it helps, in terms of regret, that I know that I have always done my best. I may not have had the knowledge or the forethought to have made “better” decisions, but I did my best with what I had available to me. I’m not sure what this is like for other people. Do they regret things because they can’t have compassion for their former self who made those decisions? Did they not do their best, intentionally short-changing their future selves or otherwise doing things they knew to be “wrong”? Were their mistakes just so huge and life-altering… Read more »

Quest
Quest
8 years ago
Reply to  notpollyanna

I think you are onto something here. I would describe a couple of my ‘mistakes’ as having been huge and life altering. There would not be room in my life for any more of these types of mistakes. My severe emotional issues that have stemmed from an abusive childhood drove every single decision I made and it wasn’t until I found that ‘courage’ to face those issues that things began to change for me. In the meantime, however, I thundered through life like a one woman wrecking ball.

Beth
Beth
8 years ago
Reply to  Quest

I’m glad Donna introduced us to your blog. Best wishes meeting your goal 🙂 I hope in a few year’s time you’ll be able to say “Man, that was tough — but we made it through!”

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  Beth

What Beth said.

Anonymous
Anonymous
8 years ago
Reply to  Quest

Quest, do you have a job? If not maybe you could speed things up for your DH or make your life “easier” for the next 3 years.

Quest
Quest
8 years ago
Reply to  Anonymous

No, I don’t have a job right now. It would help things considerably if I could work. I am going to admit that my financial and other personal disasters have paralyzed me. Depression and regret have all conspired to make me feel like a failure. I feel that I have nothing to offer but there’s also a dumb fear involved that makes me think that if I start making money again, I’ll start hoarding again because that’s what I’ve always done. Having said that, I do plan to start my own business soon ~ I have made a lot of… Read more »

Jill
Jill
8 years ago
Reply to  notpollyanna

I like the points you made. We are often not very nice to ourselves, but for the most part, we generally make the best decisions we can given the circumstances. It’s that last part, the circumstances, that we then forget about which can lead to regrets. Sure, maybe a better decision could have been made, but at that time it was most likely the best (or only) choice…otherwise you woulda done something else.

Laura
Laura
8 years ago
Reply to  Jill

What Jill said, except I’d add knowledge to circumstances. Our circumstances shape(d) our choices, but so does knowledge, which to me includes not just practical knowledge like that of personal finance techniques, but also knowledge of my habits and what pushes my buttons. I too have plenty of regrets, and waste too much time wishing I could somehow magically go back in time like in “Peggy Sue Got Married” and try a redo (although my regrets are over career and money, not my marriage and child). But it would be as the person I am now, not the person I… Read more »

Quest
Quest
8 years ago
Reply to  Laura

You are absolutely right about the personal finance realm on the internet being relatively ‘new’. I didn’t get a home computer until the year 2000 and, at that time, was always working anyway so didn’t really get the opportunity to explore the possibilities.

It wasn’t until 2007/2008 that I discovered personal finance blogs, especially Get Rich Slowly which has always been my favorite. Since that time, reading PF blogs (and the comments) and learning from other people has been a tremendous resource.

Sam
Sam
8 years ago

I think regret can be a powerful emotion and having regret over past choices can motivate one in the future. Although I have personally been generally disciplined with my finances over the years, I regret the three or four years of credit card spending from 2002-2006. Yes I paid the credit cards off each month, but I spent way too much on stuff I didn’t need (keeping up with my professional peers). That regret motivates me to live my life differently now, no credit cards, more mindful spending, better planning, etc. I regret the last investment property we bought, its… Read more »

Holly
Holly
8 years ago

This is one of the best posts I’ve ever read on GRS. Please, more like this!

Sometimes I feel like regret and angst are like a stuffed animal that I pet when I’m anxious, except that it makes me feel worse not better. I’m glad that I recognize now that I need to put it down and move on. The regret and angst can stay on a shelf where I can see them and remember why I need to follow my plan, but no more agonizing over them.

Quest
Quest
8 years ago

Thank you, Donna, for your support in this post. I feel it coming through loud and clear 🙂 Have you guys ever watched the TV program ‘Hoarders’? That was me, with a house and yard full of stuff. I hoarded to suppress severe emotional issues and depression and ended up with tons of stuff and hundreds of thousands of dollars wasted. At one time, both my spouse and I held 6-figure jobs. We saved nothing because I spent it all. Today, we barely have anything to show for the years we spent working. And THAT is what I am having… Read more »

Jacq
Jacq
8 years ago
Reply to  Quest

Quest, I read more of your blog and it seems like you’re in a great place, making a lot of progress and positive most of the time.

This post sounds more typical for you:
http://questfor85.blogspot.ca/2012/05/carless-sort-of-in-california.html

“It feels weird to be downsizing so much. I made a commitment to downsize and, by dog, I’m doing it. It feels good though. Instead of feeling that I am taking steps backward by losing a car, I feel – as an ex-hoarder – that I am making massive psychological inroads to a more sustainable life.”

Yay for you! Reader story please!!

Beth
Beth
8 years ago
Reply to  Jacq

I second the reader story idea! Would love to hear more from Quest on GRS!

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  Beth

We’re ganging up on you, Quest, because I’d like to see you submit a Reader’s Story, too.

Quest
Quest
8 years ago
Reply to  Beth

Let’s see what JD says LOL

Ash
Ash
8 years ago
Reply to  Beth

As would I!!!

Quest
Quest
8 years ago
Reply to  Jacq

@Jacq ~ Thank you for your support. I do feel that I am making progress and getting rid of that car was one more step in the right direction!

Rosa
Rosa
8 years ago
Reply to  Quest

Quest, if you pulled yourself up out of that hole, you won. Seriously. I know it doesn’t help to give you orders about your feelings (and I really don’t want to make you feel bad about not letting go of feeling bad…) but I know enough middle aged people cleaning up the hoards of dead elderly relatives, or supporting addicted or otherwise mentally ill parents, that I feel like I can say you’re a winner in this race already. Just THINK of how much better things are – for you, for your kids, for your husband – than they would… Read more »

Quest
Quest
8 years ago
Reply to  Rosa

Thanks for your kind words Rosa. I truly am thankful that I stopped spending and hoarding. My problems and regret lie in seeing the damage that I’ve done to other people. That’s where the real regret lies and it’s up to me to personally rectify as much of the damage as I can. Some of the things I’ve done in the past I cannot apologize for. The people involved in those instances are just going to want me to stay as far away from them as possible and I don’t blame them. Sometimes one cannot disturb someone else’s peace of… Read more »

Kelly@thehungryegghead
8 years ago
Reply to  Quest

I think that you are very lucky that your husband stood by you during your hoarding years. Why not focus on that?

Will
Will
8 years ago
Reply to  Quest

Quest – My wife and I were in the same boat for a long time and I was just talking to her about the regret portion that frequently punches me in the face regarding the previous handling of our finances. The more years I put behind me and the bad decisions the happier I feel that I did something to turn the tide instead of continuing as we were. The thought that we could be not only 3 years behind where we were, but in 3 years worse shape than we were makes me feel about 100 pounds lighter. I… Read more »

Quest
Quest
8 years ago
Reply to  Will

Thanks Will 🙂 It does feel good to be moving forward. When I think about where I was and compare it to where I am now, I am indeed thankful that I stopped being so self destructive when I did. Well done to you too for turning your finances around and becoming happier with your life. Regret is useful. It means that you have learned from your mistakes and that you are not doomed to repeat them.

Lauren {Adventures in Flip Flops}
Lauren {Adventures in Flip Flops}
8 years ago

Oh, I can so relate. When I’m having a tight few weeks I spend a lot of time thinking about how dumb I was for taking on too many student loans, etc. It’s hard when I think of how much I *could* be making if half of my income didn’t go to student loans.

Budget & the Beach
Budget & the Beach
8 years ago

Good advice, because although I don’t dwell in the past too much, I really worry too much about the future!

margot
margot
8 years ago

Are you sure that Quest’s issues is really having too much regret. Her writing makes her sound more like a drama queen who is milking the content of her writing for her blog. And the whining about her present situation is just tiring, not sympathetic and shows a lack of perspective. No matter how much her family is cutting back right now, they still have all of their basic needs met, they have plenty of stuff beyond their needs, and they are living much more luxurious lives than the vast majority of people in the world. Most of the world’s… Read more »

KSR
KSR
8 years ago
Reply to  margot

It’s a slice of a perspective that follows the line of “Everybody’s got a hole to fill.” Some people dump in alcohol or drugs, some toss in a shopping addiction, some find mood stability in a (OMG much missed) cig. All emotional pitfalls filled by something that, in the end, results in some form of financial need of repair. This woman had a bad childhood that left a mark. She used STUFF to fill the void. She’s now living with the regret and is seeking the means to move on. This kind of thing is happening all around us. Quest—congrats… Read more »

Quest
Quest
8 years ago
Reply to  margot

I have been a deceitful liar for many years, I’m sorry to say. When I write my daily journal, I try to be honest with myself and to write from my heart. I do not sugar coat anything I write because that does me no good. My daily mood influences the way I come across. If I feel whiny, I whine. If I’m feeling guilty, I say so. Am I a drama queen? Possibly LOL I have been a bad person, Margot, and I’ve blamed it on years of abuse beginning when I was just a baby. For years growing… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  margot

Margot: A friend of mine says he tries not to jump to conclusions about someone because “you never know what that person is going through.” The Quest’s response, below, indicates not just that she had a pretty awful upbringing but that she is trying, finally, to work through it. Her website is one way to get those feelings out. We all react differently to stress and pain. One of her coping mechanisms, apparently, was spending money. Now she’s trying to change. I give her props for that, because it’s hard as hell (ask me how I know) but way better… Read more »

Justin @ The Family Finances
Justin @ The Family Finances
8 years ago

In the accounting/economics field, this is what we refer to as a “sunk cost”. It’s something that has been done that you’ll never get back. As such, that cost should not play a role in your future decisions. Of course you should learn from your past mistakes, but dwelling on them endlessly does no good.

You should only focus on the things that you control. Living a past-focused life deprives you of living in the present and preparing for the future.

Lincoln
Lincoln
8 years ago

Some people wish they’d spent more money in their youth and had more fun. Some people wish they’d saved more for their golden years. The reality is most people probably want both, and they wish that their resources were unlimited. But, despite your best calculations, you could be “circling the drain” for decades more, or you could get hit by a bus tomorrow, and either way your resources are limited. It’s counterproductive trying to plan things out perfectly. The perfect is the enemy of the good. Living a good life is all you can try to do, and hopefully that’s… Read more »

Quest
Quest
8 years ago
Reply to  Lincoln

My irrational former self is the self that I felt most comfortable with. If life was going smoothly, I had to find a way to disrupt it. That does indeed sound immature until I point out that I lived in an unstable, violent and chaotic environment for almost 20 years before getting out. That was my reality, a ‘comfortable’ routine. Do I mourn the loss of that self? Yes, because it’s familiar to me and easy to slip back into but also NO, because I know that I have to change my ways – it’s difficult to change but I… Read more »

Cheryl
Cheryl
8 years ago

I also LOVE this post. Having lived through most of my life as poor or low middle class I only recently was able to start saving. Being in my early 50’s that is frightening but nothing I can change. I have a suggesting for the woman but do not believe this forum is a place to promote the business that will help me find freedom from my dreaded 8-5 workplace. I am looking forward, not back.
Thanks for a fabulous reminder.

Ms Life
Ms Life
8 years ago

Very good post, Donna. It is very easy to dwell on your negative decision and unfortunately, many of us do it. One way I have found a way of not feeling like a failure, is to remind myself of the good decisions that I have made in the past. I look at what I have done, achieved and the thriving relationships I have. That normally never fails to make me tone down the harshness with which I view myself.

Ely
Ely
8 years ago

I LOVE DONNA FREEDMAN.

(I almost called you Donna Noble, but I love her too so it’s all good. :))

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
8 years ago
Reply to  Ely

I expect a post about personal finance on the Planet of the Ood shortly.

partgypsy
partgypsy
8 years ago

LOL. And because of her I invision Donna Freeman having thick brown possibly auburn hair, because that’s what I think Donnas look like now!

Ely
Ely
8 years ago
Reply to  partgypsy

I love you guys too. 🙂

Carla
Carla
8 years ago

It is so easy to dwell on the past when our current situation is staring us in the face. Sometimes I feel stuck because of certain situations I don’t have control over. I also go into the “if only I did X back in 1996, didn’t marry X in 1999, didn’t do this, that, and the other… (and so on) I wouldn’t be in this situation now. The irony is, its not like I traded financial security for something at least enjoyable. I was miserable and scraping-by most of the time back then as well. I can’t even say, “at… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  Carla

A big chunk of my regretfulness has been about my marriage. But it’s all of a piece: If I hadn’t married him, I never would have moved to Alaska and Alaska is where my life as a writer began. And if I hadn’t gone broke after leaving the marriage 23 years later, I wouldn’t be doing this job — doing a freelance piece about going broke was what got me started at MSN Money. I probably wouldn’t have my university degree, either. Got that in my late 40s. My point: We’re shaped by the bad stuff as well as the… Read more »

Quest
Quest
8 years ago
Reply to  Donna Freedman

@Donna ~ I really want to thank you again for sticking my post out there in the blogosphere. Several posters have found my story depressing and have stated that they find me depressing by default LOL Well guess what? I AM depressed but I have a feeling that life is going to get a whole lot better. I don’t feel as alone today.

Carla
Carla
8 years ago
Reply to  Donna Freedman

Thank you for sharing that perspective, Donna! I can think of a million things I wouldn’t have if it wasn’t for some of the poor decisions I’ve made in the past.

Quest
Quest
8 years ago
Reply to  Carla

Those people lucky enough to have been born into a family that wasn’t poor or dysfunctional don’t always realize just how difficult life can be for those who endured poverty and violence. Some people are able to move completely beyond such an upbringing and I envy them because I just wasn’t born with a personality like that. I feel everything too much.

Anonymous
Anonymous
8 years ago
Reply to  Quest

Every family is dysfunctional whether or not they accept that fact.

Laura
Laura
8 years ago
Reply to  Anonymous

Every family is dysfunctional but some are just a little dysfunctional while others are extremely so. I’m always amazed to find families where the members actually LIKE each other and WANT to get together! My family wasn’t as bad as Quest’s (no physical violence, no fearing for my life) but they do put the “dys” in “dysfunctional”. DH’s mom, OTOH, is Quest’s dad’s twin separated at birth. We always go out to eat on the anniversary of her death to celebrate our freedom. I’ve also found that people from families that are just a little dysfunctional don’t really grasp what… Read more »

Quest
Quest
8 years ago
Reply to  Anonymous

There is truth that every family is dysfunctional to some degree but extreme abuse of any kind always takes it to that whole other level.

Carla
Carla
8 years ago
Reply to  Quest

Hey Quest – I do understand what you mean. Thankfully I’m becoming more conscious how much my upbringing influenced my life. Once I was able to come to terms with it and take steps in “raising myself” all over again, I’m able to make better decisions.

Quest
Quest
8 years ago
Reply to  Carla

Carla, that is probably what I have been doing these past 3 or 4 years: reprogramming myself. I have had to train myself to think in a different way to achieve different results. I am seeing in these comments that there are many people who have had the same experiences in childhood and, for that reason, I don’t feel as alone today. There is no doubt that a traumatized child grows into a traumatized adult. We think we’re ‘hiding’ the trauma but it will surface continually in any number of ways. Keep moving forward.

Carla
Carla
8 years ago
Reply to  Carla

Yes, Quest. One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made was believing that what happened in my formative years had nothing to do with adulthood. I foolishly though (probably as a way to protect myself) the past was the past. That could not be farther from the truth.

cc
cc
8 years ago
Reply to  Carla

timely post, and most appreciated.

donna, you are the best.

WWII Kid
WWII Kid
8 years ago

Alas, my biggest financial regret is rescuing all the abandoned, homeless cats I have over the years. And while I have stopped doing it for the most part, I am still responsible for more cats than I care to be (and calculate that I will have to do so for another 15 years, as mine have an average lifespan of 18 years). Unfortunately, they’re not like clothes or DVDs or collectibles that can be sold on Ebay or donated to charity. They’re living, breathing creatures. Even the local shelters and rescue groups are swamped and can’t take them and I… Read more »

Ash
Ash
8 years ago
Reply to  WWII Kid

I bet those lucky cats have no regrets!!! Thank you on their behalf.

Carol
Carol
8 years ago

If you ever locate this person, send them a copy of the DVD “Rent.” There are a lot of much younger people in this play who are going to meet an early death(AIDS), yet they choose to “forget regret.” It is inspiring.

Crystal
Crystal
8 years ago

GREAT point Donna! Regrets are natural, but centering your life on them ends up wasting even more of your precious time here. I have very few lasting regrets BECAUSE I go out of my way to either apologize for my mistakes or to forgive myself enough to move on. There are of course a few things I will always wish for time travel for, but living my life based on that would be bad for me and those who love me. GREAT POST!

Ornella
Ornella
8 years ago

I’ve learned taking responsibility for my own financial decision have allowed me to make better decisions and plan for the long-term.

This is a great post. I’ve try to avoid living with regret. I’m an advocate to splurge when it makes financial sense.

You have to live for today and plan for tomorrow. Holding on to regrets only hold you back from achieving finanical success.

Kelly@thehungryegghead
8 years ago

Many times I berate myself because I wasted so much money and consumed calories I should not have. But that does not help in the grand scheme of things. I can only hope to do better in the future. That mentality has helped me tremendously.

I stopped purchasing luxury bags and I now make a weekly meal plan along with a weekly schedule. I choose to live each day optimistically and try to do a good deed every day.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago

The same friend who tries not to judge people on first glimpse also works to do at least one nice thing a day for someone else, preferably without that person knowing it.
I want to be like that.

Laura
Laura
8 years ago
Reply to  Donna Freedman

Donna, you did that today with this post.

J.D. Roth
J.D. Roth
8 years ago

I wanted to mention something else I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. One of the reasons I was able to move beyond regret is because I like who I am today. I like who I’ve become, what I do, and where I’m going. Because I like who I am, I can’t regret any of the choices I’ve made in the past. After all, I wouldn’t be who I am had I not been deep in debt, had I not been unhappy in my marriage, had I not wasted many many hours on videogames. Sure, all of those things sound… Read more »

Quest
Quest
8 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

I used to like myself just fine while I was spending and distracting myself with hoarding. When I stopped all that and was left with just ‘me’, I realized that I was actually very empty inside. It was a harsh reality. Things are better for me/us now than 3 years ago but I know that there is still a way to go. Regardless of several commenters telling me that I should snap out of it, I know that I am experiencing a grieving process and it must be worked through. I’ll know when it’s done.

cc
cc
8 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

i don’t mean to make light of your experiences- but i felt the same way for a long time about my video game usage. LOVE VIDEO GAMES! since i was a kid (so like a good 3 decades so far). i felt guilty about spending so much time on them until… i had the opportunity to design a video game. since i had spent so much time engrossed in them, i knew about how they worked and what i wanted out of my game- it was a tremendously satisfying experience. if i hadn’t spent so much time playing video games… Read more »

notpollyanna
notpollyanna
8 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

It is a bit of a tangent because it isn’t at all money related, but it is regret related. My biggest regret is not killing myself when I was 14 and first fixated on suicide. (I know it is tragically sad, but let’s not have a suicide deterrent session. I’m not currently suicidal and I mention this to make the rest of this comment make sense.) Like I mentioned before, I can be compassionate for my 14 year old self who didn’t kill herself, but not killing myself meant I had to endure a decade of 24/7 psychiatric crisis and… Read more »

Quest
Quest
8 years ago
Reply to  notpollyanna

notpollyanna, it takes a certain courage to admit to yourself (and everyone reading) that you wanted to kill yourself. I spent most of my teen years doing the same (although I didn’t realize it) by getting blind drunk and poisoned. At the heart of it, we are both survivors because we’re still here LOL so look at it from that angle. You’re a survivor. There’s a certain comfort in that reality. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger ~ I believe that’s true ~ and in strength there has to be hope, right? I always hope that my strength will… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  notpollyanna

I’m so sorry for the pain and the struggle. A close family member has gone through similar agonies, with a physical disability thrown in for good measure. At times it seems things are getting better for her but the improvement is cyclical. To hear people tell it, she should be able to lighten up because after all, she has it better than so many other people. Which is true, but it doesn’t erase the very real pain she feels and which may never fully disappear. I wish there were easy answers for you both — that a new vitamin therapy… Read more »

Quest
Quest
8 years ago
Reply to  Donna Freedman

Depression is a horrible state to deal with. When that cloud comes over, I feel useless, worthless, unlovable, stick any negative adjective in there. But, having said that, there is resilience at my core. I am proud of that and thankful that I have it. I empathize with anyone who is dealing with depression because it is not something that can just be snapped out of. It’s very real and very debilitating. At the heart of it all though we are SURVIVORS and can’t ever forget that. Embrace that inner strength because it’s there.

savnmypennies
savnmypennies
8 years ago

Thanks for the post! Just a couple of weeks ago I got a traffic ticket that cost $180! I was so upset over this that I called my husband and burst into tears, en route to the office to start my work day. All I could think of was the 1,000 other ways we could use the money in more productive and beneficial ways. Being 6 months pregnant, I am unusually emotional, and planning every extra dollar for the new baby. I know I’m not a reckless spender so it’s time to pay the fine and move on. And next… Read more »

Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager
Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager
8 years ago

Three years will go down the drain, unless The Quest changes her attitude.

Quest
Quest
8 years ago

You’re right.

Susan
Susan
8 years ago

Please look at the things you did right and enjoy what YOU DO HAVE!!! Life is short and when you are faced with your mortality, you’d be surprised how the mundane becomes very precious.

Ash
Ash
8 years ago
Reply to  Susan

Good idea Susan to focus on the things you did do right and be grateful for the things you have. I am going to do this more often. Thanks for reminding me!!

Susan
Susan
8 years ago
Reply to  Ash

🙂

Ginger
Ginger
8 years ago

Wow. Without a doubt, the best I’ve ever read about regret. One could apply this to any area of one’s life where regret is killing the joy in the present moment. I’m glad I stopped by to read today.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  Ginger

I’m glad, too.

Ash
Ash
8 years ago

Oh Donna I so needed this post. It is as you wrote it especially for me. At fifty two(I had a wake up call two years ago) I feel I have left it rather late but I am making up for lost time and the thrill of living frugally and planning careflly can be exhillarating at times. I am pledging now not to waste another moment regretting the past. One advantage of being older and wiser is that I make fewer bad choices(in my case painful relationships). I can take care of myself better and occasionally these days even put… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  Ash

As I said to someone recently, albeit in a slightly different context, “Just because you’re late to the game doesn’t mean there isn’t the possibility of extra innings.”
I’m 54 myself and in some ways feel as though I’m just getting started.
My friend and I saw “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” earlier today. In the credits is the admonition that life can happen when you least expect it and you should grab it.
[[grabbing…]]

Quest
Quest
8 years ago
Reply to  Donna Freedman

That movie is on my to-see list. I’m feeling very positive this evening and that movie will most likely reinforce the positivity. I was expecting a lot of flak from people based on the negativity of many of my blog posts (and I HAVE received some flak!) but mostly the vibe has been kind. I’m glad that most people are understanding and can relate to the overwhelming sense of regret that I’m coming to terms with.

“Just because you’re late to the game doesn’t mean there isn’t the possibility of extra innings.” I really like that quote.

Anonymous
Anonymous
8 years ago

One word in Donna’s post was endurance. I read a great definition of endurance today that differs from Donna’s take on it. *** w99 10/1 p. 17 par. 2 You Can Endure to the End *** A Greek-English lexicon defines the Greek verb for “endure” as “remain instead of fleeing . . . stand one’s ground, hold out.” Concerning the Greek noun for “endurance,” one reference work says: “It is the spirit which can bear things, not simply with resignation, but with blazing hope . . . It is the quality which keeps a man on his feet with his face to the wind.… Read more »

CB
CB
8 years ago

Agreed! We are just starting on our debt-payoff-frugal(er)-living journey and I actually don’t have many regrets but I was obsessing over finances on a daily basis and feeling miserable in the process. The way that I’ve resolved it in my mind is that this is just the way that we live now. We lived a certain way before, and now we live this way (e.g. we pay cash and stay within our budget at the grocery store.) This also solved my worries that we will fall into debt again in the future. That won’t happen because we live (and think)… Read more »

rosarugosa
rosarugosa
8 years ago

Thanks for the great post. This is a message that I really needed to hear today. I especially loved the line “… I remind myself that I can’t retrofit the past with smarter behavior.”

Marcella
Marcella
8 years ago

I agree with all above who said this post is made of awesomesauce. For some practical ways to deal with regret, I have a $1000/year line item in my budget called “shit happens”. Every year or so, one tends to spend about that ’cause some sort of shit happens. It might be a mistake on your part; a car accident, losing your luggage while travelling, losing your wallet…whatever. This is separate to my emergency fund, which is actually quite important from a pyschological point of view. In the past has been used for paying the excess after a car accident.… Read more »

Julie @ Freedom 48
Julie @ Freedom 48
8 years ago

I think everyone has regrets.

Believe it or not, I regret attending university – and “wasting 4 years of my life”. The career I have now (and love)doesn’t use my degree…. and I can’t help but thing that if I hadn’t have gone to school, and had just started working, I’d have had FOUR extra years of saving/investing under my belt. Then maybe I could retire 4 years earlier??

Maya
Maya
8 years ago

What an insightful post! I couldn’t stop thinking about it all day. Oh, I so wish to get out of this trap of regret and fear that the past will repeat itself. The happiest day of my life will be the day when I can say, like JD, I like who I am today. I realize that whether I achieve this depends entirely on me but it’s not an easy process. Donna’s writings are an incredible inspiration to me and this post in particular came at the right moment. Thank you Donna.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  Maya

Thank YOU, Maya, for the feedback.
I’m 54 and just starting to be able to keep the past in the past. Here’s hoping you don’t have to wait that long to do the same.

jim
jim
8 years ago

I have worked with people who were sexually abused as children. The effect of that abuse manifests itself in many, many ways – hoarding is but one. Want to really get that crap out of your life/psyche? Take whatever you’ve hoarded, one item at a time, and donate it or give it to someone for whom it will be a blessing. You’ll find yourself “forgiving” yourself with every step. (And NO I am not really suggesting that you need to forgive yourself for having been abused at the hands of someone else). Karma works that way. This strategy has helped… Read more »

CB
CB
8 years ago

Quest: congrats on going down to one car. My family has been car-lite for the past 7 years: 6 yrs in a large New England city and 1yr in a suburb in Florida. Now we are headed on to a move to a small town in the South and it looks like we will be able to keep it going (work, preschool, and rental house will all be within a 3 mile radius). Although there are buses here in FL there were a couple things besides my husband’s i-phone that we splurged on when deciding to stick with one car… Read more »

Quest
Quest
8 years ago
Reply to  CB

Sounds like you’ve planned your life really well around not having a car 🙂 It sounds great. I do not plan to buy another car and I don’t miss the one I had. I am determined to adopt the same lifestyle as you by renting a car when I absolutely need to and using public transit the rest of the time if I can’t walk to where I need to go. Think of the money we’ll save because personally, I have found a car to be an extremely expensive item to own overall.

Chris
Chris
8 years ago

GREAT post, and it hits home. I’ve been living with regret over having mis-invested a BIG amount of savings with the economy’s recession in 2007. (and we’re talking my early retirement should have been a no-brainer.) Fast forward 5 years and we’re basically starting over from square 1. That’s a lot to think about. In fact, no matter how I end up retiring, I’ll always know that I coulda / shoulda had another zero on the back of it.. Letting all that go is difficult. But my new life has given me new opportunities. As these opportunities grow, I may… Read more »

Edward
Edward
8 years ago

Wow. Sorry to the author, but that post made me feel nauseous. “If I could only have one more chance. One more chance. That’s all I would need. One more chance to make some good money.” What?! You’re *waiting* for a “chance”? Go out and look for the love of Pete! She readily admits she has “too much time on her hands”. You know what’s nice? Being able to visit “family and friends in the UK”! Then complaining you don’t have enough to “enable us to do the things we’d like to do” seems in direct opposition with the ability… Read more »

Quest
Quest
8 years ago
Reply to  Edward

If you had bothered to read, you would know that I am working on starting my own business and that I could not afford to go to the UK but had to go to check on my elderly parents who are having health issues. Your judging me so harshly makes ME nauseous! If you want to judge me in a constructive manner, that’s fine but not like this.

(PS. My mouse clicked ‘like’ but I can assure you it was by mistake!)

jim
jim
8 years ago
Reply to  Quest

Quest, I don’t think Edward was judging too harshly. Maybe he could have put it a little more diplomatically, but he’s probably like me and not really into “politically correct” speech. I think his points were well-taken. Some of us have also had to deal with ailing parents and we couldn’t go back to “wherever” ’cause we didn’t have the $ to do so. I’ve been on both sides of this equation. It’s exceedingly difficult to only be able to chat with your ailing parents by phone/email etc when you’re worried sick about them. But – sometimes that is exactly… Read more »

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  jim

Some people would rather go for a visit than a funeral.

Quest
Quest
8 years ago
Reply to  jim

With one parent undergoing cancer surgery next week, it was necessary for me to go back home and check on the situation. I haven’t been back in years. Yes, I met up with old friends and had fun too. As Donna says, I would rather not wait until I have to go back for a funeral. I have been living very frugally for the past 3-4 years and have been able to save but those savings represent sacrifice and we do not spend that money without there being a dire need to do so. For me personally and I’m not… Read more »

partgypsy
partgypsy
8 years ago
Reply to  Edward

One thing I don’t understand, are these the same parents that caused her to have an abusive childhood? Just trying to understand.

Quest
Quest
8 years ago
Reply to  partgypsy

I began seeing a therapist to deal with my depression last year. Part of the therapy involves forgiveness. I found that I agreed with the therapist’s conclusion that, unless I let go of the anger I hold towards my father, I am never going to be able to lead an emotionally healthy life, I will remain stuck, repeating the same self destructive mistakes. It was difficult going back because my parents and I had a big falling out some years ago but I care about my mother and I know that life has often been hard for her. I also… Read more »

Donald
Donald
8 years ago
Reply to  Edward

“Edward” isn’t “Edward”. This sounds like the Control your Cash blog.

Larissa
Larissa
8 years ago

I love this post, but lately I have been telling myself “don’t give up what you want most for what you want now.” So in this case I feel a little conflicted. However, Quest mentioned something about having a sustainable lifestyle, and I believe that is what I would like to strive for most.

Matthew Doyle
Matthew Doyle
8 years ago

Great post!! I have always been a firm believer of never regretting anything. The past is filled experiences in your life that help shape your future. Like you said you can’t change what you have done, so why dwell on it.

Peg
Peg
8 years ago

This is one of the best posts I have ever read anywhere! Donna, I love how committed you are to writing about everyday occurrences. Truly, how many of us will ever have the “problem” of where and how to invest a million dollars? Pieces like this are life-changers.

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
8 years ago
Reply to  Peg

Thanks, Peg. I doubt I’ll ever have that particular problem myself. Yet somehow I manage to have a happy and intriguing life.

cj
cj
7 years ago

Regret is also a nice way to avoid facing the future if you are mired in the past story.

Dustin Eisenman
Dustin Eisenman
7 years ago

I am 67 years old and i just start discover the computer and the internet. It is awsome to read webpages like this one. I’m feeling bad because this did not happen years ago, when I was younger … Congratulations to all who write comments here !

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