Ignoring a problem won't make it go away -- and that goes double when the problem is financial. Just as investments generally grow and compound over time, even small financial problems can compound in a negative way if left unattended.
Despite that, nearly half of Americans (49%) who have a financial regret admit that they haven't taken steps to address what they see as their biggest money issues, according to a new Bankrate.com survey. Of those, 19% said they'll get around to tackling that problem in the next 12 months, while 6% say they won't get around to it for more than a year. And a troubling 25% said they have no plans to take on their problems at all.
The money-problem hit parade
Topping the list of financial regrets, 39% of those surveyed reported that theirs was that they haven't saved enough. Specifically, 18% wish they’d begun saving for retirement sooner, 14% want a bigger emergency fund, and 7% haven't set aside as much as they’d like for their kids' educations.
The second-largest group was populated by the 20% who regret having gotten into too much debt. By category, 10% pointed to credit cards, 8% said they'd over-borrowed on student loans, and 2% had taken on too large a mortgage.
Interestingly, 24% said the their chief money regret was something other than the choices offered by the survey. And a happy 15% of the 1,004 people surveyed reported that they had no financial regrets.
"Time is your greatest ally when saving for the future, and the top financial regret among Americans continues to be not saving for retirement early enough," said Bankrate.com Chief Financial Analyst Greg McBride. "Twenty-two percent of those who wish they started saving for retirement earlier say they have plans to address the issue, but are not currently taking action. Why not act today? To workers of all ages, there is no better time than the present to increase your 401k contribution or fund an IRA."
People procrastinate about addressing their financial problems because in most cases, to do so will require short-term sacrifices, at a minimum. Ideally, anyone who finds themselves in one of these situations will recognize that doing nothing is the worst possible choice.
A logical first step to deal with any of them, though, would be creating a budget: It's tough to figure out what changes you'll need to make until you fully grasp where your money is going.
If, after you track your spending and define your budget, you can see no areas where your spending can easily be trimmed, don't give up. A professional financial planner may be able to help -- so find one and schedule a meeting. It's also possible that your financial issues can only be fixed if you boost your income. If that's the case, consider a side hustle or taking on another job.
At core, the specific steps you take may be less important than the decision to take them. The key is simply getting started, and getting out of the rut of inaction. And remember: Your chief money woes didn't appear overnight, so recognize you can't expect yourself to solve them that quickly either.