Financial planners say even their most ambitious clients share 4 major money regrets

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  • I talked to three financial planners and asked them what their clients say they wish they'd done with their money when they were younger. 
  • One financial planner said his clients wish that they'd started investing and saving for retirement sooner, since starting early often means a larger balance later.
  • Another financial planner finds that his clients regret spending or taking on debt for status symbols, like luxury cars.
  • Two financial planners say their clients wish they'd spent more on things they enjoy, like travel or family and friends, instead of being so aggressive about saving.
  • Want to learn more about financial planners? Get Personal Finance Insider's "Guide to Financial Planners" e-book here »

If it were possible to turn back time, everyone would have at least one thing they'd do differently in their financial life. 

And no one knows these regrets better than a financial planner. 

While it's not possible to change the past, it's still possible to change habits now for the future. I talked to three financial planners about the things their clients say they wish they'd done with their money when they were younger, and their answers were similar.

Most people wish that they were smarter with their money when they were younger, spending and saving more wisely. But they also wish they'd struck a balance between saving and spending sooner. 

Here are four things financial planners say clients always wish they'd done.

Clients wish they'd started investing and saving for retirement sooner

Financial planner Jovan Johnson of Piece of Wealth Planning in Atlanta, Georgia, says he often hears regrets about investing and saving for retirement from his clients. "The biggest thing that I hear is, 'I wish I would have started saving earlier,'" Johnson told Business Insider.

"It's because of compound interest. If you start saving $200 per month at 35 versus 21, that makes the huge difference," he says. 

Retirement savings grow with compound interest, where money grows based on the amount added and the amount money earns over many years. 

Business Insider's Andy Kiersz created an example involving two people who start saving 10 years apart that illustrates this compounding effect. In this example, both people start saving $200 per month, one person starting at age 25 and another at 35. Both earn the same 6% rate of return, and add $200 per month until age 65. While the person who started at age 25 saved $24,000 more, their total balance is nearly double that of the person who started at 35 — the person who started at 25 has $402,492 and the person who started at 35 has $203,118. 

Retirement savings grow like a snowball — the sooner someone starts saving, the longer that snowball can roll, and the larger it becomes.

They wish they started working with a financial planner sooner

Riley Poppy, a financial planner with Ignite Financial Planning in Seattle, says, "The most common one I hear is people wishing they would have hired a financial planner earlier." 

Adds Poppy, "The average age of clients I work with is about 33 or 34. A lot say they wish they would have hired me when they were 26 or 27, just because there would have been few additional strategies they could have put into place."

Financial planners can help people at any age make smarter moves with their money. But, like retirement savings, those moves are most impactful when clients have years to let their strategies grow money over time. 

They wish they didn't spend so much on status symbols and frivolous things

One financial planner told me that some of his clients wish they didn't spend so much on expensive cars, homes, and flashy items, especially if they took on debt for them.

"They bought that BMW because they finally got that paycheck they've been chasing," says financial planner Andrew Rosen of Lifelong Advisers. "But they've been chasing their tail ever since trying to pay it off, and it put them in a bad spot." 

In Rosen's experience, people regret these purchases when they start to get in the way of their goals. 

They wish they took more time to enjoy life and travel more

While spending too much on frivolous things is a regret, not spending more on meaningful things is a regret, too.

Both Johnson and Rosen say they hear clients wish they'd spent more of their money on things they enjoy. Whether that's traveling or spending more on family, some people regret being too stingy when they look back and realize they could have enjoyed things more.

"People are so caught up in advancing their careers that they get to this point where they turn around one day and say, 'I should have traveled more. I should have spent more time with my family,'" Rosen says. 

Johnson says he hears similar regrets. "I hear, 'I wish I would've just enjoyed the day more, instead of being too strict on myself.'" 

While saving and working towards goals is important, these financial planners agree that striking a balance is just as important.

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