/ Money

Looking back in anger? Tell us your greatest financial regrets

There are very few of us who wouldn’t do things differently if we could go back in time – the ponytail of 2007 is one of mine. But it’s  financial regrets – that missed opportunity or bad decision – that can linger over time.

Pop singer Lily Allen (estimated net worth £6m) once turned down a BitCoin deal to play an online show worth an estimated £118m at today’s rates. A decision she no doubt regrets.

Now, Which? members pride themselves on being ‘savvy’, finding the best deals, avoiding scams and generally taking care of financial business. But even the savviest of shoppers can get caught out in bad times.

Leaving money in zombie accounts

And given the financial difficulties faced by Brits at the moment, the possible repercussions of financial mistakes are arguably more wide ranging now than ever before.

I’ve fallen foul of keeping my money in a ‘zombie’ savings account offering a minuscule rate of interest before realising my mistake and moving to a much more competitive Isa. I learnt my lesson and only missed out on a relatively small sum in interest – yet it still rankles, especially as I know that it can’t be undone.

So let us know, via the magic of Which? Convo, what your greatest financial regrets are. By flagging them up here, you may help a fellow reader avoid making similar mistakes…


I was persuaded to take out a ten year with profits endowment with the promise of a good return. I would have earned more from it under the mattress, since I paid in more than I got back. This was sold as a low risk investment. Later, these endowments were generally frowned upon, but, of course this was too late. Someone, somewhere made money from my loss.

Many years ago Barclays had a good banking deal. You linked your current account to a savings account and any balance over £500 was automatically transferred from current to savings to earn interest. The reverse also happened. I got so used to this that I overlooked the interest rate dropping to a pathetic 0.1% (when market rates were significantly higher) and lethargy let it go on for too long before I woke up to the need to do something about it.
The lesson I learned was to watch for these sorts of financial practices in future, and I am now much better at moving savings around when the reward is worthwhile.

Rosie says:
26 March 2014

Downsizing from a large nearly-new house to a smaller 1960s one. Has cost us about £100k (still rising!) when it was supposed to save us money!
High estate agent fees, long-term rental and storage fees due to us moving out under pressure from estate agent and our seller delaying our purchase; cowboy local authority “tried and tested” and “master builder” took thousands for what should have been simple work (kitchen, bathroom, re-plastering etc) and left us with an unliveable property that cost thousands more to rectify his bad work. Higher heating bills because of poorer, less-insulating build quality of a 1960 home and poor outside drainage which needs the tarmac drive to be dug up in order to resolve. Plus several years’ stress! Probably more too. We’d have been far better off financially and otherwise by staying where we were and just increasing our mortgage to clear increasing-rate credit cards!
Another lesson too – if you move out of your house into rented accommodation, having cleared the mortgage, you could find that you’re suddenly asked to find a “guarantor” for your rental (something I hadn’t been asked for since age 21 getting my first loan!). We got round it by paying a few months’ rent up front but it’s very scary how paying off your mortgage and moving out of a house without immediately buying another can make your credit rating tumble overnight!
So if anyone I know says they’re considering downsizing, I make sure they’re aware of the possible pitfalls before they do it!

My father left meticulous records of his investments but there were several points I was unsure of, so I put the estate in the hands of a solicitor after doing the bulk of the work myself. I was horrified by the charges. When my mother died several years later I felt more confident, completed all the documents and passed the computer files to the solicitor – expecting to pay much less. Once again, I was horrified when the bill arrived and it will take a lot to make me trust solicitors in future.

I switched from a repayment mortgage to an endowment mortgage around the time when this was seen as a good way of making a generous profit for a modest increase in monthly payments. In one way I was one of the lucky ones who did not end up with a deficit at the end of the period, but I was unable to claim that the endowment mortgage was mis-sold.

I’m still unsure if there was deliberately misleading and bad practice involved, but my parents have always regretted a decision they made with my childrens saving account with Halifax. In 1997 Halifax demutualised and all qualifying members received Halifax Plc shares. Just before this took place my parents were persuaded to sign the account over into my own name. As far as I know, as I was under 18 I was unable to receive this windfall – had the account been in their name they would have received shares for it. I’m unsure if they are correct in their belief so it would be interesting to hear your thoughts!

Laura says:
29 March 2014

I had an account with Halifax at that time including qualifying member account, they wrote to me shortly before announcing mutualisation saying they would start charging for this qualifying account and recommending I closed and just kept the (non qualifying) current account. Foolishly I did so…wouldnt be so trusting nowadays!

I never understood why [in my naïvety] when I moved house about 25 years ago the transfer of funding by the acting solicitor from the sale of my old house to the new one ended up in my being charged a large amount of interest by my bank. When I queried this with the bank they informed me the solicitor failed to use the electronic CHAPS system which mean’t the funding for the purchase of the new house was removed from my account before the funding from the sale of the old house was transferred into my account. I eventually discovered it had spent two days over the weekend sitting in the solicitors account [and no doubt gaining interest].

The bank fortunately did waive the interest charges but I couldn’t help wondering if this was normal practice for solicitors at the time. This was of course in addition to all the legal fees incurred.

I am completely at a loss where to invest my limited accounts – I might as well stuff money under the mattress. All the major banks/building societies have serious deficits for various reasons and change the conditions of the various schemes on offer at a moments’ notice. To be able to invest sensibly I’d need to become a full time investment expert.

Jackie, do make use or your Cash ISA allowance each year. Forget about becoming an “investment expert” If these people were real experts in investment they would have the confidence to agree to waive their charges if their recommended investments made you a loss. They just guess where to put your money like the rest of us.

Linda Marshall says:
28 March 2014

Does anyone have expereince of being persuaded to invest in rare diamsonds, carbon credits or rare earth metals?
I would be interested to hear of your expereinces as I am starting t regret having become involved. I also had a spel of 10 per day cold callers trying to persuade in promised enormous profit investments. I am obviously on a data base somewhere as having unwisely saying I was interested in investments.
Advice would be welcome, but it is too late in many circumstances.

John Roycroft says:
31 March 2014

Dear Linda,
Your experience is almost certainly a scam. Do not give them any money and consider changing your telephone number!
If you really want to invest in diamonds then buy shares in Petra Diamonds.
(I am a private investor and have no vested interest in anyone buying shares in Petra Diamonds! I sold mine recently and will buy again if prices fall)

Motherhood is one of the lowest paid jobs in the world and does not come with a pension. For those who give up their career to raise children the pension of the working spouse gets larger while the mother`s pension often comes to a standstill. Perhaps things have changed since the 1970`s?

My biggest regret was in the early 1980`s. The phone rang and I turned to my former husband saying the DPW want to know whether I want to pay X in to my final retirment pension?
He called back to me saying `No, my pension will cover you, don`t worry`.

When we divorced he had a full state pension, a private pension, and investments.
My second regret is not educating myself about finances and taking responsibility for the future.
but hindsight is a great thing : ) ((*_*))

Lucy says:
8 January 2015

I am currently living with deep regret involving negative equity on several rental properties. Tenants who disrespect property and feel like it’s totally draining finances with no way out . Why did I not just put money under the mattress or even blow it !
Sure many others in the same situation .

I know a number of people who have regretted going in to property speculation and letting. The early business model, when values were rising and loan interest and management charges were fully repaid out of rents which could be edged upwards every year was tempting; the availability of high-loan-to-value buy-to-let mortgages made it seem a racing certainty. The old-fashioned advice to regard property as a long-term investment was scorned. Over the last few years the cracks have started to appear in the model: for many reasons yields are not what people were expecting and negative equity was always going to be a risk where the loan-to-value ratio was too high [as it usually was in the eraly days]; defaults, voids and repair & maintenance expenses have exceeded the original estimates; and in some parts of the country there are more lets available than tenants to take them, so it is difficult to move rents upwards and there is a decline in the quality of tenants. Rents are actually going down in some cities when tenancies turn over because of an oversupply of brand new apartments. As you say, there is no way out – so many landlords are facing the prospect of an ongoing trading deficit if they hang on to the property and a capital loss if they try to dispose of it. Unfortunately for them, the plight of landlords does not register very highly on the sympathy scoreboard, especially not among politicians and people wanting housing on the cheap. A good agent might be able to see a better future for you and help you achieve it but there are sharks in that pond too. Check any advice with a reputable financial adviser and see how you can optimise your tax position.

People should bear in mind the caveat given on investments – their value can go down as well as up. Property is no different, but fortunately over the long term it generally rises – and providing it is insured you won’t lose everything. But the British disease is to expect it to rise as a right, hence the injudicious investments made in the boom years.

There’s a clear all-time winner for me in terms of financial regrets.

Back in December 2011 a single bitcoin was worth about $2 (USD). Today a single bitcoin is worth about $375 (USD). If only I’d put £10,000 into bitcoin back in 2011, it would be worth around £1.8 million today. At the time, I didn’t take bitcoin seriously, because I didn’t know much about it.

Bitcoin isn’t just a currency, it’s a payment system that uses cryptography to create a decentralised public ledger that verifies ownership. It’s a really clever idea that could forever change how money is moved around the world, just for a start. It still has the potential to invade the global forex market in a big way.

However, the bitcoin community is in something of a crisis right now. There’s a big dispute amongst software developers in bitcoin concerning something called ‘block size’. It’s possible that if this crisis is not successfully resolved it could halt any chance of wider adoption for a very long time, which means the price would be likely to dive.

I do still own some bitcoin, but it’s a risky investment. It could go to zero, but if bitcoin can survive the current crisis and scale for wider adoption the price could yet go much higher, so I’m willing to take a risk.

I’ve sold a lot of my bitcoins recently due to the high risk situation re the block size crisis. If the crisis is resolved I’ll probably buy back in. I’ve made a reasonable return on what I sold, much better than any savings account or ISA would have given me. But nowhere near as good as getting 187 times your money back!