We all have regrets in life, some minor ones like regretting taking the M25 on a Friday evening and some larger ones such as marrying the wrong person. But at the end of the day, all these regrets shape us into being the people we are today, and many be a positive in our later years.

But would you offer any advice to your teenage self if you were given the opportunity so you can avoid any of these contritions?

A Loving Tribute, makers of funeral stationery, surveyed 500 UK based over 65’s to discover what are some of Britain’s biggest regrets, you can see their full range of funeral order of service templates at https://www.alovingtribute.com/c/511/funeral-order-of-service-templates.

The most common regret was not looking after our own mental health and not staying positive in our earlier years. This was over 35% of the total answers and some phases recurred throughout, including:

  • Be true to yourself
  • Believe in yourself
  • Be confident
  • Don’t worry
  • Love yourself
  • Be kind to yourself

With such a huge focus in parliament and the media around mental health and the pressures younger generations are facing in the modern world, such as increasing job competition and financial difficulties, it appears action is already being taken for pensioners’ regrets. Although mental health systems in the UK are not yet perfected, there has certainly been a huge advance over the decades.

Workplaces and schools are more aware of mental health and are providing more training on how we can help those around us. ‘Mental health days’ were unheard of 50 years ago but it is not becoming more acceptable to take these from work. The stigma of poor mental health is slowly being removed as more of us are comfortable to talk about it around colleagues and loved ones.

Would the current over 65’s still regret not looking after their own mental health if they were offered the same support teenagers are given nowadays? Perhaps there would be no change, it is well-known that our teenage years are a struggle as we all begin to find ourselves and make the transition to adulthood. Despite any advice or support, general teenage angst may never be eradicated as it seems to have existed since the dawn of time.

The next biggest regret was not following a different path in education or careers. Some answers included:

  • Study harder
  • Go to uni
  • Go back to school
  • Be ambitious in your career
  • Learn a trade
  • Work and learn hard

Previously, our paths were almost set for us, depending on what family we were born into. University used to be reserved purely for the more affluent families and those from a more modest background were priced out of this opportunity. Nowadays, university is open to everyone and with loans and bursaries available for those who need it.

18-year-olds are now faced with so much choice for education, it can almost be too many options. Many are choosing to get a ‘jump start’ with their careers by skipping university altogether and opt for apprenticeships or learn a trade.

A large element of this is due to witnessing older siblings and relatives attending university and graduating into a competitive job market and large sums of student debt.

We may never know what the correct education path is to take, universities and job roles are constantly changing and what may be right for one generation may not be for the other. While many of those surveyed wished they had gone to university, would they advise today’s teenagers to do the same? Were respondents seeking more financial stability, job satisfaction or just more knowledge?

Since its invention, money has always been at the forefront of our minds and most of us will experience some financial worries at one point in our lives. Money was also a common theme for live regrets, and these were almost all related to lack of savings:

  • Save
  • Save more
  • Start saving
  • Start a small savings account the day you start work and put something in every payday
  • Get a good pension scheme
  • Get a pension

Most regretted not saving for retirement, working hard and enjoying your earlier years can seem redundant if you have not prepared yourself financially for your older years and resulting in you struggling.

Younger people are now struggling to get onto the housing market, let alone save a decent pension. But with new compulsory pension schemes rolled out across the UK, perhaps we won’t witness the same mistake happening again.

When it comes to relationships, there are certainly previous romances we regret but many of the people that were surveyed saw this as their biggest regret in life. Not just a romantic relationship, but also family matters seemed to be an anguish:

  • Don’t get married
  • Don’t have kids
  • Don’t sign the adoption papers
  • Do not get married at 18
  • He’s a liar
  • Stay single

Staying away from large commitments at a young age was a common theme, such as marriage and children. Data shows the average age of marriage in 1973 was 28 for men and 26 for women. In 2013, the average age was 36 for men and 34 for women. While this could be due to several factors, it looks like younger generations are already learning from the mistakes of our current OAPs.

It could also be that so many people now focusing on careers before family so they do not encounter the same financial difficulty as their parents and grandparents may have experienced.

What advice would you give your adolescent self? Perhaps you are happy and content with your life now and would not wish to change anything at all.

Most importantly, would your younger self even listen to this? Teenagers are infamous for being stubborn and no matter what they are told, they will choose their own path, although it is always a useful lesson to make mistakes in life.

About the author

Rob Prior is the Managing Director of A Loving Tribute. A Loving Tribute is a provider of personalised funeral stationery. Their aim is to ensure your experience is as hassle-free as possible and deliver the best printing quality and pride themselves in excellent customer service.