2 men with laptops throwing arms up And then there's credit card debt, cited by 16 percentwho say they regret having taken on too much of it. (Photo:Getty)

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Americans have a number of regrets about their finances, as might be expected by people whohaven't yet recovered from the Great Recession, work multiple jobsjust to make ends meet and labor under an immense load of student loan debt.

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But the one that looms largest in their minds is their failureto save sooner for retirement—and, also as mightbe expected, the older they are the more they have that regret. Sosays a Bankrate.com study that also finds that a whopping 76percent of Americans have at least one regret regarding theirfinances.

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And while 56 percent say their financial regrets are all aboutsavings, when it's broken down by category, not saving early enoughfor retirement tops the list, with 27 percent saying that's whatkeeps them up at night. That's followed by underfunding theiremergency fund—19 percent regret that—and not saving enough fortheir kids' education (10 percent cite that one).

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“What's readily apparent, once again, is regrets about savingsare head and shoulders above other regrets, even about debt,” GregMcBride, CFA, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com, is quotedsaying in a statement. McBride adds, “Americans are undersaved forboth retirement and emergencies and are increasingly aware ofit.”

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That retirement savings (or lack of it) regret grows bigger aspeople age; a third of boomers (ages 55–73) said they were sorrythey hadn't started early enough to save for retirement, with 23percent of the Silent Generation (ages 74 and older) and 22 percentof GenX (ages 39–54) saying the same thing. Younger generations, onthe other hand, were more concerned with having failed to saveenough for emergencies, with 19 percent of both GenXers andmillennials being most regretful.

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And as might be expected, millennials' biggest regret was overtheir student loan balances, with 17 percent saying so—more thantwice that of GenXers with student loans (7 percent) and more thanthree times that of boomers (4 percent).

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And then, of course, there's credit card debt, cited by 16percent who say they regret having taken on too much of it. Creditcard debt can be particularly crippling, points out Ted Rossman,industry analyst at CreditCards.com, a Bankrate sister site, who isquoted in the report saying, “This is a tough one, because creditcard rates are at record highs (17.73 percent, according toCreditCards.com—and that's for people with good credit).”

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Rossman adds, “Many people with lesser credit are paying 20 to25 percent on their cards. Paying these kinds of rates for anylength of time is really going to hold you back financially. Creditcard rates are three to five times what we typically see onmortgages, auto loans and student loans.”

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And of course that means they gobble up money that could be usedfor other purposes—like paying off other debts and saving forretirement…

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READ MORE:

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5 quick facts about millennials' retirementsavings

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Top 4 trends shaping retirement incomeproducts

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3 conflicts millennials have aboutfinances

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Marlene Satter

Marlene Y. Satter has worked in and written about the financial industry for decades.