UK savers’ biggest financial wins and mistakes: home ownership tops list while debt leads regrets

Ffion White

by , PR Manager

18 Dec 2023 /  

Dec 2023

Saving for a house.

London, Monday 18 December 2023: Buying a home and paying off the mortgage are the biggest financial wins that make people proud, while living in debt and spending beyond one’s means are the nation’s biggest regrets, according to research.

A survey by PensionBee, a leading online pension provider, has uncovered what Brits consider to be their greatest financial triumphs and worst mistakes.

Buying a property and paying off a mortgage topped the list of financial wins, with 28% and 25% of respondents respectively highlighting these achievements. More than half (51%) of people over the age of 65 said they have paid off their mortgage. Other big financial ‘wins’ among this older age group were regularly saving (21%) and building up an emergency fund (18%).

Meanwhile, living in debt or relying on credit cards (23%) and living beyond their means (18%) were the biggest causes of regret. These issues were experienced mostly by working-age respondents, with almost a third (31%) of 35-54 year olds admitting to living in debt and over a quarter of 25-34 year olds reporting living beyond their means, more than any other age group.

Top three wins, all ages:

  1. Buying property (28%)

  2. Paying off my mortgage (25%)

  3. Learning how to budget (22%)

Top three fails, all ages:

  1. Living in debt or relying on my credit cards (23%)

  2. Living beyond my means or salary (18%)

  3. Impulse shopping (15%)

Top three wins, over 65s:

  1. Paying off my mortgage (51%)

  2. Buying property (34%)

  3. Saving regularly into a savings account (21%)

Top three regrets, over 65s:

  1. Living in debt or relying on my credit cards (16%)

  2. Not saving enough for retirement (15%)

  3. Making poor investment choices (13%)

Biggest successes and failures by age

Young people (18-24) were more likely to include learning how to budget (34%) and smart shopping (22%), such as looking around for deals and avoiding impulse buying, among their top financial achievements.

Meanwhile, nearly a quarter (24%) of 24-44 year olds placed being able to pay off debt, such as student loans, as one of their top three financial wins. Saving regularly into a savings account was consistently listed as a popular achievement across all age groups.When asked about their biggest financial mistakes, 18-24 year olds were more likely to note making poor investment choices (27%) as an error than not being able to save for a house deposit (18%), which was the second biggest mistake. On the other hand, a fifth of those nearing retirement (aged 45-64), reflected that not saving enough for retirement was one of their top three financial mistakes, with this sentiment held slightly less strongly (15%) by those at or past the average retirement age of 65.(1)

Gender differences

Over a third (34%) of male savers stated that paying off their mortgage had the biggest positive impact on their finances. In contrast, over a quarter (28%) of female savers stated that learning how to budget was their greatest financial achievement.

Living in debt or relying on credit cards was an equally shared mistake between both male (22%) and female (23%) savers. However, the next most common mistake identified by male savers was making poor investment choices (18%), in contrast, a fifth of female savers selected impulse shopping as their next most common failure.

Pensions-related wins and fails

Over 65s were the most positive about their retirement outlook, with nearly a fifth (17%) of respondents stating that saving for retirement was their biggest financial win, compared to only 12% of 55-64 year olds and 5% of 45-54 year olds.

This is also reflected when looking at consumer’s biggest financial failures, with a fifth of 45-54 year olds, and 19% of 55-64 year olds admitting that they regretted not saving enough for a comfortable retirement.

Becky O’Connor, Director of Public Affairs at PensionBee, commented: “It’s a time of year to reflect on what has gone well and not so well for us in the last 12 months and beyond, and this might include rueing or feeling grateful for some of our past financial decisions.

“It’s not surprising that how people have fared on the property ladder, either achieving the first goal of buying a home or the next one of paying off a mortgage, come up top. These goals generally take a huge amount of focus and effort and are real achievements.

“Anyone who has ever gone into debt and then struggled to get out of it will no doubt also empathise with those who feel that this was their biggest mistake. If this has happened to you, it might be heartening to know you are not alone.

“It’s clear that for older people, paying more into a pension might be something they’d tell their younger selves to do if they could go back in time. Considering the biggest regrets of today’s retired generation might help younger people focus on what’s important. Alongside getting into debt, not paying enough into a pension and not taking enough risk with investments topped the list of retired people’s regrets. Perhaps knowing this can help shape priorities for younger generations.”

Please find our Appendix, which includes tables with full data breakdowns here.


  1. Unbiased

Be pension confident!

Combine your old pension pots into one new online plan. It takes just a few minutes to sign up.

Get started

Mobile PensionBee analytics chart
Mobile PensionBee analytics chart
Apple Store logo Google Store logo

Have a question?Call our UK team020 3457 8444

Monday-Friday: 9:30am-5pm