12 May 2024

The top 5 end of life regrets and how to conquer them

End of life regrets are not really something we think about until, well, our final months. But maybe we should face into this earlier in life.

In the past couple of years, I’ve attended 8 funerals of friends and family. The oldest was age 90, but the others were aged around 80 and just 60, 51 and 46.

When we are touched by the death of another person, it can cause us to reflect on our own lives. How long do we have left? Are we making the most of our time? Will we achieve our best potential? Are we happy?

One of the most impactful books I read on this topic is The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. It was written by Bronnie Ware, an Australian palliative care nurse. She devoted some years of her life caring for those in their final months. Based on that experience, she now helps others to live without regrets.


The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying

Of course, it’s not just those who are dying that have regrets. It can be surprising how many outwardly successful people carry invisible burdens. Often, it centres around feelings of having missed out.

Successful business owners can reach the point of retirement, sell up and become financially secure for life. But they might look back at the monumental efforts they put into building their business, only to miss their children growing up.

Others may come to the end of a long, loyal career with one or two employers, only to wonder if there’s something else they could have tried.

Many wish they had started their own business, but could never quite find the energy, the money or the time to make it happen.


Mark Twain
Mark Twain

The Top Five Regrets of the Dying

So, what are the top five end of life regrets, as described by those living out their final months and weeks?


1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me


2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard


3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings


4. I wish I’d stayed in touch with my friends


5. I wish I had let myself be happier


Bronnie Ware


I wish I had more money” doesn’t make it to the top five. Neither do regrets about not having a bigger house or a better car or more stuff. Society encourages us to consume, to chase bigger and better things to spend money on. Lenders and retailers are only too happy to support this by making debt easier to obtain.

In the end, the chase for material possessions can fuel end of life regrets. Too much of our precious time spent on work that we don’t love. Not enough time devoted to our own wellbeing. Missing opportunities to do what we really want.

If you’ve reached the stage of life where you’re beginning to contemplate the bigger picture, then carve out some time and contemplate properly. Don’t feel guilty about taking time to think. Embrace it.

It might feel like a mid-life crisis. Or maybe just a realisation that you’re fed up with your job and could be doing something more meaningful. Or like many, you might just want to know that you’ll be ok throughout retirement.


Financial Life Planning

Life planning helps to identify the activities that bring meaning and happiness to our lives. From there you can determine how you would most like to spend your time.

Financial planning tends to focus on monetary goals. This involves calculations, assumptions, plans and financial products to achieve those goals.

Blend the two together and financial life planning is an experience that helps you visualise your favourite future and create financial options in life. That, in turn, can help achieve financial wellbeing and regret free living.


Financial life planning
Financial Life Planning

Why not take some time to design your future? In summary:

  1. Identify your values
  2. Assess your strengths
  3. Imagine your best future
  4. Consider your legacy
  5. Build your plan

It can be a revelation to find true purpose in life. The trouble is, we often find it a bit too late. The financial life planning process allows you to reflect properly on what’s important, then it’s a case of planning your time and finances to support that.

When you witness the passing of others, whatever their age, whatever their achievements, it’s ok to reflect on your own life. You only have one shot at this. Life is not a rehearsal, so make it count.

If you’d like to discover more about how financial life planning can help you, arrange an initial chat or subscribe to my free newsletter for weekly topics around money and life.