Top 6 Regrets of the Dying

You’ve heard this before: “No one on their deathbed ever said, ‘I wish I had spent more time at the office.”’ Working too much is truly one of the regrets of those near death.

A couple of years ago a nurse named Bronnie Ware, who counselled patients in their final 12 weeks, published a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. While the five regrets made the rounds back then, we thought they warranted another look.

We’d argue that avoiding these regrets is not only affordable but good for your personal finances.

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

Be like Frank Sinatra, and do it your way. So, you’re not a rich, famous and handsome man with your pick of the ladies. That doesn’t mean you can’t pursue and hopefully fulfill your dreams.

Ask that crush on a date, then think of something romantic, creative and frugal to woo them — a milkshake and a sunset worked on me.

Not fulfilled in your current job? Launching a proper job search is a remedy.

Bronnie Ware, the nurse who compiled the list, says unfulfilled wishes were the most common regret among her patients. Those who had that regret “had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.”

2. “I wish I didn’t work so hard.”

Just because you don’t kill yourself on the job front doesn’t mean you’ll be broke.

Consider this: Dutch workers are on the job about 400 fewer hours a year than Americans, yet have “robust personal savings,” says Bloomberg. Americans average almost 1,800 hours per year at work versus less than 1,400 for the Dutch. Not only that, but the Dutch were listed fifth in the world a few years back for life satisfaction. Americans weren’t even close.

“By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle,” Ware says.

Another case in point: Harvard researchers forced a group of professionals — accountants, lawyers, investment bankers and the like — to back away from their workaholic tendencies by logging off of the matrix after office hours and actually taking their allotted time off.

In the study, a control group performed normally, meaning they worked 50 or more hours each week, skipped part of their vacation time and were constantly on call. The career-minded individuals who clocked a regular 40-hour schedule and left their work cellphones at the office when they went home “reported increased learning and development and better communication with their teams and, most surprisingly, they actually produced more total output than their workaholic colleagues,” the four-year study found.

In addition, they noted higher satisfaction with both their job and in finding the proper balance of personal time.

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

In a brilliant infographic inspired by Ware’s work, Addicted2Success illustrates regrets of dying people, including regretting not having said “I love you” more often — a problem easily remedied at no cost. Others addressed speaking one’s mind in order to not harbor resentment and resolving conflicts rather than holding a grudge.

“Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others,” Ware wrote. “As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.”

4. “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.”

Technology makes this easier and cheaper than ever.

Facebook, anyone? (While you’re logged in, be sure to friend Money Talks News.) Shoot a text. Compose an email. Support the dying Postal Service and write a letter.

Ware says that everyone misses their friends when they are dying. Keep in contact and you won’t have that longing. “It all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks — love and relationships,” she adds.

 5. “I wish that I had let myself be happier.”

Laugh a little and smile more, and it could increase more than your mood. The Wall Street Journal says a study of more than 10,000 young Americans found that those who reported being happier and more positive had a higher income by age 29.

“The analysis suggests happiness isn’t just linked to higher income — it’s helping generate it. That could be because happier young adults are more likely to earn a college degree, get hired and promoted, be more optimistic and less neurotic,” the Journal says.

6. “I should have saved more money for my retirement.”

This regret comes from Addicted2Success and was not on Ware’s list. Perhaps it should have been.

Multiple studies have shown that many Americans don’t think they’ll have enough money saved to retire comfortably. According to this 2015 Employment Benefit Research Institute survey, 28 percent of workers have less than $1,000 in retirement savings.

Remember that it’s never too late to start saving.

“Failing to plan for the retirement years leaves people destitute in their old age. When that happens, their last moments on earth can be very difficult and miserable,” Addicted2Success says.

You have friends who would benefit from this story. Why not share it on Facebook? Just click the bar below.

Stacy Johnson

It's not the usual blah, blah, blah

I know... every site you visit wants you to subscribe to their newsletter. But our news and advice is actually worth reading! For 25 years, I've been making people richer without making their eyes glaze over. Take 5 seconds and join our family by clicking here. You'll be glad you did. I guarantee it!

More Money Talks News


  • ManoaHi

    #2. Definitely. I once went to a company (our customer) where the CEO went around the office and turned off the lights at 6:00 P.M. until he got timers installed (the custodial staff had the codes to turn on some of the lights). He waited outside until everyone left, so if you were working in the dark, you’re making the CEO wait. The lights would not come on until 8:00 A.M. (they start work at 9:00 A.M.) Most people learned to be out the door just after 5:00 P.M. so sometimes the CEO would leave as soon as the last person left. Once he started “kicking people out of the office” he noticed that the whole company became highly productive and started meeting deadlines.

  • Travis Donnelly

    To be honest, death is not only the “Great Equalizer” (princes and paupers are on the same level at death), but it is also the “Great Eraser”. To me people view death from the standpoint of the living as if they are going to be able to reflect upon their lives after they are dead. Dead people don’t “know” when they die….they can’t as they have lost their consciousness. It is silly to have a “bucket list” because, even if you do everything on the list, what does it matter….you’re dead….you’re not taking your money with you and you’re not taking your knowledge/experiences. Also, unless you are someone like Benjamin Franklin or George Washington, you will be completely forgotten after a few short years and it will be as if you were NEVER BORN (from the standpoint of the living). Do you remember your great grandfather, the color of his eyes, his sense of humor/or lack thereof, his likes and dislikes, anything about his personality? The moment you die, your regrets will be totally irrelevant to anyone! Everyone’s life is essentially pointless due to death…..This will change when we finally reach a level of PHYSICAL IMMORTALITY.

    • Randall Strickland

      The article is entitled “Regrets of the Dying” not the dead. Regardless of your beliefs about spirituality and the afterlife the article does not attempt to discuss those issues. From your comments one can deduce that you will accomplish nothing of consequence for which you will be credited or that will improve humanity after you have died. Anyone who has done anything of significance will be remembered for the good or bad they have done. Not many of us personally knew Mother Teresa or Adolf Hitler but are aware of the things they did. They are and will be remembered for generations to come. By your statements you will soon forget that you had a mother and father or believe that their lives accounted for nothing. By this logic you yourself have become immaterial, even as you live, simply because your parents accomplished nothing of value.
      I expect that most people have some regret about something during their lives. Even before their last living days people reflect upon their lives and wish things could have been different. The time to resolve those regrets is as early in your life as possible so that when you are dying you can reflect and be content that you have lived a fulfilled life.

  • Travis Donnelly

    Hi Randall……Not sure why it is important for the dying to resolve regrets and feel fulfilled in their last days. It appears to be an act of futility…..Here we go again using the perspective of the living. Death negates the activities you just described making them pointless. Maybe it would be of comfort to the survivors, but means nothing (after death) to the dying. Also, Hitler and Mother Teresa will be remembered for generations, but let’s face it if you walked down the street and randomly asked people who these individuals were, the interviewees MIGHT recognize the name, but probably could not place them in history or give any details of what they did. Apparently you have never seen any episodes of “Jay Walking” on Jay Leno’s NBC Tonight show. The average American is “AS DUMB AS A BAG OF HAMMERS”!

Check Out Our Hottest Deals!

We're always adding new deals and coupons that'll save you big bucks. See the deals to the right and hundreds more in our Deals section.

Click here to explore 2,091 more deals!