The 4 money mistakes people make in their 30s that they regret the most

napping relaxingIan Gavan/Getty ImagesThe top regret was not saving for retirement early.Ian Gavan/Getty Images

Your 30s are a crucial decade for financial health. But we all make mistakes

To find out which money blunders Americans most regret during their 30s, the insurance company New York Life surveyed 2,200 adults in partnership with Morning Consult.

The top regret? Not starting to save for retirement. Respondents pinpointed this mistake to age 34, on average, and said it took over a decade to recover from. 

Fidelity recommends having at least two times your annual salary saved by age 35 and three times your salary by age 40. But these are just benchmarks - how much someone needs for a comfortable retirement is highly personal. But the good news is that you don't have to save every penny on your own, explains certified financial planner Lauren Lyons Cole in a Business Insider article.

"Your savings will grow exponentially if you invest the money you save. Investing can be risky - sometimes your account balances will dip. But as long as you don't need the money when it does (and if you're far from retirement, you won't), then you have plenty of time to enjoy the flip side of the coin: when the stock market is soaring," Lyons Cole says.

But retirement planning wasn't the only oversight in the savings department. The survey respondents also said they regretted not maintaining an adequate emergency fund in their early 30s - a mistake that took an average of nine years to recover from, the survey found.

Financial planners recommend having anywhere between three and six months worth of your expenses socked away in cash, preferably in a high-yield savings or money-market account where there's potential for growth but zero risk of loss. Exactly how much you need in an emergency fund depends on your monthly expenses and the stability of your income. The rule of thumb for a single-earner household is six months, while the guideline for a dual-earner household is three months, but if you freelance or are self-employed, you may need even more.

Aside from not saving enough, the survey respondents' other top regrets related to credit cards. Some said they relied too much on their credit cards in their mid-30s, presumably taking on debt that took them an average of eight years to recover from, the survey found. They also regretted not paying their balances off in full every month.

Financial experts often warn against credit-card debt. With some of the highest interest rates for any type of credit, credit-card debt can quickly snowball to seemingly unmanageable levels. To be sure, credit cards can offer great value when used correctly, but in order to build wealth - and earn perks and rewards - it's crucial to avoid carrying a balance.

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