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  • Nearly everyone could use a financial do-over. Bankrate asked Americans about their biggest money regrets, and they unsurprisingly centered on savings.

    About 4 in 10 Americans expressed regrets about failing at some kind of saving -- for retirement, for emergency expenses or for their childrens education.

    There is an upside here, though. The fact that people are expressing regret about these decisions would seem to suggest that they recognize their mistake and have learned something from the experience.

    Learning from my expensive mistakes

    I can relate. I would say that to the extent I am responsible about saving today, its because I still remember vividly the mistakes I made in the past. In particular, there was one Christmas in college where I spent every last dime of my savings on presents for my family. After all, I had a job, I had some money and it was time to get something nice for everybody, for once.

    All went as planned. Everyone was really happy with the gifts I gave them, I had a great Christmas vacation, and I made it safely back to school. Everything was going great -- until I checked my checking account balance at an ATM and saw I was $400 overdrawn. Some of my presents, as well as my travel expenses back to school, had all hit the account at once and triggered a cascade of $30-something overdraft charges.

    On top of that, I had no savings to fall back on, and my next paycheck wasnt due for a week. I had no food and little gas. Thankfully, my girlfriend at the time (now my wife), was kind enough to buy me some groceries. But it was a powerful lesson on the necessity of keeping an emergency fund that I will never forget. (My new colleague Sarah Berger has a story about her own emergency fund lesson).

    Regret-driven savings?

    It appears were not alone -- looking at historical data on the personal savings rate, it looks like millions of Americans had similar experiences during the Great Recession, when many found themselves unexpectedly jobless with little or no savings to fall back on.