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Financial Planning 101: Don’t Discount Pets

By Colleen Williams
published: September 30, 2014 - updated: November 20, 2019 • 2 min. read

Most people at least understand the basics of financial planning: Develop a budget and stick to it. Limit impulsive purchases. Set aside money for emergencies and retirement. Whether they act on that knowledge is a different discussion altogether.

dog financial advisor
Image via Pleated Jeans

But how should pets factor in to a financial plan? Nearly 68 percent of American households own pets, according to the American Pet Products Association, yet the costs necessary to keep pets fed and healthy can be overlooked by pet owners.

Here are simple tips to ensure pets are included in any financial plan:

Budget for Everyday Expenses

Pets are beloved family members but that love doesn’t always come cheap. In 2013, Americans spent $56 billion on their pets according to new research. Broken down, the top three costs were:

  • $21.5 billion spent on food
  • $14 billion spent on veterinary costs
  • $14 billion spent on supplies and over-the-counter medicines

That’s not an insignificant amount of money. Eve Kaplan, a certified financial planner with Kaplan Financial Advisors, says that pet parents would be wise to include pet care costs in their overall financial plan.

“In addition to food, pets may need toys, training, grooming, boarding, standard and acute veterinary care and burial or cremation. All of these things cost time and money,” Kaplan writes on

Offset Healthcare Costs with Pet Insurance

Nearly one-quarter of the $56 billion that pet owners spent in 2013 went toward veterinary expenses, often with little warning to the owners footing the bill. Pet insurance is one way that people can offset the sometimes exorbitant costs related to unexpected medical issues.

In honor of National Pet Health Insurance month, The North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA) released figures for the most expensive pet insurance claims in 2013. Hip dysplasia surgery for dogs topped the list at $40,606, followed by $36,485 to cure pleural effusion, a condition that causes fluid building around the lungs. The highest cost claims for cats were $17,685 for inflammatory bowel disease and $16,704 for kidney failure.

Those medical bills would be enough to crush most pet parents’ monthly (or even yearly) budgets.

Estate Planning: Make Room for Pets

By arranging for care and funding before their deaths, pet owners can ensure their pets will receive quality care for life.

Nearly one-fifth of respondents to a Securian Financial Group survey said they have planned ahead financially for pet care. Options range from including a pet’s future caregiver as life insurance policy beneficiary to creating a pet will or pet trust.

Comedian and dog-lover Joan Rivers did just that by leaving her estimated $150 million fortune to her daughter, grandson and her four dogs that lived in her New York and California residences, according to Dan Caplinger, a financial planner and Daily Finance contributor.

Estate plans that include pets are legally binding and aren’t difficult to arrange, Caplinger says. These legal measures allow people to guarantee a desired lifestyle for the remainder of the pet’s years.

“In addition to naming particular caretakers both for the pets themselves and for the money left for their care, traditional pet trusts let you do into as much detail as you want about how exactly your pets should be treated,” he says.

colleen williams
By Colleen Williams

Over the past decade, Colleen has written about health, wellness, beauty, and even pets for The New York Times, The Cut, Refinery29, xoVain, Healthy Paws Pet Insurance, and Seattle Met Magazine, as well as many beauty brands. She has a BFA in Art History from the University of New Mexico and an AAS in Fashion Design from Parsons School of Design in New York.

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