Children love dogs, going so far as bringing home a stray and asking to keep it. There are the pros and cons to consider. For example, can the child take responsibility for the pet, and can the household afford another mouth to feed?
A perhaps less familiar scene is pet adoption by adults for themselves, or by seniors during retirement.
Solo-agers might not have a child begging for a furry friend, but that doesn’t mean the senior should miss out on the companionship and other benefits that a pet can provide. In fact, if one is looking for added justification, consider the findings presented recently by the American Heart Association that shows that pet owners live longer healthier lives.
The data suggests that those who owned a dog or had a spouse or child with them when recovering from a heart attack or stroke had a reduced chance of death. Part of that might be that people with dogs tend to walk those dogs and exercise more. Another part might be that “interacting with dogs can boost your production of ‘happy hormones’ such as oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine”. This may translate to lower stress, even lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
Additional things to consider for dogs when retiring
Although owning a dog may not be a huge expense, it should still be added into the calculations for retirement planning. Some estimate the average cost to be around $2,000-2,500 annually, counting food and vet bills. Plus, the dog will likely tie down its owner and make travel more difficult. Given that travel is the number one retirement aspiration, the timing of pet ownership should be considered alongside other bucket-list items.
Dogs can require a lot of attention and energy. That could be a big benefit in retirement, turning a lot of unstructured time into structured time. It can also abate loneliness in that time and help one to stay fit. Aging will take its inevitable toll, so we need to be able to keep up with the dog as we age and consider their age as well. An older dog may be satisfied to just keep its owner company, while a younger puppy may need lots of attention. Additionally, the breed can make a big difference. Smaller breeds could be easier for a senior to control, and some breeds are much more sedentary than others.
A full list of dog breeds is available at the American Kennel Club .
Beware of pet scammers
If you are considering specific breeds rather than going to a local shelter, you may encounter scammers along the way. The Humane Society recently published an article about the increase in scammers for those looking for puppies. There are scams where the conditions for the breeder are misrepresented and the animal comes from a “puppy mill” which produces pets in deplorable conditions. The puppies may prove unhealthy and unable to survive. Some scammers claim they need funds to get the animal through customs, but then they vanish once the money has been sent.
The scammers never stop and are always getting more sophisticated. We have some examples of some of the most common scams perpetrated against seniors, the many signs of financial exploitation, and what you can do about it on our website here. We’d imagine these scams are getting even more personal and complex as the scammers integrate new technology into their methods.
The American Kennel Club has some additional red flags to watch out for and actionable steps, specifically in regard to puppy scams on their website here. Some of the advice is similar – don’t pay in gift cards, and if something sounds too good to be true, it likely is. Some is harder to follow, such as making sure that the photos used for the animals aren’t stock photos.
Estate planning considerations
Another potential problem that is often overlooked is designating a new caregiver given an untimely demise of the pet owner. It is a good idea to update your will often anyway, but including provisions for who will take the pets can be helpful both in ensuring familial harmony and possibly providing additional support for the pets. Those that are very well off might even consider a pet trust.
At Garden State Trust Company, we are familiar with many of the overlooked pitfalls that come from wealth transition and estate settlement. If you’d be interested in learning more about details that are often missed or would like a second opinion on your existing estate plan, let us know. We’d be pleased to provide a consultation.