Studies have shown that companion animals improve our health — reducing our stress, lowering blood pressure, increasing physical activity and even boosting social interaction. For the elderly, this is doubly true. These are the many benefits of pet stewardship (many of us joke that we’re simply staff for our feline and canine family members). For all the love we give and receive from our pets, there is a related expense — the cost of food, treats/toys, grooming supplies, kitty litter, and routine veterinary care. If a pet becomes ill or injured, those costs can dramatically increase. When living on a fixed income, these unexpected expenses are stressful. And when is how much simply too much?
Finding Room in A Post-Retirement Budget
According to a Time Money article, one in three Americans has saved $0 saved for retirement. Motley Fool reviewed an AARP analysis of the latest Census data. The average retirement income for Americans 65 and older was $31,742 with 84% receiving Social Security benefits. Within a fixed income, there isn’t much wiggle room for any type of unexpected financial expense when it comes our furry friends.
If your elderly loved one has a companion animal, here are a few things you could do to help:
- Check out pet insurance for routine care. Note there are some restrictions as to what is covered.
- Set up an emergency fund that’s separate from a day-to-day checking account.
- DIY grooming such as bathing and brushing at home can be a huge savings. For breeds that need regular haircuts, schedule professional grooming appointments at longer intervals.
- Avoid impulse buys like treats. Often those treats are unhealthy food choices for our pets. Do you really need another sparkly collar for fido?
- Make your own toys like catnip yarn balls or towel-braided chews.
Beyond Finances: It’s An Emotional Decision
Saying good-bye to a beloved pet is a heart-wrenching experience. Even if they have lived a long and happy life, choosing euthanasia is a difficult decision. In the case of illness or injury, it’s easy to rack up thousands of dollars in vet bills for diagnostic tests and surgical treatments.
In AARP’s How Much Should Your Pay to Save a Pet article, Veterinary ethicist James A. Serpell of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine, shares his perspective. When asked about euthanizing a dying pet, he quotes a friend:
“There is no right time; there’s only too soon or too late. And of the two, too soon is preferable, because if you are too late you’ve let that animal suffer.”
If you or a loved one is struggling with this decision, the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement may provide much-needed help. They provide support groups and a list of veterinarians who perform in-home euthanasia.
If you need assistance in creating a workable spending plan that includes pet care, Fiscally Fit can help.