Fido: The Four-Legged Retirement Budget Buster

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A pet can be a wonderful addition to a retiree’s life: They provide companionship and unconditional love, plus they can help fill an emotional gap for empty nesters.

But are those furry friends taking a toll on older Americans’ finances?

A recent report by the National Center for Policy Analysis states that one of the fastest-growing spending categories for those ages 65 to 74 is pets and hobbies, which encompasses pets and their supplies, as well as toys, games, tricycles and playground equipment. These expenses have grown 5.2% per year on average since 1990 for this age group.

Experts say that there are ways to prevent pet-related expenses from damaging retirees’ nest eggs. First of all, pet costs should be rigidly budgeted, just like any other expense for someone living on a fixed income, Andrea Blackwelder, founder and president of Wisdom Wealth Strategies LLC, told the Wall Street Journal. Online calculators like those from the ASPCA and Petfinder can help estimate these costs.

Pet owners can also look into strategies like low-cost pet health insurance, low-cost vaccinations or comparison-shopping for your pet’s medications to further save.

Alternatively, if someone enjoys being around animals but is loathe to take on the financial burden of owning one, he can look into pet-sitting, dog-walking or volunteering at the local animal shelter.