We are approaching National K9 Veterans Day: March 13, 2022 marks the 80th anniversary of the founding of the US Army K-9 Corps in 1942. At that time, US Secretary of War Robert P. Patterson gave official approval to the program, initially established to train and provide sentry dogs for military supply posts. Since then, thousands of canines have provided faithful service to US military operations around the world, serving with distinction and bravery from the battlefields of Europe to the most recent conflicts in Iran and Afghanistan.
Without question, our animal companions occupy a central place in our lives and affections. Whether canine, feline, or some other species, our pets give us enjoyment, provide companionship and amusement, and sometimes even offer greater security in our homes (haven’t you heard about or experienced instances where a dog’s keen hearing or sense of smell alerted its owners to an intruder or even a fire?)
Not only that, but research suggests that, particularly for those of us in or near retirement, owning a pet can actually keep you in better health. For example, a University of Missouri study concluded that retired dog owners who spent quality time with their four-footed pals tended to be more physically active (read: “it’s time for our walk”), which led to lower body mass indexes and less frequent doctor visits. And just about anyone who has ever enjoyed the unconditional love of a pooch or even the (sometimes conditional) soothing purr from a cat knows about the psychological and emotional benefits that pet ownership can provide.
But for pet owners, it’s worth giving some forethought to the implications of how your pet and your retirement lifestyle mix—or don’t. Especially for those whose plans include increased travel, a vacation home for the winter, or other activities that take them away from home for extended periods, careful consideration should be given to how Bowser or Mittens will adjust to the change. If it’s impractical to take them with you, will they do well if boarded? Or are they so attached to you and their regular surroundings that your extended absence will create stress and potential health problems? Especially for older pets, heightened levels of anxiety around changes in the routine can cause symptoms ranging from destructive behavior to loss of bowel and bladder control.
And don’t forget the vet bills. After all, you aren’t the only one who gets ill from time to time, and your pup can’t qualify for Medicare. Especially for older animals that may require more frequent attention, the expenses can be considerable; is your retirement budget up to the task?
Speaking of health, who would be available to take care of your pet in the event that you need an extended hospital stay or are otherwise unable to tend to the animal’s needs? For many such situations, a family member who lives nearby can probably be depended upon to make sure that the pets are properly cared for, but if that isn’t possible in your situation, can you pay for a pet-sitter or a boarding facility?
At Mathis Wealth Management, one of our most important jobs is to make sure our clients are seeing the whole picture as they prepare for retirement and other important life transitions. Our online “Resources and Tools” can provide a quick, easy way to start getting a handle on your retirement planning.