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Is Life Insurance Going To The Dogs (And Cats)?

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Hanna turns five years old this month. Since every cat we’ve owned has survived and thrived well into its second decade, it’s possible that she might actually outlive one of us.

I haven’t given that possibility much thought, but a recent survey indicates that a large percentage of Americans are concerned about what will happen to their pets if their human companions predecease them.

Securian Financial Group surveyed pet owners and found that nearly half (44 percent) of them have made either formal or informal plans for their pets’ future care.

Those plans consist of much more than deciding who has enough room in their home for Fido or who is willing to deal with Fluffy’s non-stop shedding. In deciding who will become their pets’ guardians, many owners also are considering the financial demands that go along with pet ownership. Those financial demands can go way beyond the cost of food, a bed, a carrier and some kitty litter. Doggie day care, veterinary bills and repairing the damage that pets sometimes wreak on a home can take a bite out of a pet owner’s budget.

So how do you provide for your pet without sending its guardian to the poorhouse? Estate planning, life insurance and annuities, of course!

Nearly one-fifth of all respondents in Securian’s survey say they have financially planned ahead for their pets’ future care. When those respondents were asked to select all that apply:

 

  • 38 percent said they added the pet’s future caregiver as a beneficiary to a life insurance policy.
  • 35 percent added more coverage to their life policies.
  • 13 percent purchased annuities naming the pet’s caregiver as the beneficiary.

 

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals urges owners to draw up a financial plan for their pets’ care. Forty-six states have passed “pet trust” laws. Pet protection agreements, wills, powers of attorneys and letters of instruction are also available.

“Pets may provide opportunities for financial advisors whose clients consider their pets members of the family and spend large sums on their care,” said Michelle Hall, Securian’s manager of market research. “They can work with their advisors to modify their financial plans to include line items for pets.”

What I found a little disturbing is that most of those who took the Securian survey said they would be willing to risk their personal financial security to keep their pets happy and healthy.

When asked which financial priorities they would set aside to afford to keep a pet or save its life, many indicated a willingness to forego making loan payments.When asked to select all that apply, nearly one-fourth said they would skip credit card payments, 15 percent would skip car payments, and 15 percent would skip other loan payments in favor of maintaining or saving a pet.

Nearly three-fourths said they would spend vacation money and more than half said they would give up other long-term savings. For 22 percent, retirement contributions would go by the wayside, and for 16 percent, life insurance premiums would also get the ax.

 

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Susan Rupe is assistant editor for InsuranceNewsNet. She formerly served as communications director for an insurance agents' association and was an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor. Connect with Susan →

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