Pets and your pocketbook

Caring for four-legged friends can cost you, but it may also help your save money, too

The key to a happy retirement may come with fur and four legs.

Nearly 80 million U.S. households have a pet. Thirty-seven percent those pet owners are baby boomers. While pets can provide physical and emotional benefits, owners might not realize they can also provide some financial benefits!

There are five ways owning a pet can be a “treat” for your budget:


Dogs, in particular, need a lot of exercise. Most breeds need to run or walk every day. If you exercise with your pet, you can save anywhere from $30 to $90 a month by not getting a gym membership.


Health care is one of the top expenses for most families, and pets can lend a helping paw in this area. Researchers at Loyola University found patients recovering from joint-replacement surgery needed 28 percent less pain medication if they got five to 15 minutes of animal therapy each day. Studies have also found having a pet can lower your cholesterol and your blood pressure. The American Heart Association, meanwhile, has linked owning a pet with a reduced risk for heart disease.

When you give your pet a happy home, you can enjoy a potentially endless supply of unconditional love — and that can impact your mental health.

Whether you’ve faced a bad day at work or an argument with a friend, your pet is always there for you. 

Home security

A home security system can cost about $1,600 to install, and anywhere from $15 to $60 a month after that to monitor.

However, a protective pet will work for free. A dog’s bark is often enough to scare away any potential burglars.


All pets have a personality, and, more often than not, they demand your undivided attention. Playing with your pet — or getting a good laugh from watching your pet chase its tail — is free entertainment.

Pets are also excellent conversation starters. Whether in the pet store or on your daily walk, you never know who you’ll meet simply because they stopped to see your pet.

Finally, training your pets can help take up some of your free time as a low-cost hobby, keeping you from going out and spending money.

Keep costs in mind, too

Before you bring home Fido, Fluffy or Spot, it’s important to consider all of the factors.

The average dog owner will spend $8,000 over the animal’s lifetime. There are obvious costs, such as food, leashes, toys and cleanup supplies.

Also: You may have to board your pet if you travel, especially during retirement.

And your beloved pet may need emergency care. During a pet’s lifetime, emergency care bills typically range from $3,000 to $4,000.

Pet owners are also shelling out big bucks on services for their four-legged friends, including professional grooming.

Indeed, pets are a lot of work (and aren’t free). But most owners will say they’re well worth it.

Skip Johnson is an advisor at Great Waters Financial, a financial-planning firm and Minnesota insurance agency in New Hope. See Skip also offers investment advisory services through AdvisorNet Wealth Management, a registered investment advisor.