Childfree Financial Planning: Are You A DINKWAD?
Are you a DINKWAD? Let’s find out!
1. Do you have a partner, spouse, or significant other?
2. Do you both work and earn money for doing said work?
3. Are you childfree?
4. Do you have a dog?
If you just answered each of those in the affirmative, I’d like to inform you that, yes: You’re officially a DINKWAD!
If you read my article on SINKs and DINKs, you might be onto what that is. If not, the DINKWAD meaning is: dual income no kids — with a dog!
Did you answer “no” any of those? Well, you could be a SINKWAD if you’re single, earn an income, are childfree, and have a dog.
And to my fellow cat people out there, you just might be a DINKWAC (pronounced DINK-wack) like me!
Don’t forget about the single cat people out there: The SINKWACs!
Ok, you get it. I’ve exhausted the fun names for people with income and no kids who have pets. It may also be clear to you from the title that I’m talking about childfree people here. That is, folks who have made the intentional decision not to have kids. And whether you call yours your furbaby or not, you probably figured that I’m here to share with you my thoughts about what makes being a childfree person or member of a couple with a pet — or multiples — extra special and unique from a financial perspective. Here are my top five …
I love to travel. My cat, on the other hand, is more of a homebody. So when my partner and I leave town, someone needs to feed her and administer her daily Prozac. Before she was on medication, sure, we could travel more easily. We’d fill up a big bowl each of food (she free-eats) and water, freshen her litter box, and ask a friend or neighbor to check in on her periodically to make sure she’s ok.
For you pet parents who have overeaters, I feel you. Like you, I now have to ask someone to check in on her every day around 6 p.m. to feed her and give her that pill. On the financial side, that means paying someone. And whether it’s a daily rate for taking the time or a sweet souvenir, we’ve got to add to the travel budget. I know my pupper people out there also need to let their dogs out, and walking services aren’t exactly cheap. So cheers to you finding a great pet sitter who cares for yours while you’re away. Don’t forget to tip!
2. Veterinary Care — and Pet Insurance
Ahh, the veterinarian. Every pet’s favorite person! (Well, in some cases, I’ll bet that’s more of a truth than a joke!)
My Coco has been to the vet for both doctor and dentist visits more in the past few years than I have. That also means that her medical and dental bills have been bigger than mine. Sure, pet owners know that they’ll have to pay for annual wellness checks, vaccinations when required, and licensing. The usual. But if yours has a special medical need, is injured in an accident, or is simply aging, make sure you’ve got your emergency and future opportunities fund (EFOF) in check.
If it’s a BIG expense that would empty your EFOF — like broken bones, cancer, or another procedure that requires emergency surgery — remember not to pull out your credit card immediately. Instead, ask about interest-free payment plans or care credit. Maybe you’ve used the latter for your own needs before. But did you know that you may be able to use it for your pet? Some vets also have funds pooled from their clients that they can offer to assist a pet parent in need. It never hurts to ask about these types of assistance if you find yourself in a pinch.
Speaking of expensive veterinary care, could pet insurance be right for you? Maybe, especially as your pet ages. But don’t forget that, unlike human health insurance, pet health insurance can exclude certain preexisting conditions, so it could be beneficial to begin insuring your pet earlier in their life. That said, insurance plans can also be choosy about what they’ll cover. Some policies simply won’t include certain medical conditions or routine care right out of the gate. So be sure to read the fine print — or send it to me for review. As the Director of Insurance Planning here, I’m happy to review your furry family member’s insurance!
Personally, my partner and I decided that it’s not for us. Even though Coco will be turning 15 this July, the premiums we reviewed simply didn’t make sense for us. We choose to self-insure her care by making sure that our EFOFs are well-maintained instead of paying an insurance company for the coverage.
Does that mean she could have a major health expense that we wouldn’t be able to cover with our EFOFs? Absolutely. But it’s a risk we’re willing to manage ourselves. Like us, I encourage you to discuss this with your partner and decide how you would handle a large medical expense. If you’re a SINKWAD or SINKWAC, let’s chat! And if you’re a DINKWAD or DINKWAC, that invitation is open to you, too.
3. Liability Insurance
Moving from your pet to you, do you have liability insurance? It’s most common to hold this type of coverage through your renters or homeowners insurance policy. And you might be wondering what property and casualty insurance has to do with your pet. Allow me to explain.
You might know that liability insurance protects you if you’re found liable (responsible) for damages to another person. Pretty self-explanatory, right? What you may not know is that the liability insurance you already hold through your renters or homeowners policy extends to cover members of your household — and it might even cover your pets.
Pro tip: Be sure to check with your insurer on this one. Some policies only include human members of a household, and some insurers exclude certain breeds of dogs from coverage. If you’d rather not change insurers, adding a pet liability insurance policy might be an option.
So what does liability insurance do when it comes to your pet? Let’s say that a repair person visits your home to fix your dishwasher, and your pet bites them. Your pet is your responsibility, so your liability coverage would protect you in the event that the injured party sued you. This type of insurance protects you from such major financial losses.
When I say that I’m here to ensure you’re properly insured, you can see how that includes your pet, too!
4. Estate Planning
With your assets protected against liability, what are your plans for them when you’re no longer around? Maybe you’re the type of person whose account beneficiaries are animal- or pet-focused charities. That’s lovely! But when I mention estate planning, I’m also talking about your plan for your pet or pets.
Nobody likes to think about their own mortality. But in financial planning, that’s necessary. To be blunt, if you died tomorrow as a SINKWAD or SINKWAC, what would happen to your pet? Do you have your intentions clearly outlined in an enforceable last will and testament that would hold up in court?
How about you, DINKWADs and DINKWACs? If you passed away tomorrow, your partner might take care of your pet. But if you and your partner, spouse, or significant other passed away at the same time, who would care for that same pet?
An important piece of estate planning for members of the childfree community with pets is to have a plan that includes funding for the care of your pets in the event of your death. It’s likely that a friend or family member would take them in. But if it’s not official, your pet could end up at an animal shelter — and it might not be no-kill. So I encourage you to do your estate planning due diligence for your furry family member or members, too.
For a bit more on the estate planning side, if you were living but lost the ability to care for your pet, what would happen? You may want to think about a worst-case scenario here, like becoming disabled. If you needed to go into assisted living for the rest of your life, would you be able to find a facility that would accept your pet or pets along with you? Build this — and the additional costs it would require — into your financial plan.
5. End of Life Care
Again with the sad trombone — I know! This one is especially sad because I’m here to talk about the end of your pet’s life. You probably know that most pets don’t have longer life spans than their human counterparts. Similar to your own estate planning and having your advance medical directives in place, it can be extremely helpful to have end-of-life procedures laid out ahead of time. This can allow you to take some of the emotion out of a difficult decision when you’re at your most emotional.
For example, if your pet was in pain without hope of recovering, would you help them cross the rainbow bridge? Or would you provide them with pain medication as that happened naturally? Would you resuscitate them? By planning for the worst now, you can be fully present with your pet during their final moments.
Another important piece of end-of-life care — beyond paying for that care — is burial. Did your pet have a favorite spot in your backyard where you’d want them to rest? Maybe your family has a plot in a pet cemetery. Or perhaps you’re less location-specific and would want your pet to be with you after death. If that’s the case, cremation might be ideal. I’ve also heard of options to have your pet’s ashes made into a precious stone or even tattoo ink. These can all be beautiful ways to remember a beloved pet. If you’re going the cremation route, be sure to plan for what happens to those ashes when you pass away.
Adding a pet to your family or starting your own family unit by adopting a cat or dog is a big step. A great way to begin the process is to ensure that you’re ready financially. After all, caring for a living thing is a great honor and a great responsibility. I hope your relationship with your pet is full of love — and some cuddles or kisses, too!
Did I miss any of the big expenses that you’ve encountered as a childfree SINK or DINK with a pet? Let me know! I’d love to hear your story and how you’ve handled your childfree financial planning.
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