Financial Planning for you and your pet

By Teri Errico Griffis

Come the new year, everyone’s goals are to be healthier, happier and make better choices with their money. But a good financial plan isn’t just about setting a budget number and trying to stick to it. Financial Advisor Michael E. Lewis II has some tips on how you can create a (realistic) budget, stick to it, and reminds you not to forget about your pets through it all!

“My biggest tip is always start with your goals. Most people go straight to tactics and strategies and skip the part about what they actually want to accomplish,” says Lewis, CLU, CFP, Financial Advisor for Northwestern Mutual on Calhoun St. “Prioritize your goals and make sure any strategies are in alignment with those goals. You want your life plan to dictate your financial plan, and too often people have it the other way around.”

Lewis also recommends getting professional assistance. “There’s plenty of apps and things out there, but don’t overcomplicate it,” he adds. “Step one is just understanding your cash flow—what is being directly deposited into your bank account and then where you’re spending money. Separate those expenses into your ‘have to’ and your ‘want to’ just because you enjoy it expenses.”  When it comes to those ‘have to’ expenses or the monthly fixed expenses, always include savings. That and “fun” are the two things Lewis finds people don’t account for most.


Planning for Your Pet

While people always think about their future—and rarely ever forget to budget for their pet’s monthly expenses of dog food, dog sitter or monthly medication—“very often they forget to address what happens to the pet if something happens to me,” Lewis says.

To assist pet owners in that future planning, Charleston Animal Society has begun The Surviving Pet Care Program. “We’re offering people reassurance that their pet will be cared for when they pass away,” says Jennifer Winchester, Director of Philanthropy at the shelter. “We will agree to take the animal in when the owner passes away and rehome them.”

There’s a $5,000 fee per animal (cat or dog, and currently only South Carolinians), which can be a single payment or a bequest in the will, and will help cover the costs of picking up the pet, caring for it (including any medication) and rehoming it. One reason for starting the program is because pet owners assume a family member or close friend will want the pet, and many times, that assumption proves wrong and pets end up being surrendered.

Winchester notes the plan doesn’t mean a pet will live out its days at the shelter. “We’re very clear that if we get them, we’ll rehome them and try to put them with somebody in their circle first,” she says. If that doesn’t work, then the animal will be adopted through Charleston Animal Society’s regular adoption procedure.

The goal of Surviving Pet Care is to offer pet owners peace of mind and Charleston residents are already committing to the program. “Pets are members of the family too, and any given day could be your last so it’s important to be prepared,” Winchester says. To learn more, contact Jennifer Winchester at: (843) 329-1541 or