Interest Rates Hold Steady, For Now
When the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve met on September 19 and 20, it kept interest rates steady at 5.25% to 5.5% despite the inflation rate remaining above the Board’s target of two percent. For perspective:
We’ve had the opportunity to write frequently about the Fed’s actions on interest rates, (specifically their impact on credit card debt, corporate borrowing) since rates have increased 11 times since March of 2022, and the benchmark rate is at its highest level in 22 years.
Once again, this pause could be temporary since Chairman Jerome Powell said in his press conference (9:50) that “The majority of [Fed meeting] participants believe it is more likely than not for us to raise rates one more time in the two remaining meetings this year.”
We are monitoring the effects of the Fed’s recent actions and will update you again when the Board meets again on October 31 and November 1.
I am fond of pigs.
Of animals, Winston Churchill said, “I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.”
Superior, inferior, or as equals, Americans love their pets. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 38.4% of American households include dogs and 25.4% include cats. That’s 48 million and 31 million households, respectively. Add the number of households owning birds, horses, fish, ferrets, rabbits, reptiles, pet livestock and poultry, and other mammals, and the total percentage and number of pet-loving households rises to an estimated 68% or 87 million.
A Member of the Family?
A Pew Research Center study conducted in April of 2023 found that 97% of all pet owners in the U.S. consider their pets to be a part of their family and about half of that group says their pets “are as much a part of their family as a human member.” Interestingly, opinions on that point vary by gender, income and geography (urban vs. rural) but not notably by age, race or ethnicity.
Researchers have long studied the effect pets have on human health but are now looking at how pets, specifically dogs, can explain and ameliorate the effects of aging. If you’d like to participate in that research, check out the Dog Aging Project.
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Can a Pet be an Heir?
The widow of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry left $4 million in trust for her dogs and earmarked $1 million for an employee to care for them. Oprah Winfrey set up a $30 million trust for her dogs. Betty White’s golden retriever inherited $5 million at Betty’s death. So, are pet trusts common or only for the wealthy?
According to the ASPCA, legislators in all 50 states, including Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia, have enacted laws governing pet trusts, so they are popular with more than just the rich and famous.
A Living Trust
A living (or revocable) trust is one way to designate and provide funds for a caretaker for a pet (the beneficiary). The trustee of the trust manages the trust funds and has a fiduciary responsibility to enforce the terms of the trust. If the designated caretaker is not able or willing to care for a pet, the trust funds are returned to the pet owner’s estate.
In a will, an individual may set aside a sum of money and designate a caretaker, alternate caretakers and even temporary guardians for their pet(s). A statement in a will may initiate a “statutory pet trust,” so it’s important to seek advice from an estate planning attorney.
Animal Care Facilities
Before their deaths, some individuals choose an organization, such as a humane society or animal rescue group, to care for their pets. There are costs associated with this care, so it’s important to check out both the organization and its costs before naming a facility.
Verify Before You Trust
States vary in their requirements for pet trusts. For example, most require that pet trusts terminate upon the death of the last surviving animal, while some limit the funding of pet trusts, and / or permit courts to reduce or redirect trust property that they determine to be more than necessary for the intended use.
In addition, federal—and possibly state—income, gift and estate tax rules apply to pet trusts so it’s important to consult your financial and legal advisors for guidance before deciding how best to provide care for your pets should you die or become unable to care for them.
Advisory Services offered through Obsidian Personal Planning Solutions, LLC. Securities are offered through Triad Advisors, member FINRA/SIPC. Obsidian Personal Planning Solutions, LLC, and Obsidian Personal Planning Solutions, Inc, are not affiliated with Triad Advisors.