August is both National Dog Month and National Wellness Month. To recognize both of these important months, we thought it was perfect to point out all of the positive impacts that pets can have on our lives.
So, you’ve finally gotten a chance to slow down and enjoy all the hard work you’ve put in. You can relax and “smell the roses,” as they say. But instead of feeling a sense of relief and accomplishment, you start feeling antsy. Maybe you’re bored, or maybe you feel a bit isolated from all the things that used to make up your day. You can feel this wearing on your mental health. And perhaps you think you’re alone in this. Fear not - it’s a common difficulty many of us experience. In fact, according to the CDC, mental health concerns impact about 20% of people over the age of 55.
There are also many different ways to combat mental health concerns, and one of them is by caring for a pet. Studies have shown that pets can provide huge mental health benefits for their human companions, such as stress relief by releasing serotonin in the brain (which boosts your mood and helps regulate sleep). Let’s take a look at some of the key benefits that caring for pets can have on mental health.
Increased Physical Activity
Caring for an animal, especially a dog, often encourages increased physical activity. Dog owners typically need to take their dog for one to two walks per day, helping them get outdoors and into the fresh air. Getting regular exercise has been proven to have significant positive effects on mental well being and helps increase energy levels, focuses the mind, reduces stress and anxiety, releases tension, and much more. These all contribute to positive mental health.
Not a dog person? That’s okay, caring for any pet can offer increased physical activity you wouldn’t normally get, whether that’s getting them food, playing with them, or grooming them regularly (which can be especially good for dexterity). Physical activity can take many different forms, and caring for a pet can make those activities fun and meaningful.
A clear upside to caring for a pet is companionship, and its benefits shouldn’t be overlooked. It can be so easy for us to feel lonely, which can be a major factor in mental health concerns. A pet can offer the companionship we need to feel less detached from the world.
Pets offer friendship and love, and they can be a great source of happiness and joy. Pets can make your home feel full of life and less empty on a daily basis. They also provide meaningful interactions with a companion who needs your love and care. Maybe you’re the type of person who loves talking to their pets, or maybe you just like playing with them. Either way, caring for a pet gives you a way to express and feel love, and to feel needed, which is so important to all of us.
Speaking of feeling needed, purpose is another huge benefit that caring for a pet can have on mental health. Taking care of a pet and knowing that they need you can offer a vital sense of purpose in our lives. It helps make us feel important and valuable, which of course we are!
Caring for animals that need us is good for them and good for us. Caring for pets also helps create structure and routine in our lives, which offers a further sense of purpose and meaning, increasing our self-confidence. Caring for a pet can make us feel more grounded in the world, knowing we’ve done something important with our day. A lack of purpose can wreak havoc on mental health, increasing stress and anxiety. A furry or feathered friend can be a much-needed remedy to that.
Reducing stress and anxiety
We all need physical contact. Whether it’s a hug from a friend or family member, or the embrace of a partner, our skin craves touch. The physical contact that comes from pets, while not replacing human touch, can provide regular physical contact and help reduce stress and anxiety.
Studies show that pet owners have lower rates of cardiovascular complications than those without. In fact, just being in the presence of a pet can ease stress and reduce anxiety. They can also help fight depression and be a source of calm for people with dementia. The love we get from pets is unconditional and thorough - perhaps that’s why further studies show that physical contact with dogs increases feelings of trust and love, while lowering feelings of stress. It’s a win-win!
We know not everyone is a pet person. If so, a pet may not be for you (though, we often hear stories about people who claim they aren’t pet people that have a change of heart after they get to know a pet). But for those of us that are pet people, especially if you’re someone looking for a way to boost your mental health, caring for a pet can offer a number of wonderful and important benefits.
As individuals, our needs vary, and pets can be a reprieve for a variety of different struggles or demands - from companionship to exercise. That being said, becoming a pet owner can be a huge commitment, financially and physically.
If getting a pet of your own is more than what you’re looking for, there are other options! You can volunteer at a shelter if you don’t have the capacity to keep a pet at your home, or you can offer to pet sit for friends and family. There are even programs that bring pets around to senior living communities. So, reach out and find a pet to care for. It’s good for you, and it’s good for them.
As you know, the gig economy has been booming over the past several years. If youre thinking of using your skills to take on a side gig, what should you do with the money youll make?Theres no one right answer for everyone, and the decisions you make should be based on your individual situation. And of course, you may simply need the extra income to support your lifestyle and pay the bills. But if you already have your cash flow in good shape, and you have some freedom with your gig money, consider these suggestions: Contribute more to your IRA. If you couldnt afford to contribute the maximum amount to your IRA, you may find it easier to do so when you have additional money coming in from a side gig. For the 2023 tax year, you can put in up to $6,500 to a traditional or Roth IRA, or $7,500 if youre 50 or older. (Starting in 2024, this extra $1,000 catch-up contribution amount may be indexed for inflation.) The amount you can contribute to a Roth IRA is reduced, and eventually eliminated, at certain income levels. Look for new investment opportunities. If youre already maxing out your IRA, you might be able to find other investment possibilities for your side gig money. For example, if you have young children, perhaps you could use some of the money to invest in a 529 education savings plan. A 529 plan offers potential tax advantages and can be used for college, qualified trade school programs, and possibly some K-12 expenses. Please keep in mind that potential tax advantages will vary from state to state. Build an emergency fund. Life is full of unexpected events and some can be quite expensive. What if you needed a major car repair or required a medical procedure that wasnt totally covered by your health insurance? Would you have the cash available to pay these bills? If not, would you be forced to dip into your IRA or 401(k)? This might not be a good move, as it could incur taxes and penalties, and deprive you of resources you might eventually need for retirement. Thats why you might want to use your gig earnings to help fund an emergency fund containing several months worth of living expenses, with the money kept in a liquid, low-risk account. To avoid being tempted to dip into your emergency fund, you may want to keep it separate from your daily spending accounts. Pay down debts. Most of us will always carry some debts, but we can usually find ways to include the bigger ones mortgage, car payments and so on into our monthly budgets. Its often the smaller debt payments, frequently associated with high-interest-rate credit cards, that cause us the most trouble, in terms of affecting our cash flow. If you can use some of your side gig money to pay down these types of debts, you could possibly ease some of the financial stress you might be feeling. And instead of directing money to pay for things you purchased in the past, you could use the funds to invest for your future.As weve seen, your side gig money could open several promising windows of opportunity so take a look through all of them. Chad Choate III, AAMS828 3rd Avenue WestBradenton, FL email@example.com This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor. Edward Jones, Member SIPC
Its been a bumpy year for the financial markets which means that some of your investments may have underperformed or lost value. Can you use these losses to your advantage?Its possible. If you have some investments that have lost value, you could sell them to offset taxable capital gains from other investments. If your losses exceed gains for the year, you could use the remaining losses to offset up to $3,000 of ordinary income. And any amount over $3,000 can be carried forward to offset gains in future years. This tax-loss harvesting can be advantageous if you plan to sell investments that youve held in taxable accounts for years and that have grown significantly in value. And you might receive some gains even if you take no action yourself. For example, when you own mutual funds, the fund manager can decide to sell stocks or other investments within the funds portfolio and then pay you a portion of the proceeds. These payments, known as capital gains distributions, are taxable to you whether you take them as cash or reinvest them back into the fund. Still, despite the possible tax benefits of selling investments whose price has fallen, you need to consider carefully whether such a move is in your best interest. If an investment has a clear place in your holdings, and it offers good business fundamentals and favorable prospects, you might not want to sell it just because its value has dropped. On the other hand, if the investments youre thinking of selling are quite similar to others you own, it might make sense to sell, take the tax loss and then use the proceeds of the sale to purchase new investments that can help fill any gaps in your portfolio. If you do sell an investment and reinvest the funds, youll want to be sure your new investment is different in nature from the one you sold. Otherwise, you could risk triggering the wash sale rule, which states that if you sell an investment at a loss and buy the same or a substantially identical investment within 30 days before or after the sale, the loss is generally disallowed for income tax purposes.Heres one more point to keep in mind about tax-loss harvesting: Youll need to take into account just how long youve held the investments youre considering selling. Thats because long-term losses are first applied against long-term gains, while short-term losses are first applied against short-term gains. (Long-term is defined as more than a year; short-term is one year or less.) If you have excess losses in one category, you can then apply them to gains of either type. Long-term capital gains are taxed at 0%, 15% or 20%, depending on your income, while short-term gains are taxed at your ordinary income tax rate. So, from a tax perspective, taking short-term losses could provide greater benefits if your tax rate is higher than the highest capital gains rate.Youll want to contact your tax advisor to determine whether tax-loss harvesting is appropriate for your situation and youll need to do it soon because the deadline is Dec. 31. But whether you pursue this technique this year or not, you may want to keep it in mind for the future because youll always have investment tax issues to consider. Chad Choate III, AAMS828 3rd Avenue WestBradenton, FL firstname.lastname@example.org This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.Edward Jones, Member SIPC
As you go through life, youll have various financial goals and to achieve them, youll need to invest. But just recognizing the need to invest is not as useful as matching specific types of accounts or investments with specific goals. How can you make these connections?Lets look at some common goals and how they could possibly be met with appropriate accounts and investments: Saving for a down payment on a house When youre saving for a down payment, you want a certain amount of money available at a certain time so, for this goal, you wont want to take too much risk. Consequently, you might consider investing in certificates of deposit (CDs), which will pay you regular interest payments and return your principal when the CDs mature. CDs are issued in a range of maturities, from one month to 10 years. Other vehicles you might consider are money market accounts or other cash equivalents. Saving for a childs education If you have children, and youd like to help them pay for some form of higher education, you may want to consider a 529 education savings plan. Any earnings growth in a 529 plan is federally tax free, provided the withdrawals are used for qualified education expenses, and you may also receive state tax benefits. A 529 plan can be used for college, approved trade school programs, student loan repayments and some K-12 costs. And if the child youve named as a beneficiary chooses not to continue their education, and doesnt need the money in a 529 plan, you can generally switch beneficiaries to another immediate family member. Saving for retirement This is the one goal that will remain consistent throughout your working years after all, you could spend two or even three decades in retirement, so youll need to accumulate as many financial resources as you can to pay for those years. Fortunately, you likely have access to several good retirement-savings vehicles. If you work for a business, you might have a 401(k) plan, which offers you the chance to put away money on a tax-deferred basis. (If you have a Roth option in your 401(k), your withdrawals can be tax free, although, unlike a traditional 401(k), your contributions wont lower your taxable income.) If you work for a public school or a nonprofit organization, you may be able to participate in a 403(b) plan, which is quite similar to a 401(k), and the same is true if you work for a state or local government, where you might have a 457(b) plan. And even if you invest in any of these plans, you can probably also contribute to an IRA, which gives you another chance to invest on a tax-deferred basis (or tax-free basis, if youre eligible for a Roth IRA). Try to take full advantage of whatever retirement plans are available to you.Here's one final point to keep in mind: While some investments and accounts are appropriate for certain goals, they may not necessarily be suitable for your individual situation so keep all your options in mind and take the steps that are right for you. Chad Choate III, AAMS828 3rd Avenue WestBradenton, FL email@example.com This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor. Edward Jones, Member SIPC