MassMutual is encouraging retirement plan savers to increase contributions to their employer’s 401(k) or other retirement plan (photo: ThinkStock).

It’s well known that pets can help people lower their blood pressure, reduce anxiety and even improve their social lives. Now, there’s evidence that pets can help people in a new way: saving for retirement.

Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. (MassMutual) is encouraging retirement plan savers to increase their contributions to their employer’s 401(k) or other retirement plan through a direct marketing campaign promoting the popularity of pets. New retirement plan deposits attributed to the email and direct mail campaign, which started in March and ran through May, are projected to generate $43 million in additional deposits in 2016. The campaign enjoyed the highest response rate ever for those making additional savings. 

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“With three out of five Americans owning pets, there is no doubt that we are a nation that loves animals of every shape, size and variety,” says MassMutual Vice President of Marketing Kris Rice. “By connecting to something that is top of mind for consumers, our campaign is encouraging retirement plan participants to boost their savings.”

Something else to chew on: The American Pet Products Association reports that Americans spent more than $60 billion on pets in 2015. It’s an important consideration given that Americans are $7.7 trillion short of saving what they need to retire comfortably, according to the Retirement Research Center.

With both those figures in mind, MassMutual’s pet campaign promotes the need for retirement savings by directing savers to RetireSmartPets.com. Visitors to the site are invited to post and share photos of their furry friends on social media, and, more importantly, are encouraged to increase their retirement plan contributions.

More than 1,700 photos of dogs, cats, rabbits, mice and horses in a wide range of poses and even some in costumes have been uploaded and shared on social media. The photos also include pets of the non-furry variety, including a humming bird, chickens, parrots, turtles, a lizard and pet rocks.

The owner of the pet who receives the most votes at the end of the year wins an iPad. The most popular pet to date is a chocolate Labrador Retriever puppy resembling a stuffed toy and who has attracted more than 8,300 votes and counting. 

Taking Action

In addition to posting photos of pets, RetireSmartPets.com provides tips on saving for retirement. “Just like a pet, your retirement plan needs care, nurturing and your attention,” the site explains. Retirement savers are given information and encouraged to take one of four actions concerning their retirement planning:

  • Sign up for their 401(k) or other employer-sponsored retirement plan,

  • Save more for retirement by boosting their current salary contribution,

  • Consolidate two or more retirement plans with different employers, or

  • Allocate their current investment mix to better meet their objectives.

The pet campaign is connecting particularly well with Millennials and the 55-plus age group: Savers ages 18-34 had the highest response rate; retirement savers age 55 and older had the highest increase in salary contributions.  The increase was attributable to both men and women.

“MassMutual hopes that by connecting Americans to something important in the present — loving their pets — they will be motivated to connect to something important for the future: saving for retirement,” Rice says. “Doing so will hopefully create a better future for both our savers and their pets.”

Related:

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