Your money | Financial industry, Trading and Earnings

UK economy picks up in late 2016 but signs of Brexit hit appear


Britain's economy accelerated at the end of 2016 but growth for the whole year was weaker than previously thought and there are signs of weakness ahead, data showed, suggesting the Brexit vote will start to take its toll in 2017. The pound fell after the figures, which no longer showed Britain as the fastest-growing major advanced economy last year. Gross domestic product rose by 0.7 percent in the fourth quarter compared with 0.6 percent in the previous three months, marking the strongest showing since the fourth quarter of 2015, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said. While the figures were boosted by a rebound in trade, business investment fell and slowing household spending growth raised questions about the outlook for 2017. The ONS trimmed its estimate for 2016 growth to 1.8 percent from 2.0 percent, reflecting weaker stock-building that led to a downward revision first quarter figures. Germany's economy grew by 1.9 percent in 2016, data showed earlier this month.

Separate ONS data showed Britain's dominant services sector expanded in December at the slowest pace in seven months. Angus Armstrong, director of macroeconomics at Britain's National Institute of Economic and Social Research, said the familiar pattern of consumers driving the economy was likely to fade. "The UK economy needs another driver if it is not to have a significant slowdown in 2017," he said. "The pattern of strong consumer spending and weaker business investment can only be a limited one."

BREXIT SQUEEZE The ONS said household spending increased 0.7 percent on the quarter, slowing from 0.9 percent in the third quarter and marking the weakest growth in a year.

The Bank of England has said it expects overall economic growth this year of 2.0 percent, much stronger than most economists polled by Reuters expect. But it also predicts a growing squeeze on consumers as inflation rises due to the pound's fall since June's vote to leave the European Union. There are already signs this has started. Data last week showed retail sales fell in each of the three months to January and the BoE this month signaled that it is in no hurry to raise interest rates with so much Brexit-related uncertainty ahead. Business investment fell 1.0 percent in the fourth quarter compared with the July-September period. Investment by companies was 0.9 percent lower compared with the fourth quarter of 2015. Firms are expected to rein in their investment plans as Britain negotiates its departure from the EU, a process that Prime Minister Theresa May is due to kick off in coming weeks.

Your money as pets live longer, they may need long term health care


If you think only humans are living longer, check out Willoughby. The adorable little shih tzu from Atlanta is still trucking at the ripe old age of 18. In human terms, that puts him well over 100. It is no fluke. Dogs are now living an average of 11.8 years, according to the 2016 State of Pet Health report from privately owned Banfield Pet Hospital, which operates veterinary clinics around the United States. That is up from just 11 years in their 2013 study, and 10.5 years in 2002. Cats are also enjoying more golden years, an average of 12.9 years, or roughly 70 in human terms. That is up from 12.1 years in the 2013 study, and 11 years in 2002."Dogs used to be considered geriatric at six or seven. But these days larger breeds can make it to 15 or 16, and smaller breeds can even live up to 20 years," says Laura Coffey, author of the book, "My Old Dog: Rescued Pets With Remarkable Second Acts." Owner preferences are increasingly tilting toward the longer-living smaller dogs, says Dr. Kirk Breuninger, a veterinarian and lead researcher for the State of Pet Health report. Pets are living longer, primarily due to "education about pet health," says Breuninger, including more check-ups and medication. In the past, elderly pets with health problems might have just been put down. Also helping is better nutrition. Gourmet pet food, which some consider healthier, now accounts for more than one-half of the U.S. market, according to research firm Euromonitor International. In total, Americans spent a record $60 billion caring for their pets in 2015, according to the American Pet Products Association. You don't have to tell that to Willoughby's owner Niv Persaud, a financial planner in Atlanta. She spends around $100 a month on medications for dry eyes, arthritis in the hips, and a heart murmur.

A pet owner doesn't need to go broke caring for their animal companion. But one does need to be aware of additional costs as pets age, and prepare for potential health problems before they turn into a crisis. And consider ways to minimize the outlays that will inevitably arise. Here are some tips on caring for your little Methuselah:* Be proactive with preventive careJust like with humans, wellness programs can help prevent more serious (and costly) health issues later on. Administering heartworm medication from an early age, for example, is one way to potentially lengthen a pet's life, Breuninger says. By quickly identifying conditions, like kidney disease in cats, you can design specialized diets that will boost lifespans and extend quality of life.

* Get coveredSome of the array of conditions that tend to affect senior pets, according to Breuninger, include arthritis, cancer, diabetes, and thyroid problems. Insurance from providers like Nationwide Pet Insurance (formerly VPI), Healthy Paws or Petplan can help allay the costs. The U.S. market amounted to $688.8 million in premiums in 2015, covering 1.4 million pets, according to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association.* Don't overlook dental work

Owners do not tend to think much about their pet's teeth, but a lot of older dogs have dental issues, says Coffey. If you remember how painful toothaches can be, think about how your pet feels. Consider paying for professional cleaning and tooth extraction if necessary, which can be "life-changing" for afflicted pets.* Retrofit your homeJust as you would for an elderly parent, look to make your home comfortable and safe for elderly pets, advises Coffey. Rubber mats and runner rugs are better than hardwood floors or tile, which lead to more slips and falls, and are harder on arthritic joints.* Consider rescuesAn increasing number of pet-welfare organizations focus on placing senior pets in loving homes. As part of the adoption, they might help with health examinations and coverage for prescription medicines. Check out the state-by-state resource guide on Coffey's site (MyOldDogBook.com)."Don't be scared to take in an older animal," says Coffey, who shares a home with Manny, a 10-year-old Labrador retriever, and Frida, a 12-year-old Rhodesian ridgeback. "You are making such a huge difference in the life of a little creature who has otherwise run out of options."