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This question is prompted by two things, one of them a confessional I just read by a guy who spent $10,000 to treat his dog's separation anxiety. The other is our family's 16-year-old dog.

The author of the Toronto Life article, writer John Semley, describes his experience as sad and ultimately futile. After spending much money and time on what sounds like a great dog, he had to give up and take her to a dog sanctuary. If you're a pet owner who has had challenging moments with your dog, cat, ferret or whatever, you'll certainly sympathize. But what also stood out for me was eagerness of the pet care industry to profit from our love for our pets by selling us treatments, therapies, medications and so on.

The vet we spoke to when we took our dog in for a checkup recently was great – very realistic about his health, which is OK. But it was made clear that if we wanted to have tests and procedures done to see what specifically was wrong, they'd be glad to accommodate. We bought some doggie arthritis pills for $50 and said we'd have to think about things. Do we really want to start a cycle of kidney tests and treatments for an occasionally incontinent dog who is really old?

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If you own pets, you'll inevitably have to make decisions where you balance the needs of the animal, your family and a pet care industry that is ever-eager to help. At our house, we're still working this out. Any thoughts? As ever, I'm reachable at rcarrick@globeandmail.com.

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Rob's personal finance reading list…

He gave his debit card PIN to his son
Big mistake, as you'll read in this case study published by the Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments. For the love of god, do not give your PIN to anyone, ever.

When a loved one owes you money
Five sensible and sensitive tips for getting a family member or friend to repay money they owe you. It says here that according to a 2012 study, "borrowers tend to rewrite history and view loans as a gift instead."

A cheap, simple, smart investing solution
That's the new balanced fund ETFs introduced for Canadian investors by Vanguard, a U.S. investing company known for its low fees. There are three of these new funds; each represents a well-diversified portfolio in a single product. Here's my take, and here's a look from the Young & Thrifty blog at whether these new ETFs will take business away from robo-advisers. Y&A is doing a survey on robo-advisers, by the way. Here's a chance to describe your experience as a client of a robo firm.

Millennials to the rescue
I had an e-mail the other day from a young woman about her challenges in helping her parents deal with debt and other financial problems. Then I came across this blog post about young adults helping out parents who don't have a clue about personal finance. I'm starting to wonder how common it is for young adults to be helping their parents with money.

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Today's featured financial tool
Here's a financial planning tool that helps you figure out how much to spend on day-to-day living and how much to save for retirement.

Ask Rob
The question: "Can you tell me if exchange-traded funds listed on the TSX that hold investments outside Canada are subject to withholding tax in a TFSA?"

The answer: Probably – check out this ETF tax primer for details.

Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Sorry I can't answer every one personally. Questions and answers are edited for length.

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