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6 Ways Veterinarians Get Behind the 8 Ball Financially (and what to do about it!)

The obvious:

A mountain of student debt and lower incomes compared to other occupations with similar educational debt balances. The elephant in the room as veterinarians come out of school with an average of $167,000 in debt to be paid off. With an average starting salary around $75,000 the mental challenge of tackling this much debt is not only stressful but it can be downright depressing. Saving for retirement seems like a dream and most choose to simply deal with the debt at a later time when they hopefully have stronger incomes.


Tackle high interest debt first. At a minimum, make interest payments so it does not capitalize. Look into consolidating or potentially refinancing debt. Make a budget and plan for both the short term (next 1-3 years) and longer term as the best way to tackle debt this large is to do so in chunks. Understand it will be a process that likely will take over 15 years to complete so do not be frightened of a big number looking back at you on a statement. You won’t be perfect, there will be months in which life expenses get in the way of using those funds for your debt – that’s ok as long as you keep chipping away!

The not so obvious:

Getting a late start on investing along with horrible debt repayment options compared to peers in medicine. Depending on the level of education and training, most veterinarians do not start a full time job until they are in their late twenties. In most medical professions this is the norm. What is not the norm is the way that veterinarians are treated in terms of student loan policy. Because veterinarians work mostly at for-profit businesses, they do not get the type of options that other medical professionals who work at non-profits receive. It sounds good to say that you will start saving for retirement after you pay off your loans but that could take 20-25 years and you will have syphoned off your most important resource when it comes to investing, time.


There is no cure for getting a late start on investing. The sooner you begin to invest the longer you will be able to have your money working for you. The #1 determinant of successful investing is time spent actually invested – do not forget that. When it comes to your debt repayment options, hire a professional that solely focuses on that aspect. It is very specific to your situation and picking the right plan can save you tens of thousands of dollars over the course of the loan.

The hidden:

Large cost of practice ownership & limited time for personal financial education. The corporate consolidation is a trend that has been sweeping the industry. Small independent clinics have sold into the national conglomerates that are able to use economies of scale and brand recognition in ways independent clinics simply cannot. For many staff DVM’s the thought of purchasing a practice from an owner or peer is simply too expensive and the thought of taking on even more debt is not something that sounds appealing. Combine the aforementioned factors with a non-stop schedule that can entail 65 hour work weeks and it’s easy to see how personal finance can slide down the priority list.


Independent ownership is still very possible (historically low interest rates/banks needing to work on volume) and profitable for all parties involved, if done correctly. Deals can be structured in a variety of ways that can allow the most cash strapped employees to buy. Furthermore, being independent has its own benefits that allow you to stand out versus a crowded “brand name” market. Embracing and continuing that boutique feel is a great way for a practice to differentiate itself. You do not have to make personal finance your second career but you should have an understanding of what it will take for you to get from where you are now to where you want to go. Creating/updating a budget and financial plan are great starting points. At a minimum, reviewing both of those key aspects of your financial health once a year to make any necessary alterations is prudent.

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