7 Personal Finance Tips for Veterinarians

Greg Kelly

Take control of your personal financial planning process with these money management tips.

Veterinarians seeking economic independence must be experts about their own financial situation, objectives, feelings and attitudes. As a long-time business writer for the health care profession, I’ve learned that awareness of one’s personal economic condition is the key to success.

Most of today’s veterinarians earn a fine income, but that pay is under constant assault through higher taxes, climbing practice expenses, uncertain reimbursements, education debts and greater cost of living.

Most veterinarians are unprepared to deal with the repercussions. Financial advisers I’ve interviewed through the years believe that the higher one climbs in a specialty field such as veterinary medicine, the less time there is to focus on personal finance matters.

There’s some logic to this. During their many years of education and training, veterinarians receive little to no financial instruction. And once you get started, a hectic professional life makes it difficult to manage the myriad financial challenges you face.

Here are some fundamental money tips that I have recorded over the years that have lasting impact:

  • Invest or save at least 15 percent of your annual income: If there’s one golden rule to financial security and satisfaction, it is to pay yourself first. For the average veterinarian, that means saving or investing at least $9,000 per year.
  • Draft or update your will: Many health professionals don’t even have the protection of a basic will. For those who do, it’s outdated. When it comes to your family and finances, never let anyone else have the last word. Act now, because tomorrow is not guaranteed. (Click here to read why having a will is important.)
  • Develop a personally suitable financial strategy: You’ll never reach your destination if you don’t know where you’re going. Again, my experience tells me that too many veterinarians don’t have even a fundamental wealth-building plan. Sit down and make a beginning. No one knows your wants and needs better than you do.
  • Discuss family finances with your spouse at least monthly: When addressing money issues with a spouse, I’ve learned that just getting started is the hardest part. If you’re like most couples, you each bring strengths and weaknesses to the process. You sink or swim together, though.
  • Pay off all credit card debit: The average American household has nearly $17,000 in credit card debt. Veterinarians mirror society, so it’s reasonable to assume you’re in same boat — and perhaps worse off due to your profession-specific higher income and school loan debt. No investment tops the return equaled by eliminating 20 percent+ interest rate charges.
  • Instruct your children on meaningful personal money matters: This is a subject not taught in school. Far too many of today’s children are close to financially clueless. Thoughtful parents have the power to alter this. The endeavor really isn’t that intimidating. Like always, the fundamentals should rule.
  • Say no to the next “great investment idea”: Busy veterinarians with high incomes can be juicy targets for stock tipsters and “get-rich-quick” scheme artists. Send the bums packing.

Greg Kelly is a long-time health care writer and editor. He has written for the Physician’s Money DigestTM, Dentist’s Money DigestTM and Veterinarian’s Money DigestTM websites. He lives at the Jersey Shore and welcomes comments at gregkelly@monmouthbeachlife.com.