Better check your veterinary practice paycheck


Glimpse into your veterinary peers' bank accounts, compare the debt weighing you down, and learn how to tackle your loans today.

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Payday. It’s that wonderful time of the week when all of your hard work fills up your bank account—or does it? According to the 2012 Veterinary Economics Business Issues Survey, most practice owners made a wide range between $60,000 and $139,999. While thirty-five percent of associate veterinarians rolled in $60,000 to $79,999. Does Denise Tumblin, CPA, think associates should be happy with that salary? No. But she says if veterinarians want a higher paycheck, they must earn it.

“I want to pay every doctor $200,000, but they’ve got to be able to support that kind of a salary,” says Tumblin, president and owner of Wutchiett Tumblin and Associates in Columbus, Ohio.

She suggests veterinarians find ways to make themselves more valuable to the practice, whether that’s through higher production or bringing a special expertise to the table. It’s important to compensate doctors based on their contributions to the practice, Tumblin explains. “If I’m an associate motivated by my compensation, which is reflective of what I produce for the practice, then I’d want to be paid based on my production,” she says.

However, an incentive-based compensation formula is certainly not right for every doctor or every veterinary practice—there are lots of factors to consider, Tumblin says. For example, it doesn’t work well in practices that are intentionally overstaffed with doctors. “Veterinarians will be fighting for cases to pay their bills,” Tumblin says. “This is not a good situation for anyone: patients, clients, or staff.”

Plus, some doctors stress out so much that they won’t produce enough to pay their bills that it can actually be detrimental to the practice, Tumblin says. She doesn’t believe incentive-based compensation is best for recent graduates either, unless they have a guaranteed base salary plus a percentage once their production exceeds a minimum level. Remember these new veterinarians are still learning the ropes, which is stressful enough without adding the pressure to produce every dime of their paycheck.

As for the much-publicized veterinary student debt dilemma, there’s not an easy solution, Tumblin says. “The solution has to come from three directions,” she says. Universities should do everything they can to keep the cost of the veterinary education down. Veterinary students, for their part, will need to take part-time jobs throughout school and find any scholarships and grants available. And finally, practice owners will need to continue to manage their practices well so they can afford to pay a reasonable salary, compensation, and benefits to the doctors they hire, Tumblin says. See the table and sidebar above to find out how your debt load compares to your colleagues and start chipping away at those negative numbers.

Click the Next button to study income and debt stats from the 2012 Veterinary Economics Business Issues Survey.

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4 ways to bring debt down

Tired of that debt-shaped cloud following you wherever you go? Denise Tumblin, CPA, reveals four quick and dirty tips to get ahead of your loans and make your bank statements more positive.

1. Say goodbye to high debt.

Always tackle the highest-interest-rate debt first because the longer you take to pay it off the more that debt is going to cost you.

2. Manage every penny.

Put any extra cash you have down on your highest-interest debt. “I’m a big believer in paying down debt as soon as possible,” Tumblin says. “So make extra payments whenever you can.”

3. Find a buddy to bunk with.

If you’re single, find a roommate. You should be doing everything you can to help manage costs. “It’s not always fun, it’s not always sexy, but it’s what you’ve got to do,” Tumblin says.

4. Control your cash.

“Most students are pretty frugal,” Tumblin says. “They’re not spending, spending, spending.” She says when they land their first job that frugality has to continue. “I know it’s difficult to live years and years being very frugal and to have to continue,” she says. “It gets old, but it’s the only way to get that debt paid off.”

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