Updated October, 2020

Remember when money was fun and uncomplicated?

As a child, you might have received some money for your birthday or during the holidays. You didn’t quite know the power that you held in your little hands, but you knew it was there by the way people reacted when you proudly displayed those crisp bills.

Maybe you received an allowance, either in exchange for chores or simply as a regular gift from your parents.

As you got a little older, it was time to start working for other people. Whether you decided to mow lawns, babysit, petsit, or work at the local veterinary clinic, you understood the importance of getting paid for your time and effort. Money was still fun to spend.

Then those college and vet school years hit. No matter how much you’re working on the side, you start to realize that this investment in your education is costing you a pretty penny. Your income (if you’re making any) is barely able to cover living expenses.

But thanks to the abundance of loans (both federal and private), easy credit in the form of credit cards, and perhaps some parental support, you didn’t feel the full effect of this debt that continued to grow. This debt felt more like Monopoly money than real money. You may have even used some of this “Monopoly money” for non-school related items and experiences.

Finally, you get your professional degree. You put in a lot of blood, sweat, tears (and money!) in order to earn your DVM.

Then a crazy thing happens. You’re let loose into the world, and apparently, there is this expectation that you’re going to be really good with money. You’re supposed to be your own expert money manager that knows how to do the following:

Oh yes, don’t forget that if you decide to get married, you need to figure out not only your finances, but how you’re going to manage finances as a couple.

Have kids? That brings another layer of complexity to the whole situation.

Want to start your own practice? Well, now you head is swimming and you have no idea where to start.

Clearly, something is missing here.

How do you bridge that gap from being a broke vet student subsisting on ramen, deep in six-figure debt, to becoming a financially savvy veterinarian?

THE IMPORTANCE OF FINANCIAL EDUCATION

A little education would help.

How do people learn anything? They learn informally by observing the world around them. It’s no surprise that each and every one of us has been heavily influenced by our families and our upbringing in childhood. And whether consciously or subconsciously, we continue to learn from the world around us every single day.

When we hear the word “learning,” we usually think of a classroom/educational setting. There is no doubt that there is a fair amount of learning that happens in this environment as well.

Did our family or community make a concerted effort to teach us about personal finance? Most likely not. Whatever money lessons we got were usually from observing behaviors that we picked up along the way.

Did we learn in a school setting? Most people have not.

It’s no wonder that, as a nation, we’re financially illiterate. It’s hard to have any sort of knowledge when it’s not being actively taught or modeled for us in a positive way.

When it comes to veterinary programs, the majority are not including financial literacy and education in their core curriculum. This is especially worrisome, considering that veterinarians routinely graduate with one of the highest debt-to-income ratios compared to other health professional programs.

The trend is that more and more veterinary programs are including financial education in some form or fashion. The needle is moving slowly in the right direction, but it isn’t fast enough. According to this article, veterinary students are practically begging for more advice about personal finance, especially regarding the issue of how to handle student debt. Veterinary programs need to collectively place more emphasis on this topic so that their graduates can confidently manage their finances post-graduation.

The AVMA and the VIN Foundation have taken on bigger roles in addressing this problem. Using their platforms to create change is crucial to the forward momentum towards greater financial education and support. Having this knowledge is the basic foundation from which veterinarians can make good choices.

This forward movement is promising, but there absolutely needs to be more support post-graduation. Timing this information according to your life stage can amplify the message, making a bigger impact.

FINANCIAL EDUCATION POST-GRADUATION

I have been approached multiple times by people who have been interested in pursuing veterinary school. Knowing what I know now, I feel that, at the very least, they need to understand that this is a huge financial commitment and life decision.

This is when their eyes glaze over, they nod their heads a bit absent-mindedly, then proceed to say how they’ve been wanting to be a veterinarian since forever.

To be sure, providing a good personal finance curriculum will convert some students to going down the path of financial wellness. However, the importance of financial education may not even start to hit home until after graduation, which is when that Monopoly money known as student debt becomes real money.

Veterinarians typically graduate from their program in their mid to late 20’s. The next 5-10 years typically bring a host of other life changes to their lives, such as completing further training, moving for a new job, getting married, having children, buying a home, and perhaps even practice ownership.

If you have children, understanding how to manage household finances from daycare to college is critical to financial health and wellness. Owning a practice presents its own specific challenges.

Don’t forget that everyone will also reach a point when they are ready to retire, or perhaps make big changes in their career path. Any major life change will require some sort of financial knowledge to better handle that transition.

Imagine the financial challenges that come with even just one major life change. It is during these times of transition that you absolutely need more support and available resources to help you navigate your finances. These are the times when you’re finally ready to listen and implement changes to your financial life.

It is at this point that financial literacy and education can be especially impactful. Having this knowledge while living the experience makes the situation much more relatable and actionable.

However, financial education is just the beginning. Let’s not forget the most important step of all, which is putting this knowledge to work by taking action.

SO ARE YOU READY TO TAKE ACTION?

You can read all about personal finance to your heart’s content. You can watch video after video about how to improve your finances. You can listen to podcast episodes at 2x speed so that you can listen to more episodes in a shorter period of time. You can participate in forums and even hire a financial advisor to help you along.

But guess what? You could have the most perfect plan for how to achieve any financial goal, but if you don’t take any action with your money, then nothing will change.

We all know that friend who has talked about taking action in their own lives, but they list all sorts of different reasons as to why they haven’t taken action. Do these sound familiar?

  • They don’t have the time
  • They don’t have the money
  • They don’t know the right people
  • They’re perpetually unlucky
  • They are dealing with other issues
  • They don’t know where to start
  • They’re scared
  • They don’t have enough information
  • Can you think of any others? If so, share in the comments!

At some point, you have to stop talking and start DOING. It might be scary. Or hard. Or frustrating.

But think of the alternative, which is to do nothing.

Which one is going to get you the big changes that you want to see in your life?

Remember that deciding to take action is completely up to you. This is a decision that no one else can make for you.

CONCLUSION

If you’re reading this blog, then there is no reason you can’t take action and create change, starting today. You can start by reading some blog posts and checking out the resources and tools section. If it’s information you’re looking for, then seek, and ye shall find.

But when it comes to taking action, you’ll be the one that needs to make that decision. Whether you decide to DIY, or you’d like me to help you out as your financial coach, your path to financial transformation is waiting for you!

So, are you ready to take some action and create change today?

How do you plan to take action? How do you envision that your life will change as a result? If you have already taken action, what motivated you? Comment below!

2 Comments

  1. The Vetducator on July 25, 2019 at 12:21 pm

    I knew one vet who bought a brand new car during vet school and just tossed it on his student loans. His thought being, “Meh, what’s the difference between $220k and $250k in student loans?” Unhealthy perspective. Your list of reasons why people haven’t started makes me think of a patient in cardiac arrest. If you have a patient arrest, do you sit there and worry about knowing enough, or if it’s the right time, or don’t know where to start? No, you take a deep breath and just get going! If you can do it in the face of a patient arresting, you can do it for your personal finances too!

    • RLDVM on July 25, 2019 at 11:28 pm

      Being immune to debt because you have so much of it happens pretty commonly! Especially when it’s so easy to borrow money.

      I think that when it comes to solving any sort of problem, it needs to get to the level of “cardiac arrest” for people to start taking action. Hopefully, with more financial education and support within the community, more vets will be willing to take a look at their financial health well before it gets to crisis mode!

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