Vet Success Stories: An Army Reservist Veterinarian on FIRE
Have you heard of the FIRE movement?
FIRE stands for financial independence, retire early. You can read about my motivation to FIRE here. Whether you’re on your way to FIRE or not, I hope you enjoy reading the story of others that are on this journey.
I’d like to introduce Marianne Krumdick, DVM, a veterinarian who works as a practice manager at a corporate practice. She is also in the Army Reserves in the Veterinary Corps and is currently deployed to Jordan. A 2006 graduate of the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, she enjoys travel, learning about personal finance, and spending time with her nieces and nephews. She lives with her 2 dogs and 2 cats.
I reached out to her after seeing her guest post on the blog Military Dollar. If you’re interested in learning about the concept of FIRE from a military perspective, make sure you check out this blog!
Read on as she describes her journey to financial independence, as well as how being in the military has affected her finances.
1. Give us a little of your background and how you got started in veterinary medicine.
Like many little girls, I had the dream of becoming a vet at a very young age. I begged and begged for a ‘walk around’ animal, like a cat or dog. We got a kitten when I was around 8-9, but I was constantly snuggling it and had allergies so we had to give it back after a weekend. My parents let us try again about 5 years later with an adult cat. I washed my hands EVERY single time I touched him and started hyposensitization shots so we could keep him. We had him from my freshman year in high school until my 3rd year of practice as a vet – about 16 years. I wasn’t super organized about the application process so it took me several years to get accepted to a vet school. I did one year at University College Dublin in Ireland but then did transfer back (basically started over) at the University of Illinois due to the cost and convenience. UCD was a GREAT program, though!
2. What was your level of financial literacy prior to veterinary school?
I would say I had a very low level of financial literacy prior to vet school. I knew everyone said we wouldn’t make a whole lot of money. At the time, I didn’t care and no one was going to stop me (Editor’s note: This seems to be a common sentiment among veterinary students.)
3. Were you price sensitive when pursuing veterinary medicine?
I knew it would be best to choose a school with the lowest price tag. However, I was wait listed at an out of state school and I know I would have gone if they would have accepted me that year…which would have probably been a bad move.
4. Did your veterinary school provide personal finance education?
Very minimal. We did have one class that was called something to the effect of “Economics in Agricultural Business.” It was an AWESOME class and I think people didn’t really realize we would be delving into personal finance.
5. How much debt did you have upon graduating from veterinary school?
To the best of my knowledge, I had about 100K. 90K from U of I and 10K from Ireland. I became officially student loan debt free as of 2016.
7. Describe what the FIRE (financial independence, retire early) movement means to you.
What this movement means to me is the ability to make life decisions not based on money but on happiness and passion.
8. What has motivated you to achieve FIRE?
I want OPTIONS. I don’t want to end up at the end of my life with a giant pile of stuff but no sense that I’ve contributed anything valuable to this world. I love practicing but over time it does become very monotonous. It’s the same struggles every day with long hours and high stress.
9. What specific steps are you taking to achieve FIRE?
My journey to learning about personal finance started with Suze Orman. I used to love to watch her show. Then I found Dave Ramsey and lastly, Mr. Money Mustache. Initially, I was just trying to save as much as I could but with no specific goal in mind. Did I want a house? Did I want to pay off debt? I didn’t know what to do or where to put my money. I was lucky in several ways regarding personal finance and my journey to FIRE.
- I applied for a General Assembly Scholarship that I randomly found out about while in vet school. I was definitely NOT the top of my class but I got this scholarship twice, which covered my tuition fully for 2 years!
- I joined the US Army and received both student loan debt repayment and yearly stipends. I had to jump through some hoops to get this all processed but it was worth it! At the end of the student loan repayment process, I had 17K left. I thought, “Hmm, should I just pay this off over another 20 years because it was only about 1% interest?” I HAD the money to pay this off and, ultimately, just wanted to be debt free. This was also during the time I was listening to Dave hard core and, as we all know, he is super debt averse!
- When I first graduated from vet school, I was completely and utterly broke. So I lived in my parent’s basement for 9 years. It was a nice basement – had windows and a sliding door to get outside. My parents and I get along great so it wasn’t bad. I finally purchased a house in 2014 and paid it off 2 years later.
10. Can you describe how the military helped pay for your student loans?
I joined the US Army Reserves Vet Corps in 2008 with an 8 year contract. This was 6 years active ready reserve and 2 years inactive ready reserve. I chose to stay active ready reserve and I may stay for 20 years to be eligible for a potential small pension.
The benefits change on a yearly basis for all specialties, depending on the need. At the time, the benefits for this time period (6 + 2 years) was a total of 75K in bonus money and 50K in student loan repayment. You have to decide which to take first: the bonus or the student loan. Since my student loan interest was about 1%, I chose to take the bonus first, which was 25K/per year minus taxes. So about 18.5K/year.
A contract then came out that increased the student loan benefit from 50K to 250K! I signed up for this, which amounted to 40K/year for 6 years, with 10K the last year. I was lucky that I didn’t have 250K in loans but I did have more than 50K.
Editor’s Note: According to this website, the Army is now offering two different loan repayment programs for veterinarians.
- Active Duty Health Professions Loan Repayment Program: Up to $120,000 over 3 years.
- Healthcare Professional Loan Repayment Program: Up to $50,000 over 3 years.
10. Have you faced any challenges that prevented you from reaching your financial goals?
I feel my challenges were just me not finding the time earlier to educate myself on smart investments.
11. What are some financial mistakes that you’ve made?
Oh, man, have I made mistakes! I blindly saved money in a savings account for almost 10 years…making almost no interest in the process. If I knew then what I knew now, I would have been shoveling that money into a broad based index fund so fast! Some might say (and I might say this, too) that it was a mistake to pay off my house. The interest rate on my house was very low (3.125%) and, in theory, I could have contributed to index funds and made much more in the long haul. I’ve since realized that this is a very controversial subject in the FIRE world….whether or not to pay off your house! I’m still not entirely sure if I regret it because now, my monthly expenses are SO low that I can shovel my entire mortgage payments into investments. I go back and forth with it. (Editor’s note: Hindsight is 20/20. I would say you made an excellent choice to be completely debt free at this stage in your life without any debt obligations whatsoever. Even retirees cannot claim this status.)
12. What is your financial advice for other veterinarians?
One of my passions is to educate young Soldiers (in any field) that have time on their side about personal finance. I also try to mentor the new, younger veterinarians about financial issues.
I think no one can really deny that the return on investment of becoming a veterinarian is very, very low. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consider it as a career choice. However, consider ALL the pros and cons before you jump into this field.
I have recently taken the following stance on this field. If you can be talked out of it….then you SHOULD be talked out of it. If you can’t be talked out of it…then you should DO it. As you know, this field is not for the faint hearted. It will take everything from you if you let it. However, it is an AWESOME field to be in and I do love all the different things that I’ve gotten a chance to do and be a part of. It also CAN pay decently if you play your cards right. Don’t be afraid to venture into different aspects of vet med if you’re not happy. There are so many different things you can do besides clinical practice. (Editor’s note: This is so true. People mistakenly think that clinical practice is the only way to be a veterinarian. There are so many other ways that you can contribute to the profession and to society other than clinical practice.)
KEY TAKEAWAY POINTS
- As Dr. Krumdick stated, had she gotten into an out-of-state veterinary program when she first applied to vet school, she would likely be in a much worse financial situation right now. Not only this, but she also made the decision to switch veterinary schools to an in-state program after the first year. Not everyone would be willing to do this, especially if they actually enjoyed the program that they were enrolled in. This decision alone will allow her to achieve FIRE status sooner rather than later.
- She took advantage of another opportunity that lowered the cost of education: applying for and receiving the General Assembly scholarship (what a generous scholarship!). Always keep your eyes and ears open for those scholarship opportunities!
- Other decisions that played a huge role to her financial success: Saving money by living with her parents and joining the US Army Veterinary Corps, which allowed her to accelerate her payback.
- Saving money wasn’t enough. It was only after being introduced to more personal finance topics and the concept of FIRE that she became motivated to use her money as effectively as possible. She became her very own chief financial officer (CFO). The fact that she was able to pay off her mortgage in just a couple of years is a testament to what you can achieve when you have a purpose and a plan with your money.
- None of these decisions happened on their own. Financial success depends on making intentional choices. The sum of her choices has allowed her to be completely debt free and well on her way to the ultimate goal of being FIRE.
Thanks for participating in this interview Dr. Marianne Krumdick! It looks like you’re well on your way to achieving FIRE- I wish you the best of luck!
Are you interested in submitting your own Vet Success Story? I’m currently accepting submissions for student loan debt payoff, FIRE, and Entrepreneurs. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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