Secrets to retiring securely—for every stage in your veterinary career

Secrets to retiring securely—for every stage in your veterinary career

Whether you're a young pup or a wise old dog, here's how to make sure you're on the path to a successful future.
Jun 01, 2013

Do you want to buy a boat? Do you want to have kids? Do you want to be able to afford a vacation home in Tahiti? What does any of this have to do with your career? Everything, says Dr. Karen Felsted, CPA, MS, CVPM, president of Felsted Veterinary Consultants in Dallas, Texas. "You have to make sure that the choices you make will help you accomplish your goals not just professionally, but personally, too," she says.

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This means first and foremost figuring out what your top priorities are (e.g., owning a practice, getting married, buying a house, retiring to Hawaii, and so on.) Once you figure out your end goals, take a look at what these expert veterinary consultants and financial advisors suggest to secure a successful future in veterinary medicine—no matter where you are in your journey.

New graduates

If you're a veterinary student right out of college, ears up and tail wagging, Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Dr. Karl Salzsieder, JD, of Salzsieder Consulting and Legal Services in Longview, Wash., has two main pieces of advice to secure your future financial success:

1. Get a job that may not offer the highest pay, but gives you the most experience with a good mentor.

2. Negotiate your contact.

Once you've scored the job offer with a practice that meets your requirements, he suggests saying something like, "Doctor, this offer may not be the highest salary in the marketplace, but I like your practice. I'll take the pay or production compensation—whichever is greater."

Dr. Salzsieder warns that there will be employers who resist production compensation because they're concerned about the employee competition or they think that they shouldn't offer production compensation in the first year. He can't get behind either excuse.

"What difference does it make to give new employees base pay, that may not be as high as it could be, or the production? Other than the extra bookkeeping, it's no big deal," Dr. Salzsieder says. "It's win-win to help the student get more compensation if they earn it."

Nervous to make that counter-offer? Don't be, Dr. Salzsieder says. It shows an employer that you're thinking about finances, which is a huge plus in a long-term employee. It's a good sign that you're an associate who's more likely to comply with fee schedules and less likely to give away veterinary services.

"Look for a job that has enough patients coming through the door, so you're notfighting over five patients a day, and the financial rewards will come," Dr. Salzsieder says.

Another important skill to master at this stage is budgeting for personal finances, says Gary Glassman, CPA, another Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member and partner with Burzenski & Co. in East Haven, Conn. Recent grads are faced with large expenses right off the bat—furniture, houses, cars, marriages and so on. These expenses, along with managing school debt, mean you need to budget all of your funds accordingly so you don't slip farther into debt.

"The best way to do this is by planning ahead and living within your means," Glassman says. "Sometimes that means prioritizing purchases and holding off on some."

However, don't hold off on securing life and disability insurance at this point, he says. Glassman explains that insurance fills a void of necessary funds to take care of obligations. Not to mention, purchases of these products are also at their cheapest price when veterinarians are young.