Today’s VETgirl online veterinary continuing education blog is written by guest blogger, Dr. Grace Kim of Richer Life DVM.

Why your continuing education should include financial literacy

Quick- what are one of the requirements necessary to keep your license active as a practicing veterinarian?

If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably well aware that the answer is continuing education.  We all know how imperative it is that we stay up to date on the latest information related to veterinary medicine.  There are new studies to read, new products to try, new drugs to prescribe, and new methods of diagnostics and therapy to be implemented. Would this information make much sense if we didn’t have that foundation of knowledge that we gained in veterinary school?  Those four years have allowed us to fully appreciate the continuing education that we receive post graduation. However, there is one very important subject that most of us did not get during all of those years in education. A subject that we should, at the very least, understand at a basic level.  And that is the subject of financial literacy.

Personal finance is a topic that every single one of us can relate to in some form or fashion.  We live in a society that depends on the exchange of money.  A recent article shows that the majority of Americans cannot pass a basic financial literacy test.  How is it possible that we can be so clueless about a topic that affects almost every single facet of our lives? I challenge you to think about what your life would look like if money were no object.  I would suspect that it would look very differently from your current life.  The decisions that we make and the lives that we lead have been shaped in some way by finances.

The extent of my financial literacy throughout most of my life was to ensure that I didn’t spend too much money.  However, now that I am a full fledged adult with adult responsibilities, I have come to realize that there is more to personal finance than just making sure your expenses are not excessive compared to your income.

For instance, exactly how much are you supposed to be saving? How do you account for things like retirement and insurance? If you have children, how do you save for college? What about taxes? And investing? What if you want to own a practice or start a business? How do you balance this with paying off a mortgage and your student loans?

I will be the first to admit that I am no financial expert. I am just a veterinarian who has been a stay at home mom since I had my first child. Starting a family completely changes a family’s financial situation, and at first, I simply focused on taking care of our growing family while making sure the bills got paid.  However, I started developing a special interest in improving our own financial situation. Eventually, I decided to become the CFO, or chief financial officer, of the household.  This role goes beyond just paying the bills.  It requires that you possess basic financial literacy in order to analyze your financial situation, plan financial goals that align with your values, then implement the plan in order to achieve these goals.

Who is the CFO of your household? Who has the basic financial knowledge necessary in order to implement YOUR plan?  If your answer is “not me,” then I would highly recommend that you start learning about personal finance.  Even if you rely on someone else (such as a spouse or a financial advisor) to do the legwork, wouldn’t you like to have some say in how this plan will specifically benefit YOU? Because without your input, the plan may not even match your own vision for your financial future.

I was so excited to share what I learned with others.  Reading the recent Merck Animal Health Wellbeing Study convinced me that my fellow veterinarians could benefit from this information.  I certainly could have used this knowledge during and after graduating veterinary school.  But where can veterinarians turn to if they wanted to educate themselves on personal finance? I searched for resources that would cultivate financial education and conversation within the profession, but there just didn’t seem to be much out there.  I knew that individual veterinary programs were taking steps towards financial education for their students.  I also saw that national organizations, such as the AVMA, were making strides as well.  But that wasn’t enough for me.  I wanted to make an immediate, direct impact.  So I started a blog.

I want to get people to start thinking, really contemplating, their personal finances.  Contrary to what many people think, it is so much more than just math.  One must also understand how much your own behavior influences your bottom line.  I understand that this is a subject that turns a lot of people off.  It’s not a subject known to be terribly exciting. In fact, it’s a subject that is still seen as taboo in many circles.

However, as I have gotten a little older and a little wiser, I thought it was ridiculous that the subject of money should be seen as impolite.  Most of us graduated with an enormous amount of debt.  We went into a field that, on average, does not pay as highly as other health professionals with the same amount of schooling.  This puts us at a great disadvantage before we even make our first paycheck.  It’s vital that we have a good understanding of personal finances in order to better our individual financial situation.  Our choice to pursue our passion does not mean that we should be struggling to make ends meet, because that passion can then turn into resentment and burnout.

What about those veterinarians that are in a better financial space?  Maybe you were one of the lucky ones to graduate with little to no debt and/or you have made a very good income from the get-go.  Or perhaps you are mid to late career and are looking for ways to diversify your investments in order to ensure a comfortable retirement.  No matter your current financial state, there will always be ways to improve your financial literacy.

Wherever you are in your journey, let’s start the conversation and begin our education process now.  Personal finance is a topic that will require constant continuing education because our financial situation will change as we move through different phases in our lives.  There will also be changes in legislation that will directly and indirectly affect our finances, and we will need to adapt accordingly.  This is information that well worth your time, and you may even motivate family and loved ones to follow your lead.  Are you ready to get started?

For more information, go to Richer Life DVM.
Please note:
Please be aware that VETgirl does not directly endorse or advocate for this blog. The information on this blog is for informational and entertainment purposes only and does not constitute financial, accounting, or legal advice. Consult with a financial advisor or legal expert as needed.

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