A Veterinarian's Personal Team

Thoughts and reflections from a first-year veterinarian
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Get your team in place today, and start planning for tomorrow.

No one can know it all. No matter how smart, talented or creative we are, we simply can’t know everything.

I have been finding this out as I trek through my internship year. I left school thinking I knew quite a bit, but there is nothing like the world of veterinary medicine to show me just how much more I have to learn. Each and every day, there are new breakthroughs, new advances in technology and new medications being developed. It is our job as veterinarians to stay abreast of this wave of new information so that we can augment its use to the betterment of our patients’ lives.

That being said, there is still an entire world out there that we have to live in. A world that requires knowledge and expertise to navigate, lest we fall into traps and pitfalls of ignorance.

One of the biggest and most complicated webs in this world is the one of personal finance. Even if we manage to understand a good portion of it, there are rules and regulations that can change quickly. Whether by government oversight or simply as a result of a change in our personal lives, the waters of personal finance can often be murky.

Because of this, we have to surround ourselves with a team of people who can help get us to where we want to be. We wouldn’t expect one of our clients to be able to pick up a scalpel and perform a complicated surgery. So we should not expect ourselves to understand every complexity or nuance in our finances.

That is not to say, however, that we should not spend time trying to understand what goes on with our personal finances. Much in the same way we educate our owners about their animals, we need to seek out education opportunities wherever possible for ourselves. Ultimately, though, it takes having a good set of people on your team to really find long-term success and stability.

One of the first people you should recruit to your “team,” in my opinion, is a certified financial planner (CFP). We, as recent graduates and students, all likely have a massive elephant in our room called student debt. How are each of us going to pay off that debt? How can we make payments and still save for retirement? Will my debt burden affect my spouse? Should I try to pay it off as fast as possible, or take the income-based payoff plan? All of these questions and more are just a small part of what a good financial planner can answer for you. If you are looking for a CFP in your area, I recommend checking out the website letsmakeaplan.org, a resource run by the CFP Board of Standards to help people find nearby financial planners.

The second person I recommend adding to your team is a certified public accountant. While you might think “I can do my taxes on my own, thank you,” accountants provide much more than just tax help. One of the biggest assets they can bring to your team is their ability to understand your personal financial goals and how your changing life might affect those goals. It’s true that they can help you with your tax liability, but developing a personal relationship with a CPA can reap benefits far down the line, even into estate planning and retirement.

A great place to start searching for this team member is aicpa.org. This directory of CPAs across the country can help you narrow down your search into different certifications that might apply to your personal situation. Remember, through all of this, that the team of people around you can only help you with questions you know to ask. Having the best team in place still requires a personal investment to learn about your personal finances.

Learning even small parts can be enough to generate the questions your team needs to start you down the path to success. Whatever that path looks like, don’t wait to start walking it. Get your team in place today, and start planning for tomorrow.

Zach Loppnow, DVM, is a 2017 graduate of the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine. He is working as an intern at Anoka Equine Veterinary Services in Minnesota. A graduate of the VBMA’s Business Certificate Program, he continues to pursue his interest in practice management. 

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