March 15, 2014

 

 Survey delves into veterinarians’ personal financial health

Posted Feb. 27, 2014  

Many veterinarians believe they are personally not doing well financially, according to a new survey.

Veterinary Pet Insurance, Veterinary Economics magazine, and Brakke Consulting produced the VPI–Veterinary Economics Financial Health Study as a follow-up to the Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Study. The survey was conducted July 25-Aug. 4, 2013. The companies released the results Jan. 19 at the North American Veter­inary Community Conference in Orlando, Fla. 

Dr. Carol McConnell, VPI chief veterinary officer, said the objective was to look at the personal side of the changing economics of veterinary practice and “How is this affecting individuals in our profession?”

The study sample was 1,193 veterinarians from the database of Advanstar, publisher of Veterinary Economics, who responded to an email invitation to an online survey. Respondents were owners and associates whose practice consisted of at least 75 percent companion animals.

Forty-one percent of owners and 31 percent of associates said they were doing well financially, rating their personal financial condition as 8 to 10 on a 10-point scale. A quarter of owners and 30 percent of associates said they were doing poorly, 0 to 5 on a 10-point scale. Male and older veterinarians were more likely to be doing well than female and younger veterinarians.

The mean income for associates was $84,000, and their mean household income was $138,000. The mean income for owners was $109,000, and their mean household income was $187,000—falling into the top 10 percent of all U.S. households, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.
 
“We don’t feel that we’re doing very well financially, and once you dive deeper into it, it’s for a host of reasons,” Dr. McConnell said.

A third of owners said their practice was doing well, but another third said their practice was doing poorly. Twenty-two percent of associates were unaware of the financial health of their practice. Just over half of owners were paying off loans for the practice, with mean debt of $362,240.

Twenty-two percent of owners had student loans, with mean debt of $66,110. Forty-nine percent of associates had student loans, with mean debt of $112,082. 
 
Twenty-seven percent of owners were planning to delay retirement because of the poor financial condition of their practice. Fifty-eight percent of owners worked more hours than they would have liked because the practice needed the revenue, overlapping with the  69 percent who would have liked to work less but needed the income personally.
 
Dr. McConnell noted that owners and associates often have personal debt beyond student loans, and other members of their households often have student loans and additional debt. “They feel they have to work really hard and a lot of hours to sustain the income that they need,” she said.

Only a third of owners believed the sale of their practice would provide them with a comfortable retirement income. Forty-four percent of associates were interested in owning a practice, although few believed they had the financial means to do so.

Dr. McConnell wrote a blog post about the study with a link to a white paper about the results.