AVMA launches Personal Financial Planning Tool

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Members of the AVMA and Student AVMA who want to build a personal budget can now turn to the new AVMA Personal Financial Planning Tool.

The Association launched the PFP Tool on July 25 during the first day of the AVMA Annual Convention in Denver. The tool, a free benefit for AVMA and SAVMA members, targets veterinary students and early-career veterinarians.

Dr. Will R. McCauley, chair of the AVMA Early Career Development Committee, said the ECDC identified monetary matters as one area where early-career veterinarians desire assistance. While the PFP Tool can help veterinarians at any career stage with assessing their financial status, the tool allows new veterinarians to calculate the salary they need to service student debt and pay off that debt in a reasonable amount of time.

“We want to make this the one-stop shop for the recent grads in terms of finding out how much money they need to be making, how they need to be spending that money, and how best to set them up for financial success in the future,” Dr. McCauley said.

“Financial considerations really weigh heavily on recent grads when they come out, if for no other reason than we’re not taught a whole lot about financial management in vet school.”

Dr. McCauley created a skeleton version of the PFP Tool for himself early last year. He had graduated from Texas A&M University in 2012 with a veterinary degree and a master’s in business administration, and he went on to an internship in small animal surgery and internal medicine in Charlotte, North Carolina.

His budget included information on expenses such as payments on student loans, car payments and estimates for car repairs, income taxes, and other living expenses ranging from clothing to gifts to entertainment.

Using a budget has helped Dr. McCauley estimate costs and decide how much money to put away for a financial cushion. He incorporated calculations for the variable cost of living across the country, and he went on to work as a relief veterinarian in the Dallas area. The budget allowed him to figure out how much he can afford for rent or a future mortgage payment.

The ECDC saw a need for a budgeting tool specifically for veterinarians, said Dr. Carrie Javorka, assistant director for recent graduate initiatives in the AVMA Membership and Field Services Division. Volunteers and staff at the AVMA refined Dr. McCauley’s template. A group of veterinary students and recent graduates tested the first iteration of the PFP Tool in spreadsheet form this past August.

The PFP Tool features line items for professional expenses such as association dues, licensing fees, and continuing education.

The AVMA began developing the online version of the tool in January for the launch at the convention in July. Dr. Javorka said developers aimed to make sure that the interface was not only easy to use but also “bright and as exciting as budgeting can be.”

Users of the PFP Tool can enter their income and expenses as monthly or annual figures, then try tweaking the figures to see the impact on their budget.

“It can be a little bit of a shock when you see what you’re actually spending your money on,” Dr. Javorka said. “And when you can look at it all in one place, you can look at some of the areas where you can change those spending habits so that you can better save for the future.”

The AVMA optimized the PFP Tool for tablets as well as desktop computers. Each budget saves to the user’s member number, and the user can return at any time to complete or update figures. Users can print their budget and save it to their computer. The tool also provides links to additional financial resources.

In addition, users of the tool can submit their budgets anonymously to contribute to a database because another goal is for the tool eventually to provide aggregate data about users’ income and expenses searchable by graduation year, occupation type, and ZIP code.