Financial Tips for New and Recent Grad Veterinarians
Want to start your career on the right foot financially? Here are our best tips for new and recent grads.
Before you even graduate, you’ll want to take some steps to prepare for what’s ahead.
Upon graduation, your student loans will go into a forbearance period of 6 months, meaning you do not have to make any payments during that period. Sounds too good to be true? It is.
During that period, interest continues to accrue. At the end of that 6 months, the interest capitalizes, meaning it will be added to the overall balance. (An exception to this rule is the COVID interest freeze, which started in March 2020 and continues into 2022, as of this writing.)
Filing your taxes for the previous year (i.e. filing taxes by April of your 4th year of vet school) can help decrease your student loan payment if you go with an Income Driven Repayment plan. Since you likely did not make much money as a student, that lower income can be used as the basis for your loan payment amount.
You may even have a $0 payment, which would still count toward loan forgiveness.
If you want to optimize your repayment strategy, consider a student loan consultation. Don’t ignore your student debt, and don’t hesitate to ask for help.
Spending and Saving
Make sure to set up a budget or cash flow plan for wherever life will take you next. Moving expenses can quickly stack up, and changes in cost of living can add financial strain.
If you do not already have an emergency fund, start right away. An emergency fund of $3,000 to $5,000 is a great start. After that, we recommend setting aside 3-6 months of expenses in an easily accessible account (i.e. a savings account).
Once you get your first paycheck or sign on bonus, don’t go crazy buying a new car. We know you deserve it, but make sure to establish a sound financial plan first before adding more expenses to your budget.
Consider putting money into a retirement account. If your employer offers to match contributions, make sure you at least contribute enough to get that match. It is “free money” and should be considered part of your compensation package. Even if you start with something small like contributing 3% of your income as a new grad, “future you” will be glad you started early.
Ask for a written offer, and make sure everything in your benefits package is in writing. Most job offers can be negotiated. If you feel awkward about negotiating, seek help from a more experienced colleague or a legal expert.
Do not sign a contract that you do not understand. Usually people focus on the salary component without looking into the other benefits offered.
A large sign-on bonus may seem great, but often there is a reason why they are offering it (location, practice type, culture etc). Consider the full compensation (including benefits) and cost of living when evaluating an offer.
Many job postings mention “great mentorship”. Regardless of whether you are pursuing an internship, residency, fellowship, or associate position, make sure you ask about training and mentorship.
A practice may say they offer mentorship without really having an established program for it. Ask former interns or associates about their experiences.
Decide what kind of mentorship you are looking for, and find mentors who will help you achieve your goals.
If you plan ahead, and stay curious, you can set yourself up for a brighter future.
Willie Bidot, DVM, DACLAM
Meredith Jones, DVM