Work, life and income hang in an uneasy balance for veterinarians (Part 2)
A recent article detailing the results of three AVMA-commissioned studies appeared in a popular trade publication last week. The title of the article? “Publicly revered, professionally taxed.” This headline aptly condensed the result of these multiple survey studies.
The upshot? People think we’re the most honest, respectable professionals when compared to physicians, attorneys, politicians and teachers. 93% of pet owners believe that their pets’ healthcare rivals their own. But 40% say we’re too expensive. Most also agree that vet prices have skyrocketed in recent years with 1/3 of these squarely laying blame at the veterinarian’s feet (the others say drug prices and inflation are to blame as well).
The good news for vets is that we are beginning to make more money. Why? Mostly because there are fewer of us to go around, what with the increasing demand among pet lovers—more than 50% of whom say that they’d pay a limitless amount to have their pet fixed. Problem is, it’s practice owners who are seeing a disproportionate amount of this new income.
The silver lining? Vet techs are also making more as practice owners begin to use them more effectively to do the technical work we vets have always done for ourselves.
So what’s the problem?, you might ask. At least your overall income is going up.
Problem is, our work hours are not keeping pace with the modest increase in income. Considering the number of hours we work, most of us would prefer to make less if we could just get a little more life out of our days.) And our student loans are climbing drastically, too. These vast sums are way out of proportion to our income. In the end, we’re still feeling the big squeeze.
The hardest hit? Our new graduates. So many pre-vets have figured this out that fewer of them are continuing on to vet school. Applications to vet school are still up there but, predictably, every year the number of male applicants drops another notch. And I fear that overall applicant qualifications will soon follow suit. That should worry you more than it does me, but, ultimately, it hurts all of us.
So what to do? We’re becoming a profession divided into the haves and have nots, unfortunately keeping pace with the US’s widening income gap. Something’s going to have to give. But with the number of vets considering the role of practice ownership now down to 40% (from almost 100% thirty years ago), I don’t see things changing anytime soon.
My solution? Addressing student debt through tax benefits on these gargantuan loans. For the love of God, at least make our school loan payments tax deductible. The fact that education isn’t tax deductible—while business expenses as frivolous as dinners (which we all manage to eat anyway) remain perfectly expensable—is an egregious insult to education and another example of how the haves keep their money while even upstart have nots suffer at their expense—literally.
You may believe this is naught but a tempest in a teapot—one annoyed [and not poorly paid] individual’s crybaby rant. But if we, as a society, value certain professions, then let society’s values help determine what considerations these professions deserve.
Problem is, it’s not educators or hyper-squeezed recent grads who make the rules—it’s the successful professionals, the lawyers and the politicians. No wonder the gap keeps getting wider.