Today I have another post in my breadwinning, six figure, and/or millionaire women series – Financial Wellness DVM.
I’m glad she stopped by, because she has a different kind of story to share than the ones I usually feature. And I’m all about financial diversity, as you know. As the working spouse of a stay at home parent, I have huge respect for the work a stay at home parent does.
Unlike many in this series, she is not a breadwinner or a six figure earner – although she is a millionaire. She’s a veterinarian who became a stay at home mom. She “runs the family office”, as Dr. Thomas Stanley called it in Millionaire Women Next Door.
What does that mean, exactly? Dr. Stanley describes it in the book as:
“What is a family office? Well, most billionaire families do have family offices. In essence, they set up their own investment and financial management organizations. Evidently, these billionaires believe they can do a better job for less cost. By doing all or much of this work in their own proprietary family offices, they achieve higher returns on their assets, often with less risk.”
What that means is that having a stay at home – or part-time working – spouse who is focused on finances can be an invaluable way to increase the families net worth. Whether they focus on saving money (budgeting, couponing, shopping sales, etc.) or on increasing net worth through investments, their efforts help bring up the family financial situation. I talk a bit more about this in my article on re-branding stay at home parents.
It’s not always easy to make the choice to be a stay at home parent, particularly if you’re giving up a lucrative and fulfilling career to do so.
Tell us about yourself!
I am a veterinarian who made the decision to stay home full time once I had children. I am married to a physician (both of us are children of immigrants) and we have 3 children together. We both grew up on the East coast, but we are enjoying life in the Midwest.
I grew up in a middle class household. My parents came from very humble beginnings, and they were able to achieve their version of the American dream. I don’t know if I can ever truly understand how difficult it must have been for them to come to this country with close to nothing.
I could never quite understand the mindset of people always wanting more- I was always content with what I had, even though materially, it wasn’t much at all. In fact, it was more than enough. I am so grateful to my parents that they didn’t equate more money with more happiness.
Even though I don’t make an income, I did recently start a blog aimed at starting the personal finance conversation with veterinarians. As bloggers can attest to, maintaining a blog is certainly work, even when you’re not getting paid! This is a passion project of mine, as I think everyone has a lot of room to grow when it comes to personal finance. I wanted to re-connect with my profession, and I saw that there was a real need for this type of conversation within the veterinary community.
CMO Note – this blog is also a passion project for me. Readers have likely noticed I don’t have ads, and only a few affiliate relationships/sponsorships. I do need to make money to cover the costs here, and my longer-term plans include some gifting or donations in alignment with my site’s mission. So I love your goals!
Let’s get some details – how much money do you make, and how long did it take you to get there? And are you a millionaire or are you on the way?
I personally never broke 6 figures when I was in the workforce. Contrary to what some people think, veterinarians are not considered high income when compared to other health professionals with the same amount of education. The average salary just broke $100,000 not too long ago (the average starting salary is a little over $70k). The average amount of student loan debt is nearly $170k (among those that graduated with debt, which is over 80% of graduates). These statistics, as well as so many reports of burnout and high profile suicides within the profession, really motivated me to start my blog.
When we got married, I came into the marriage just shy of $120,000 worth of student loans, which put my debt to income ratio at nearly 2:1. My husband also had five figure student loans from medical school. We were deep in the red starting out, but we are now in the black due to his healthy income and our commitment to saving/investing a good portion of our take home pay.
CMO Note – that’s interesting that veterinarians aren’t paid six figures. I had assumed they were paid more, because their education was so expensive and extensive.
How did you get started in the workforce?
I started as an associate in a small animal hospital. Due to my husband’s training, we moved twice before settling down at our current location, so I had to find a new job each time we moved. This required getting licensed in each state, then starting my job hunting process. Luckily, at the time, I didn’t have too much of a problem finding a position.
How did you get from where you started to where you are now?
Growing up, I did not give much thought as to how I would balance motherhood and a career. I just assumed that things would work out somehow. What I failed to realize was that my future spouse’s career would have a huge impact on my own. For the record, I never wanted to be a “doctor’s wife” because I assumed that it would lead to a certain type of lifestyle that I was not interested in.
But life happens, and I did end up getting married to a physician. His job is all-encompassing and high stress, with unpredictable, long hours. If I wanted to continue working, the only option I had was to hire outside help once I had children. I ultimately decided to stay home- it was by far the best decision for me and my family. I am so grateful that I could even make this choice. Many women don’t have that option.
But just because I decided to stay home didn’t mean that it was easy. If anyone has had three kids 3 and under, you know what I’m talking about. On top of the physical and mental exhaustion, I also had a very difficult time struggling with my self identity and self worth. I had previously been an independent woman with my own career. I took great pride that I had always been able to support myself financially. To shift to full time motherhood was seismic for me. I didn’t know many women in my position that had followed this path. It was difficult feeling like I was walking this path alone.
CMO Note – it can be hard to feel like you’re going it alone. Our family has a similar situation, although in our case, we don’t know other families with working moms and stay at home dads. When one family member has a particularly demanding career, it can be difficult (or impossible) for both to work. Unless of course they earn enough to hire out all the help, which some parents (like us) don’t – and many don’t want to.
Where do you want to go in your career – and your financial life?
I have kept my licensing active all these years because I knew that I wanted to keep my options open once the kids were older. I knew that it was going to be a challenge to re-enter the workforce after so much time away. But my time at home has made me a completely different person- stronger and more confident in my abilities as a woman. I am not quite sure where the future leads, but I am optimistic that I will be able to re-enter the workforce as a more balanced, wiser woman.
My recent interest in personal finance has given us a path towards financial independence. Knowledge is power, and that adage certainly holds true with financial literacy. Having a plan with financial independence in mind has given us peace of mind that we are on the right track and the drive to be even more mindful of our spending so that we can reach our goal. I want others to see that this can be an option in their lives as well.
CMO Note – it’s so true, and I feel the same way. Knowing that your spending is in alignment with your goals and dreams is key to reaching financial independence – whatever that means to you.
Becoming a millionaire is a dream of many people. How did you get there?
Our high income has obviously helped, but I think what many people don’t realize is that income is not equivalent to wealth. As I’ve heard mentioned many times before, what you buy simply signifies that you know how to spend money. Some people do this extraordinarily well! But your spending has no bearing on your actual wealth.
What do you see as the key to earning such a high salary?
I am going to answer this from the other side, from the spouse that isn’t earning the high salary. My husband tells me constantly that if it weren’t for me keeping the fort down at home, there is no way he would be successful at his job.
He has 100% trust in me and my decisions. This decreases his mental load and allows him to put that energy towards his job, and enjoying time with the family whenever he’s home. As much as we want flexibility in the workplace, there are some jobs that are so highly specialized that you can’t go down to part time or alternative schedules. Particularly if you want to keep your skillset sharp.
CMO Note – That’s very true. The work my husband does to keep the household running smoothly is key to me succeeding at work, running this site, and still having time to enjoy with my family. Without it, I would never have the time to do all the things I do.
Have you ever experienced issues in the workforce because you’re a woman? What did you do in response?
The veterinary field is changing rapidly. Just a couple of generations ago, it was nearly 100% male, with the profession sticking with its agricultural roots in the caring and maintenance of food animals. Now over 80% of graduates are women, and companion animal medicine has exploded. Veterinarians also have a presence in industry, government, teaching/research, animal welfare, and public health. I don’t know if there’s any other profession that has flipped from one gender to the other so quickly.
I have not personally felt slighted for being a woman. Women are definitely changing the profession. I’m so excited to see where the profession is headed as more women enter the field.
Chief Mom Officer is primarily a personal finance blog – tell us about your saving and investment strategy
We budgeted without budgeting for a very long time. At the beginning of our marriage, we had some money automatically debited weekly from checking into savings. We always made sure to put any extra money at the end of the month into our savings account.
We always maxed out our respective IRAs and took advantage of workplace retirement plans. This part didn’t happen until later, before we knew better. Later, we would pay ourselves first rather than saving what was left over. We prioritized saving for the kids as soon as they were born. The amount we saved always went up whenever income went up. Eventually, I started tracking our expenses more carefully, and we’ve just been fine-tuning our finances ever since.
CMO Note – saving automatically is one of the best tips I know, particularly if you don’t want to budget. You save first and spend what’s left. Budgeting carefully is another great technique, but the automatic savings can be wonderful. Especially for those who don’t have time for budgets.
What’s the top three pieces of advice you’d have for someone just starting out in the workforce, struggling with their career, or just looking to improve how they handle their money?
1. Beware of lifestyle creep. This is incredibly easy to do, especially if you’re in a physician family. Your income can jump dramatically from training to being an attending.
2. Paying yourself first sets up a great savings habit, and that should include prioritizing saving for retirement.
3. Don’t feel guilty about spending money. As long as you’re spending it in an intentional way that fits within your budget, you’re good. Don’t have a budget? Start one!
Where can people connect with you?
You can read my blog at Financial Wellness DVM. You can also stop by my Facebook page and a Facebook group that is currently open to veterinarians that are mothers. I would like to get the conversation started with other veterinarians and veterinary students as well. I just started my blog a couple of months ago, so I’m still very much in the learning stage!
CMO Here Again
Thanks so much to Financial Wellness DVM for stopping by to share her story! I love how she’s running the family office, and all household operations, while still working through her site to help others. Be sure to leave her any questions, or encouragement, in the comments!
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