Do You Know Your Veterinary Clients’ Financial Secrets?

These somber stats may explain a number of daily observations at most vet clinics.

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According to a recent and frightening CareerBuilder survey, 40 percent of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. More specifically, 44 percent of women and 36 percent of men are in this situation.

Based on multiple private conversations at vet clinics, this sad state of affair applies not only to many of our clients, but also to our employees, from “the front” to “the back.”

The study is based on a sample of almost 3,900 U.S. workers employed full-time (not self-employed, non-government) over 18 years of age, polled between May 14 and June 4, 2012.

Here are some striking results from the survey:

• Almost 60 percent of workers have cut back on leisure activities. Yet some will not cut back on some activities such as the Internet (57 percent), driving (44 percent), cable TV (29 percent) or cell phone use (24 percent).
• Interestingly, in tough times, more workers would give up their phones and cable before their pets. Sadly, it doesn’t mean they all do, as we painfully experience all too often.
• More than 25 percent of workers don’t ever save any money (27 percent to be exact); 17 percent save $50 or less each month; 12 percent save $50-100; 14 percent save $100-250; 11 percent save $250-500; 15 percent save $500 or more.
• One third of employees do not have any retirement plan. You may be aware of how few of your colleagues or employees contribute to a retirement plan.
• 20 percent recently reduced their contribution to their retirement plans.
• 25 percent of women and 17 percent of men missed at least one monthly payment in the past year.
• Amazingly, 12 percent of workers who earn moere than $100,000 “always or usually” live paycheck to paycheck.
• Employees close to retirement (55 years and over) are least likely to live paycheck to paycheck. Here are the scary numbers of people who live that way:
Õ18-34: 40 percent
Õ35-44: 42 percent
Õ45-54: 43 percent
Õ55 and over: 34 percent

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These somber stats may explain a number of daily observations at most vet clinics:

• Why so many clients decline what you believe is the best medical care possible.
• Why so few receptionists and technicians can afford our own services—yet we ask them to explain estimates with a straight face to clients.
• Why many of our colleagues and associates cannot afford some of our most expensive therapeutic options, such as fancy surgery, chemo or radiation therapy.

I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I firmly believe that things would get better if people had an understanding of basic concepts of personal finance. We can’t do much about our clients, but maybe we could take a more proactive role in helping our colleagues and employees.

There are countless ways to do that: mentors, books, magazines, blogs and Internet sites such as the excellent www.feedthepig.org.

Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a mobile, board-certified surgeon in Allentown, Pa. He is the co-author of “Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound” (www.WalkaHound.com).

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