“Why are my people leaving and what can I do about it?” 

Michelle, Practice Manager

Sabadoodle digs deep into the financial stress hindering one clinic’s growth and guide’s the owner, practice manager and staff toward financial security and wellbeing.
The following background and three employee vignettes are composite profiles that highlight common financial challenges and opportunities facing clinics and their staff. Names have been changed to protect the privacy of employees.


Employee retention was the key focus of a New York City based veterinary clinic’s 2020 annual strategic planning meeting. The owner proposed adopting a student loan assistance program for the multi-doctor practice. Several vets on staff had six-figure student loan debt and management struggled to compete with corporate VetMed for new graduates. The AAHA accredited hospital was growing rapidly and paid best-in-class wages and benefits. Leadership had a clear strategic vision and regularly surveyed employees for feedback. Help with student loans was a common request from employees at all levels of the organization.

Despite managements’ wellness and work-life initiatives, the staff was turning over every three years and annual retention costs were well into the six-figures.

The practice manager turned to Mike Sabatino, CFP® for a fresh perspective on their financial wellness and retention problems. Mike is a Certified Student Loan Professional and an expert on paying off six-figure education debt.

Prior to serving the veterinary community, he created a successful money coaching program for McGraw-Hill Education’s 4,000 U.S. employees.

Over the course of 2020, Mike completed one-on-one consultations with over one-third of the hospital’s employee population.

Sabadoodle healthy team graphic.
“I could be crazy for wanting to go to vet school.”

– Rachel, Assistant

There’s more to the employee retention story than paying a higher wage.
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Jen the Associate

Buy a home and start a family.


Jen regularly logs 70-hour weeks and believes that the more she works the quicker she can pay back her student loans. She’s angry at herself and ashamed for borrowing $300,000 for vet school. Jen is physically and mentally exhausted and wonders whether to use money earmarked for her upcoming wedding to pay back her student loans faster.

She feels isolated and anxious thinking about how much of her life has been put on hold relative to her non-vet friends. Fluctuating production bonuses make managing her student loans even more complex.


Jen and Mike run an online simulation that indicates potential lifetime savings of $230,000 simply by switching to a different student loan repayment plan. She switches repayment plans online during the meeting and frees up hundreds of dollars a month of cash flow for her home down payment.

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Kate the LVT

Earn a VTS in Anesthesia in the next five years.


Kate’s most deeply held value is making a difference in the lives of pets. She loves the work but believes things would be better if she had more money. Kate left her first clinic two years after they paid for her LVT license. This is the third practice she’s worked at – each move adding a few dollars to her hourly wage. She has both private and federal student loan debt in addition to credit card debt scattered across six different lenders. Last month she had an emergency dental expense and is considering asking her federal loan servicer to defer payments.


By the end of her coaching session, Kate has made the switch online to a more affordable federal loan repayment plan, increasing her cash flow and minimizing future student loan interest accrual.

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Rachel the Assistant

Earn a DVM in the next five years.


Barely five-minutes into the meeting Rachel says, “I could be crazy for wanting to go to vet school.” She has fallen behind on her private student loan payments from undergrad. Rachel is ashamed of her debt and believes the situation is helpless. She has never talked to a financial professional until now. Rachel hasn’t defaulted yet on her private student loans, but timing is critical.


Mike helps her create an action plan for avoiding default on her private student loans. He also runs an online simulation to help Rachel understand the consequences of pursuing vet school and piling on even more student loan debt.

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