Financing Fertility: An Interview with Manisha Thakor, CFA, CFP

By now, you probably know that fertility treatments aren’t cheap if you’re paying all or most out-of-pocket.  (Understatement, anyone?)

You have 3 options: Spend Less, Earn More, Borrow It.

Americans paying for fertility treatments spend an average of $20,000 in their lifetimes. A single IVF treatment can cost upwards of $15,000 if you add fertility drugs and/or other potential fees like embryo storage and genetic testing. This is a tough pill to swallow for many whom are already weighing the tough emotional and physical costs of infertility and fertility treatments. Once you add the financial costs to the equation, you may feel even more overwhelmed.

We spoke with Manisha Thakor, a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), a Certified Financial Planner (CFP), and The Director of Wealth Strategies for Women at Buckingham & The BAM Alliance. Manisha has helped countless women and men navigate tough financial realities so that they can live a lifestyle aligned with their core values.

What’s the biggest financial mistake people make when it comes to a major investment like having children (whether it’s through fertility treatments, or not)?
A: The United States Department of Agriculture keeps stats on how much it costs to raise a child from 0 to 18 years of age and currently the number is nearly $250,000. Keep in mind that that’s once you have the child; those costs are on top of basic pregnancy costs as well as fertility treatments if you need them.

The decision to have a child spans your deepest core values and will require some pretty major financial mass; it’s expensive to have a kid(s)! It may make you want to act like kids (where you plug your ears and won’t listen to what you need to hear), but you have to take this into account. You may think the whole financial aspect doesn’t click in right now so you’ll worry about it later, but you do have to plan now…and keep planning for the rest of your life.

The answer to this reality is not to say no to having children, but to be extremely aware, as you would be with any financial decision, that there are choices to make. Ask yourself (and if you have a partner, involve him or her) and figure out: what are our trade offs?

How should people do a cost-benefit analysis when they think they can’t afford something that feels essential to their lives, like starting a family?

Whether you make $40,000 or $400,000 a year, after taxes, all of us have a pie that starts at 100%. Each of us has to decide how to allocate that money towards needs, wants, and savings for the future.

When there’s something that feels so profoundly important to you that it trumps everything else, you can make it a slice of your pie; but you have to recognize that the other slices have to get smaller to make room for it.

If it’s that important, you need to adjust or downsize in other areas, like the kind of car you’re driving, the vacations you take, the restaurants you’re eating at, etc.

Nobody gets a 120% pie.

Some people seeking fertility treatments aren’t in a position to pay for them. Do you have advice on how to find funding that may help them cover the expenses?

When it comes to getting money in general, for anything, it always helps to do a search online and see what’s going on. The world we live in is so dynamic and new things pop up all the time.

One thing to consider is that when it’s medical or health related, someone may be doing a study to conduct low-cost or no-cost treatment [that you might be able to participate in.]

[Editor’s note: search for “Infertility and IVF research programs” for more information.]

Another option is peer-to-peer (P2P) lending, which basically means people make personal loans to other individuals. You’re not going to get “free money” this way, but you could possibly borrow money at a lower rate than you’d have with a credit card. It also may be easier or quicker to get a loan this way than through a bank.

“Lending Club” is the current leader in the United States of peer-to-peer lending. Reputable runners up include Upstart, SoFi, and Funding Circle. Look for P2P company reviews before applying.

In terms of other ways to fund expensive fertility treatments, a home equity line of credit or a second mortgage is another option as the interest rates are lower than on credit cards. It’s not always an option that I recommend, though. Any time you borrow against the equity in your home, it’s risky because you are setting yourself up for a situation where if life gives you some uncertainly on the income front, you could hit a double whammy and lose your job and your home.

The reality is that you’re paying for most expenses with credit cards because it’s convenient, but credit cards are unsecured debt. If you’re using a credit card for fertility treatments, you may want to consider setting up payments on auto pay so you’re at least making the minimum payment.

Any time you’re going through stressful situation, like infertility, you can easily forget to pay a bill on time and the credit card debt can trigger penalty interest rates and hurt you horribly. You can go from an 18% to a 28% interest rate. That’s extreme, but it happens.

[Editor’s Note: It’s also worth searching for “fertility treatment grants” and “infertility financing programs” online and you’ll see many options for specific programs to assist patients in this area.]

Most fertility treatments don’t work on the first try. How should someone plan for this financially?

When you’re facing a potentially unlimited financial situation, the only thing you can do is to remain extremely flexible. The only thing you know with certainly is that life can be completely unpredictable!

What you can commit to doing is review your financial situation with each treatment. What does it mean for the pie? The mistake I see is that people think about their finances the first time and if it doesn’t work, they don’t re-evaluate the situation again because it’s painful and they’ve also hit a financial wall.

With each turn in the road, it’s another opportunity to sit down and look at the finances. [Ask yourself or] if you have a partner you may ask yourselves, “Should one of us take on more work?”

At every turn, you’ll have three options (you may mix these, as well):

•  Spend Less
•  Earn More
•  Borrow It

What happens when one person in the couple wants to keep spending money on fertility treatments and the other doesn’t?

This doesn’t just happen with infertility, of course; and one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to how to handle it. The key is to make sure each person feels actively heard.

Usually when there’s conflict over an important financial decision, one of two things happens – either your core values are triggered or the response is based in fear.

It’s not worth continuing to fight about something without addressing the root issue. How much is having a child(ren) a value to both of you? If it’s about your values and you both really want this, you have to spend more and/or earn less to make it work.

If the root issue is fear, look at the facts logically.  Ask yourselves: “What is an action we can take now to make this a win–win situation?”

Ultimately, if starting a family is important to you, you will find a way to make it work. It may mean re-designing your lifestyle, your expectations, and slicing your financial pie a little differently.



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