Making the decision to expand your family, and contemplating the exciting future that lies ahead, represents an emotional milestone for most would-be parents.
But unfortunately for many couples, unexpected infertility can occur, leading to an unwelcome family planning delay that can also impact your financials.
“More and more couples are waiting longer to have their kids," said Julie Higgins, a relationship manager at City National Bank. “There are great financial reasons to delay having a family, especially for women who want the time so their career can take off. But sometimes waiting can trigger fertility issues."
About 12.1 percent of women ages 15 to 44 have “impaired fecundity" — which refers to having trouble conceiving a baby or carrying one to viability — and more than 7.3 million women have had some type of infertility treatment, according to the most recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Couples having trouble conceiving after six months to a year typically start with testing to determine what issues are involved and to develop a treatment plan. The cost of treatment varies widely from a few dollars a month to $12,000 per treatment depending on the path the couple chooses.
For many couples, the expense can quickly grow to $10,000's or even $100,000 in expenses.
Those figures can leave new parents in an uncomfortable financial situation, even before their new child arrives. But with proper planning, couples can better navigate these expenses.
If you have money saved and set aside for family planning, you're in a better place than most people who unexpectedly face the double blow of financial and emotional stress brought on by infertility, said Alan Wolberg, a senior wealth planner at City National Bank.
But even with some savings built up for growing a family, couples in the midst of an emotionally fraught infertility journey often forgo their best financial know-how and opt to spend whatever it takes for the chance to conceive.
If you are considering fertility treatments, follow these three guidelines when deciding how much to spend and how to pay for your treatments.
Most people want to begin treatment immediately when they find out they're having trouble conceiving. That sense of urgency can lead some people to throw financial caution to the wind.
“If you find out you need help to have a baby, take a step back and look at your finances to see how much you're making and spending and look into insurance as your first option," said Wolberg. “After that, find a specialist in your area so you can determine exactly how much the different treatments cost and what happens if they don't work."
The good news is that some health insurance companies pay for one or more infertility treatments.
However, only 15 states mandate insurance coverage for these treatments, and there is typically a strict definition for when the insurance coverage can be used, according to Modern Fertility. And if the treatment doesn't work after a time period specified by your insurance company, you're on your own to pay for additional treatments.
Once you have a better picture of the costs for the treatment recommended for you, you and your partner can determine how much you're willing to spend before embarking on your plan.
When deciding how to pay for treatments, couples tend to tap into some of their existing assets. But even if a couple has investment or savings accounts they can draw on to pay for the treatments, it may not always be wise to do so.
For example, market fluctuations may make it more problematic to liquidate a portfolio in a down market, and depleting those accounts if you have other financing options can undermine the benefits of compounding interest growing overtime.
Additionally, you need to consider how your spending, savings and earnings will change in the coming months - and how much you may need to have saved to manage those changes - before you can get a full picture of how much you are truly able to spend now.
Affluent families still want to be careful about spending down their assets, warns Wolberg, particularly if one partner may be considering slowing their career or stopping work for a long period of time for fertility treatments and to care for a baby.
There are alternative ways to finance your treatments that don't require you to deplete your existing investment or savings accounts.
A home equity line of credit can be a good vehicle for borrowing money, said Wolberg.
Tapping a HELOC is not dissimilar from using a credit card, but with a lower cost. Your HELOC provider will set a credit limit, which usually is based on how much equity you have in your home. You can then spend as little or as much as you'd like, as long as you stay under that limit. When you pay off a part of the loan, your credit increases by the amount you paid.
Interest rates on HELOCs are typically lower than on a credit card.
An unsecured personal loan can be another option to consider, said Higgins, because the interest rate also tends to be lower than on a credit card.
Some fertility treatment programs offer financial arrangements for their patients. You can also find a list of programs at Resolve.org, a nonprofit infertility organization, including links to treatment centers, other nonprofit organizations and crowdfunding sites.
One of the worst options for financing infertility treatments is to put them on a credit card, which typically carries a high interest rate, said Higgins. You also run the risk of lowering your credit score if you carry a balance up to the limit of the card.
“If you can get a credit card with zero interest charges for 12 months or 18 months, that might be okay, as long as you have a plan to pay it off," said Higgins.
Another way couples are funding these costly treatments is by borrowing from their 401(k) or other retirement savings accounts.
“I would never recommend borrowing from your 401(k) for any reason," said Higgins. “If you change employers or get laid off, you have to pay it back immediately, and the tax penalty can be huge. I think it's just too risky." Even a credit card bill at 21 percent interest would be better than incurring a big tax penalty, she said
If you're facing infertility, a careful consideration of all your options is a wise way to protect your family's future financial wellbeing.
City National's team can evaluate your full financial situation and help find a way to pay for treatments, so you can maintain the financial stability you need for your growing family. To learn more, contact us.
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