I pride myself on discussing topics that other people dare not touch. Today’s topic is one of those really uncomfortable topics. I’m about to share some thoughts and ideas with you that you have never heard come from a “financial guy’s” mouth. In fact, many people would say that a couple’s decision to pay for fertility treatment or an adoption is none of my damn business. But they apparently don’t realize that my business is telling people exactly what they need to hear about money. Choosing to seek fertility treatment or adoption has a serious financial component, and that’s where we will start.
Here is my big sweeping disclaimer statement that I sincerely mean: you can’t put a price on the value of human life. Not only that, but being a parent has been the absolute best experience of my life, and I would give up all the money and possessions that I own, if I had to, in order to experience for just one day. But this is where the problems begin. Sometimes people don’t have enough money or possessions to give up in order to put themselves in a position to be a parent.
Infertility is a heart-wrenching experience. It is physically and psychologically taxing. The further down the road of infertility you get, the more you want what you seemingly can’t have. It’s one of life’s cruelest scenarios. You are opening your heart and your home to a child. You are promising the child a loving environment, but the science of it all simply isn’t working. It’s at this time that you reevaluate many things, including financial stability. You may come to the conclusion that you are willing to trade a great deal of financial security for a better opportunity to become a parent. I can’t, shouldn’t, and won’t blame you for this conclusion. However, if you have no money or possessions to trade, then this is where the conversation takes an ugly turn.
It is neither practical nor sensible to burden yourself with tens of thousands of dollars of debt, especially if you are already in a precarious financial situation. If you have not assets or possessions, then I’m making the assumptions that you may actually have negative assets and or possessions. Which is saying that you may be already burdened with debt. If this debt is already significant and troublesome, then raising a child is hard enough. If you have to worsen your financial situation even more by borrowing for fertility treatment or adoption, then you are surely damning yourself financially. And I’m not talking “the budget will be a little bit tight for a while” tough. I’m talking “wreck your financial life forever, no seriously, forever” kinda tough. This is where you are going to have to trust me.
It is unrealistic to be able to expect to afford the costs associated with raising a child when you are nearly destitute. Please don’t read the previous sentence with anything other than sincere gravity. You CANNOT raise a well adjusted child in a house that has mountains of debt. The type of debt that stresses you out and makes you a less-than effective parent. The type of debt that has you working 2-3 jobs and NEVER seeing the child that you so badly wanted. Some call this sacrifice. I call this being absolutely unrealistic. I have sifted through the pieces of several households in this exact same scenario. Again, please don’t mistake this for anything other than a perspective that many people refuse to consider.
Another heartbreaking consideration is that of absolute uncertainty. Even if you spend $25,000 on fertility treatment, and even if you spend $35,000 on an attempt at adoption, that doesn’t meant that you will succeed. At that point, you have worsened your financial life for decades to come, and you have no bundle of joy to show for it. Adoptions do fall apart. Recently, one of my best friends was on the bad end of a $35,000 adoption gone wrong. They paid various “otherwise reliable entities” $35,000 and left the hospital with no child (as the birth mother refused to give up her child).
I’m not telling you to forego fertility treatment and/or adoption if it makes financial sense for you. I’m not even telling you to forego fertility treatment and/or adoption if you have no money, but no debt. What I am asking of you is to be realistic. You CANNOT raise a child in a financially unstable home. Here’s the good news, I’m telling you this as your friend. I’m not telling this to you as God. I’m not telling this to you as the ultimate decision-maker in your life. And I’m not telling you this because I think I know everything. I’m telling you this out of my life-long obligation to discuss things that should be discussed. Therefore, do what you must.
Anyone who has ever adopted or who has successfully completed fertility treatment will tell you that it was the best money that they had ever spent. They are right. The real question is whether you can still say that if you are spending money that you never had in the first place.
I welcome ALL comments. But please understand that I’m making MY comments based on what I have seen, and the assumption of a very bad financial situation for the prospective parents. I implore you to share this post with the people that you love that are in this decision making process that COULD lead to this type of trouble.
Peter Dunn a.k.a. Pete the Planner® is an award-winning financial mind and a former comedian. He’s a USA TODAY columnist, author of ten books, and is the host of the popular radio show and podcast, The Pete the Planner Show. Pete is considered one of the foremost experts on financial wellness in the world, but he’s just as likely to talk your ear off about bass fishing.