The financial ramifications of fertility treatment and adoption

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.

7 thoughts on “The financial ramifications of fertility treatment and adoption

  1. My husband and I are currently going through IVF and I am so thankful that my insurance covers it. I am one of the lucky ones, I know it and my doctor sometimes reminds me of it. We know that even though we both have good jobs, due to other financial obligations at this time, we couldn’t (and shouldn’t) afford to do this if we had to pay out of pocket. It would be the hardest decision I ever would make to not try to have a family due to money, I am grateful I don’t have to make that decision.

    I applaud you for writing on this topic, it is one I don’t think alot of people really address – especially the toll of raising a child in a financially unstable home. Infertility is like any other large purchase really – you need to put yourself in a good position to take on the responsiblity that comes with it. It’s just sometimes you are doing that on very limited time.

    Curious – When you work with couples or single (maybe women mostly) do you ever suggest creating a savings fund for infertility? Looking back, if I had thought about it in my 30’s before I was married, it might have been something I thought about, kind of like a rainy day fund for a future family.

    Thanks for your articles. Always enjoy reading.

  2. Pete,
    I think you are pretty much spot on with this post. My wife and I have gone through both, and it does pose a significant threat to your financial bottom line. Some random thoughts…

    Thankfully, we had some assistance from our parents. We paid for most of it, but they kicked in a little. And we had money saved up in advance. Our doctor was fantastic. He always told us there is no guarantee with the fertility treatment, and he was genuinely upset when it didn’t work for us.

    As far as adoption goes, same situation. Parents helped a little, but we took on most of the cost. We used an agency both times (currently trying for #2), which helps keep the costs down. The disturbing thing is how much the cost differs when you start choosing the race. Caucasian baby? Significantly more than a non-Caucasian. I completely understand it is a supply and demand issue, but still a little unsettling. And that is where the financial aspect came into play. We were fine with a non-Caucasian baby, and the lower cost that came with it.

    And let’s not forget the adoption tax credit. Huge bonus.

    And with adoption, the emotional struggles are more significant, IMO. We had one birth mother back out at the last minute (which we expected), but the other caught us completely off guard. We built a great relationship with her prior to the birth, but she changed her mind after he was born. But thankfully she changed her mind again a week later and we took home a beautiful son named JP.

    When you get down to the heart of the matter, I think the issues people face financially with this type of situation is common. Same goes for buying a house, new car, etc. Too many people think they are entitled to do whatever they want, not understanding or comprehending the ramifications of their decisions, nor understanding their responsibility. The problem here and the big difference is emotion. Hard to make rational decisions when it comes to something you have been dreaming about for most of your life.

    This is a big reason you should start saving money as soon as you can. Build up that savings for situations like this. You will pay a lot less if you pay for something ahead of time, rather than paying after the fact. The hard part is convincing young people of this concept.


  3. I also just want to thank you for broaching a sensitive topic. The most important thing is that you realize how incredibly hard infertility is. Most people have no idea how much pain it truly causes. Yes, financially it is very challenging. My husband and I have been ttc for four years. Our insurance pays for nothing. We know that we could never afford IVF or adoption. It is heartbreaking to know that finances decide our future, meanwhile we have to pay for medicare expenses of women who are pregnant without insurance. We both work good jobs and can’t have a child but we pay into an insurance plan that pays for pregnancy (we may never get to take advantage of that), viagra, abortions, birth control pills, and vasectomies. It is so frustrating!

  4. Pete,
    Thank you so much for approaching a topic that is so sensitive, and many would say painful. My husband and I married 3 years ago this July 26th and planned all of our finances around the idea of having a biological family. We had our dream wedding, bought a big house, and and went on an amazing honeymoon. What we didn’t know was that we wouldn’t be able to have a biological family and our only options at having the one thing we wanted in life, children, would be infertility treatments (which are against our faith) or adoption. By the time we figured this out, our savings was pretty much wiped out and we had to start looking at other options at funding an adoption. Had we have known, we would have stayed in a smaller house, had a smaller wedding, and traveled within the states to save money we could have put towards what would truly make us happy. We sold a TON of stuff to make money and took loans from family members. The pain of infertility is hard enough to deal with, but knowing that your future depends on the weight of your wallet is unsettling.

    My husband and I always wanted to adopt, but didn’t think it would be our only option. We became foster parents the year after getting married and also signed on with a private adoption agency. We were blessed this past January with a beautiful 10 month old boy through the state and two weeks later a newborn boy through our agency. Not everyone is this lucky and we realize this. Don’t get me wrong, our journey with an agency wasn’t easy and there were many ups and downs and unknowns along the way, but it worked in our favor in the end. You mentioned that you had friends who sunk a great deal of money into an adoption that fell through and they walked away with nothing. I’d HIGHLY encourage anyone who is thinking adoption to thoroughly research the different agencies, attend support groups before signing on, and interview multiple agencies before signing on that dotted line with anyone specific. We chose our agency b/c they guaranteed us a placement within 18 months and their track record was phenomenal with placements. You have to find that perfect fit in your heart when picking an agency. We have two good friends that signed on with a different agency the same time and were taken for everything they had and never got a baby.

    Networking is huge. If you want to adopt, talk to others who have walked the path and stumbled through the adoption journey. This is the best way to learn the ins and outs, to find support when you feel like you’re all alone, and possibly even find a connection with the child you were meant to raise.

    I could go on forever with our story. Looking ahead, we’d love to adopt again, but you’re right Pete, you have to think about your financial future. If it’s not affordable now, it’s not fair to a child to walk that path. Many mothers choose adoption because they feel they cannot afford a child. You certainly don’t want to put a child in a situation they were meant to get away from. You can’t just think about if you can afford adoption or infertility treatments now, but if you can afford it in the future. We think, if we adopt now or again, can we afford the best life for the children we have, can we afford to send them to college later or to participate in sports or extracurriculars that will enrich their lives????

    Pete, thank you again for facing such a topic. You’re a brave soul!!! Keep up your great work.


  5. Pete,

    Thank you so much for this article. So many people give flip off-the-cuff ignorent opinions when it comes to adoption and IF. As you pointed out both can fail and take your money. I know this first hand having gone through a failed adoption. Thankfuly I picked an agency where you pay most of the money at the end of the process so I was damaged but not beyond what I could afford. Of course, the heartbreak is the worst thing.

    You sound like a great father. Blessings to you and your family.

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