Couples who have difficulty getting pregnant can often feel isolated while going through this difficult experience. But in reality, struggling with fertility can be pretty common.
One in eight couples have trouble conceiving or experience miscarriage, and 7.4 million women have received fertility treatments in their lifetime, according to a survey by the CDC. The government estimates that just under 2% of births in the U.S. are now a result of assisted reproductive technology.
One of the most common and effective treatments for fertility problems is in vitro fertilization (IVF). This involves removing an egg from a woman’s ovaries, fertilizing it with sperm in a lab, then implanting the embryo in her uterus. Women under the age of 35 have a nearly 40% chance of having a baby through IVF, while women over the age of 40 have about a 12% chance .
The procedure is expensive—the average cost of one IVF cycle in the U.S. is between $10,000 and $15,000, according to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology . That number can depend on the city or state you live in, the treatment center you use, how many medications you take, and other factors. In many states, insurance doesn’t cover IVF at all. On top of the emotional toll of fertility struggles, the high cost of treatment can sometimes be a psychological burden as well.
Options for Financing IVF
For many would-be parents, that hefty price tag is worth it for the chance to have children. But how do you afford to pay for treatment? Here are a few ideas for IVF financing.
Tapping into Your Health Insurance
Your first step should probably be to check whether your health insurance will cover IVF. There are 13 states that require insurance companies to cover infertility treatment: Arkansas, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, and West Virginia. However, not all of these states include IVF in the requirement. Another two states—California and Texas—require insurers to offer coverage for infertility treatment, and in California this doesn’t include IVF.
You can contact your insurer to find out your specific benefits. If the timing works out with enrollment periods, you might think about switching your insurance plan to one that covers IVF, if you have that option. Unfortunately, in most states, insurance companies don’t have to pay for IVF, so it would be up to you to cover all expenses.
Using Your Health Savings Account or Flexible Spending Account
A health savings account (HSA) allows you to put away money for medical expenses, usually in tandem with a qualifying high-deductible health plan. If you have funds in your HSA, you can use them to pay for IVF and related medical expenses. As long as you paid for the expenses after you opened the HSA, you can reimburse yourself for them anytime—it doesn’t have to be in the year that you incurred the costs.
If your employer offers a flexible spending account (FSA), you can also use those funds to pay for IVF—and you don’t need a qualifying health plan to have this account. However, you do have to use all your FSA funds in the year they’re doled out or lose them.
Budgeting and Saving
If you’re planning to pay for IVF out-of-pocket and you don’t already have the cash lying around, the most basic financial move is to save up as you would for any major expense. That likely means making a budget by tallying up your monthly expenses and take-home income. If you have enough leeway to save cash every month, you could set up a system to withdraw the money from your paycheck, for example, directly into a savings account automatically.
If you don’t have enough left over after expenses, one option is to work on cutting spending. Can you take in a roommate or boarder to reduce housing costs? Can you do more free and low-cost activities with friends instead of going to bars or shows? What about giving up that gym membership in favor of YouTube fitness videos or running outdoors? Another option is to increase your income. Perhaps you or your partner could ask for a raise at work or look for a better-paying job. Or you could take on a side hustle, such as driving for a ride-sharing service or renting your place out on Airbnb.
Borrowing From a Loved One
If you have a friend or relative that is financially comfortable, you could consider asking them for a loan. There may be people in your life who would be happy to support you in such an important and personal investment. But approach this carefully to avoid damaging relationships. Perhaps make it clear that the person can say no with no hard feelings. If he or she agrees, it may be wise to set out the terms of the loan clearly, including whether you will pay interest and your repayment schedule. Then, of course, make sure to honor the agreement.
Getting a Medical or Fertility Loan
Some IVF providers work with companies that offer financing for medical treatments. You can also search for IVF-specific loans and financing programs online. Take note of any origination fees or penalties for repaying the loan early.
These options can be convenient, but it never hurts to shop around before borrowing, since both loans and financing programs can come with higher interest rates than you might expect. Some fertility treatment providers may also offer IVF payment plans that let you break the cost down over a number of months.
Applying for a Grant
A number of nonprofit organizations offer grants and scholarships to those who cannot afford to pay for IVF. While there’s no guarantee of qualification, groups that provide assistance nationally include the AGC Scholarship Foundation, Baby Quest Foundation, the Cade Foundation, the Family Formation Charitable Trust, the Footsteps for Fertility Foundation, and more. Other groups offer support to individuals and families that live in specific regions. You can find a list here .
Taking Out a Home Equity Line of Credit
If you own a home, you may be able to take out a revolving line of credit against the equity. The advantage is that home equity lines of credit (HELOC) often come with lower interest rates than credit cards or other types of loans. As of July 2019, the average rate for a 30-year HELOC was 6.75% . The amount you can borrow and the terms depend on the equity, as well as your credit history, debt-to-income ratio, and other factors. The downside of a HELOC is that if you have trouble making payments, your home is on the line. It is up to you to pay the entire balance off within a certain time period, or else a sky-high interest rate kicks in.
Borrowing From Your Retirement Account
This is another path that financial advisors would likely not recommend. That’s because nest eggs usually stay untouched for decades in order to have enough time to grow for retirement. The more funds you leave in, and the earlier you invest, the more time your retirement savings has to grow. However, you may have the option of borrowing up to $50,000 or half of the amount vested in your 401(k)—whichever is smaller. You are basically lending the money to yourself at market interest rates for up to five years. However if you leave your job for any reason during the time you are paying off the loan, there may be early-withdrawal penalties if you don’t pay the loan off in time. Keep in mind that you will be repaying the loan with after-tax dollars, and they’ll be taxed again when you take the money out in retirement.
You may also qualify to actually withdraw money from your 401(k) to pay for out-of-pocket medical expenses, if your plan allows a “hardship withdrawal .” You’ll have to pay taxes and a 10% penalty on the amount you take out. If you have a Roth IRA, you can withdraw your contributions (but not earnings) anytime without penalties or taxes.
Taking Out a Personal Loan
Compared to using credit cards or money in your retirement accounts, taking out a personal loan might be a better option for many people. A personal loan can be used for almost any expense, including IVF, and often (but not always!) comes with a much lower interest rate than credit cards.
Unlike a HELOC, unsecured personal loans don’t require you to put up any assets as collateral. With SoFi, you can borrow up to $100,000 without paying any fees or prepayment penalties. If you qualify, you’d then have a fixed monthly payment for the term of the loan, so you’ll know exactly what to expect. The stronger your employment and credit history, among other factors, the more likely you may be to qualify for a lower interest rate.
Investing in Your Future
IVF might be one of the most meaningful investments you’ll ever make, but it’s undeniably expensive. You can look to your insurance, health savings accounts, cash savings, or a loved one. If that’s not enough, a personal loan may be a smart way to finance treatment and help make your dreams a reality.
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