Many people contemplate the cost of raising children long before they have them. There’s daycare and preschool fees to consider, a possible increase in rent or mortgage payments if a family needs more space with a baby, and of course the oft-discussed (and ever-rising) cost of college tuition to save for.
Braces are another item to add to that list. How much do braces cost? Well, according to the American Association of Orthodontists , the average cost of braces for adolescents is between $4,978 and $6,900, depending on the course of treatment determined by your orthodontist.
For adults, the average price for braces ticks up a bit, with costs ranging between $5,100 to $7,045.
That price tag may come as a surprise to some. For the most part, dental insurance plans don’t cover much of the cost of orthodontia, if any. And the same is true for lots of pricey dental procedures you (or the kids) might need one day.
The bright side, in addition to a beaming smile once the braces have been removed, is that there are various ways to pay for braces, rather than depleting your savings account or asking family to foot the bill. Following are three possible paths to take on your child’s way to straight teeth and/or an aligned bite.
Smart Options to Pay for Braces
1. Asking Your Orthodontic Office About Payment Plans
Some orthodontic offices try to make care more accessible by offering payment plans for a patient’s treatment. Ask your orthodontist’s staff about what they offer, including whether or not they require a downpayment and if there is interest charged. Even with a payment plan, you’ll likely want to do some research to find out how much braces cost a month.
Payment policies will vary from office to office, so you might shop around for the one that makes your monthly payments manageable. Some offices will begin treatment with an initial payment—perhaps around $250 .
Others offer payment plans, sometimes even extending past the end of treatment. Plans like these can come with an interest rate, and interest could play a role in how much braces are ultimately going to cost you.
For example, if you find an office that offers an interest-free payment plan, with no required down payment, spread across 24 months, that makes a $5,000 orthodontic treatment cost about $209 per month—and that could be a whole lot more palatable to some than paying all at once.
As you get quotes from different orthodontists, factor in the time spent at appointments, as well as traveling to and from.
Depending on the type of orthodontia required, this could add up. See if the orthodontist can give an estimate of how frequently appointments will need to be scheduled and how long the treatment plan will last.
2. Using a Flexible Spending Account or a Health Savings Account
Flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and health saving accounts (HSAs) are offered as a part of healthcare plans by some employers. Both allow you to save pre-tax dollars to be used toward eligible expenses for yourself, your spouse or your dependents—i.e., your kid’s pricey braces.
With an FSA, users state how much they want their employer to set aside each month. Find out what the maximum amount allowed into your FSA is per year; each employer sets their own limit, though the government has determined a maximum contribution, for the 2020 tax year, it is $2,750 .
With an FSA, funds typically expire at the end of the year. Depending on the policy, there may be a short grace period in which funds can be used.
Sometimes plans allow one year’s funds to be rolled over into the next year. Both of these benefits are at the discretion of the policy, so you can check with your employer or program administrator to confirm.
But, if you’re enrolled in an FSA, that’s a good chunk of change to help pay for braces. Again, policies vary from employer to employer, so you can ask how you can use your FSA benefit toward orthodontia.
Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) have their own pros and cons, too. First, HSAs can sometimes be paired with high-deductible health insurance policies (HDHPs). If you opt for that plan, you may pay more out of pocket for regular medical needs.
The upside is that HSAs typically have than FSAs, up to $3,450 higher contribution limits or individuals and $6,900 per year (as of the 2019 tax year) if you have a family HDHP.
And money saved in an HSA can be rolled over from year to year depending upon your employers plan. That could allow you to save up a larger amount of pre-tax dollars to pay for braces.
3. Taking out a Loan
If the above options aren’t available, don’t fully cover the cost of braces, or just aren’t agreeable to you and you’re still struggling with how to pay for braces, you could consider an unsecured personal loan.
SoFi personal loans are unsecured installment loans that can be used for a wide variety of personal expenses. “Unsecured” means these loans are borrowed without requiring any collateral as security. Personal loans through SoFi are extremely flexible and offer competitive fixed rates.
While having a savings account that can be used for medical and dental expenses is ideal, an unsecured personal loan could offer a lower rate than paying for medical expenses with a credit card. The average interest rate for new offers on credit cards is around 18% , and some medical credit cards can have interest rates as high as 26.99%.
As children grow up and their expenses seem to grow with them, it’s common for parents to have to look around for financial solutions. No matter how you pay for your child’s braces, a happy, confident kid will likely be the reward for your efforts.
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