You want to buy a what?

27 Aug

I used to Tivo financial guru Suze Orman’s show and watch it religiously. I particularly enjoyed the “Can I Afford It?” segment, where people would call in to tell Suze what they wanted to buy and she would tell them whether they could or couldn’t do it. Usually they couldn’t, an edict she tried to soften by affectionately referring to the caller as “Girlfriend!” or “Boyfriend!”

Sensible Suze  doesn’t think anyone can afford anything unless they have at least 6-8 months worth of savings lying around, no debt and a healthy retirement fund. Never a bad idea. And sometimes, if you have to ask, well, the answer is no.

I was intrigued by the things people wanted to buy; some seemed like such a waste of money–gigantic outdoor kitchens (when the nearby inside kitchen was the size of a football field), or even weirder things, like life-sized replicas of TV-robots, or dog cloning. It was also interesting to see how many people were surprised that they couldn’t afford to spend thousands of dollars on things when they were twice that amount or more in debt. It was a fascinating glimpse into the things people think they need, and how they justify them.

You know where this is going, right? I’ve been thinking about my old friend Suze and wondering if I should call in to the show and ask her if we can afford a few rounds of IVF, based on our current financial situation. Something tells me Suze wouldn’t like IVF and its less than stellar rate of returns for those of us past that magical age of 35. And even though we’re pretty financially responsible people who live within our means, I still think Suze would say something like, “Girlfriend? Denied! Can’t you and that cute hubby of yours enjoy the freedom of your child-free life!”

I’m not really going to call.  This is an emotionally charged decision that goes far beyond the calm, rational analysis of budgets and savings accounts. It’s almost impossible to even contemplate the road blocks Suze might sling in our direction, and justify a decision to throw in the towel.

Like most people who have traveled this truly shitty path, $30,000+ for IVF was not written into the blueprint of our financial life plan. We have savings, we have a healthy household income, but we are also trying to buy a house in one of the most expensive markets.  The prospect of sinking that kind of money into something that may not even work is truly terrifying. That’s not to say we won’t do it. With each non-IVF cycle, I have so much hope that this will be the one, and we won’t have to figure out how to pay for more serious intervention. Yet. (I try not to think about baby #2, if that possibility even exists.) But hot on the heels of hope is the thud of the reality that I am getting older, and the success rates go only one way from here.

So I guess my question of the day is how do you feel about IVF debt? Were you and your significant other in agreement about it? Did you dip into funds earmarked for financial security in retirement? At what point does the desire to parent override the one to not have to eat Alpo in your old age, or pay rent forever? When does your biological clock get to have a louder voice and tell you that this is something you can’t even afford to save for, because your fertility is about to fall off a cliff? 

(Ha! I said “question,” like I was only going to ask one…)

My husband hates my tendency to awful-ize everything, and frankly, I do too, but it’s so hard to not go there. He likes to remind me that when we first moved to L.A. so he could pursue his career in the entertainment industry fresh out of film school, I predicted we would be living under a billboard on Sunset Boulevard… I was wrong.

My mind meanderings usually come back to this: “Can we afford NOT to do it? To try everything we had available to us?” And I think the answer is no.

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5 Responses to “You want to buy a what?”

  1. carrie August 27, 2010 at 11:55 am #

    Great question. we have spent about $35,000-$40,000 on treatments. We spent this much even though we had a NY state grant that payed for part of 2 or the 4 IVF cycles we completed. While we could afford this (without debt or using a credit card), I have no idea how we will afford to keep going and have no clear answer on how much more is ok to spend. Clearly this is not even close to a luxury item like an outdoor kitchen, but when are you just tossing money away? I have no idea.

  2. Misfit August 27, 2010 at 12:33 pm #

    Hai! Swinging back by to say hello and thanks for stopping by my drivel fueled blog. Hope you don’t mind me chiming in and keeping up.

    Cliff fertility, check. I am one of those rare birds that has three cycles covered by ins. If we did nor have that cushion, my guess is that we would have financially said no. It’s a tough question and a hard answer. The fact that we could easily be priced out of the baby market (that should be free, right?) is jacked up beyond belief.

  3. babysmiling August 27, 2010 at 6:37 pm #

    We drained all of our savings with our first set of treatment cycles, then built up a bunch more money mostly by selling a house at a huge profit, then used pretty much all of that for the next set of cycles including 2 IVFs out of pocket. We never went into debt, but we used to have a nice amount of disposable income, and now we’re just scraping by (made worse by my not being able to work for much of my high-risk pregnancy then the babies’ first few months). The irony is that we spent all of our money to get the babies, and now that they’re here I can’t give them what I would like: almost all of their toys and clothes are hand-me-downs or used, and there’s nothing to put in their college funds.

    If I had it to do all over again I still would, and if I hadn’t finally had a successful treatment cycle, I would have kept going as long as it took, as much money as it took. It’s all worth it if there’s a baby (or two) at the end; the hard part is that for the seven years I was TTC, I didn’t know if I’d get that happy ending or if it would all be for nothing.

  4. infertilerevolutionary August 28, 2010 at 4:21 am #

    This is a really hard question. So far, I’ve just done IUI cycles, and my insurance has paid for them. Even with the coverage, I’ve still spent a couple of thou on co-pays and meds. Assuming this current IUI cycle doesn’t work, which it probably won’t, we’re doing IVF. I’ve gotten as close as I ever will to praying that we get some grant money from the New York State to do it. If the first cycle doesn’t work, I’ll probably have to ask my grandmother for money for the second cycle. My partner and I haven’t talked about how many cycles we’d do before giving up, but my guess is two.

    It’s so frustrating to be force to make these calculations, because insurance should pay for this crap.

  5. stacie August 28, 2010 at 12:13 pm #

    I’m not to IVF yet but I may be soon (one more IUI first). We plan to empty out my husband’s retirement fund from his previous job to pay for it if it comes to that. I think your last paragraph sums up my feelings completely though – I can’t imagine not giving it everything we possibly can.

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