Personal finance encourages the idea of reducing your expenses. However, if you're trying to start a family, it can be easier said than done.
According to the World Health Organization, 15% of couples worldwide have infertility problems. Some infertility tests can be resolved naturally, but for many people, procedures such as in vitro fertilization and in vitro fertilization are the best chance of conceiving. According to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, the average cost of an IVF cycle is $12,400, and most couples have multiple treatment cycles.
Ali and Josh Lupo are one such couple. As a personal finance influencer, her regular job is sharing advice on index funds, real estate investing and living below your means with her 135,000 Instagram followers. Infertility and its high costs were not part of the financial freedom plan.
"It's like a black, black hole when you're exploited by money and you're plagued by infertility," Ali said. "No one understands pain unless they have been through it or experienced it."
But, having laid the groundwork in their 20s, the couple is better positioned for an uncertain future. Rather than relying on perfectly crafted posts, Lupus uses their social media channels to facilitate conversation and community when people are dealing with messy personal finances — situations like infertility where being frugal is sometimes not an option.
"After 30 months of trying to add to our family, 1,230 pills, 79 injections, 6 cycles skipped, 1 surgery [and] 1 transfer, we are pregnant," she wrote on an Instagram scroll that accompanied her pregnancy announcement.
Here's how one couple continued their financial journey and how some Americans found solutions to make sure health insurance is part of their financial freedom goals.
They have over $100,000 in student debt.
Lupus is more likely to be an "influencer," a name given to personal finance entrepreneurs of varying degrees who attract large followings on social media. After college, Josh worked at a group center for at-risk youth and Ali worked for victims of domestic violence. They say the job earns about $12 an hour. In pursuit of better-paying career opportunities, Ali returned to school to earn a master's degree in social work. In the year By the spring of 2017, the couple had accumulated more than $102,000 in student loan debt and their wedding was scheduled for next year.
Ali said, “Both of us grew up in financially poor families. "We've never budgeted with credit cards." Although Ally's additional credentials land him a better-paying job, Josh is soon fired, forcing the couple to live on less than they can afford. Lupus began working multiple jobs and Josh would drive for Uber when he had time, listening to podcasts about personal finance and real estate between trips.
To make ends meet, the couple focused on reducing or eliminating the "big three" expenses — housing, food and transportation — and said the process teaches frugality in the pursuit of financial freedom.
"I think a lot of people get into trouble with the design lifestyle," says Josh. "They said I'm going to make a lot of money to make this happen." But they are not focused on managing their income. Start by knowing how you spend your money.
The savings paid off. In the years that followed, the couple paid off all their debts, bought a two-story home, then bought and rented out a second duplex to live rent-free. However, Ali's work is very stressful. A very important decision in the coming months.
A simple personal finance move that puts profits before money: "Barista FI"
IVF is so expensive that some Americans take jobs to pay for IVF insurance benefits. This phenomenon is known in some financial circles as "Barista FI".
Barista FI is part of the Financial Freedom, Early Retirement or Fire movement, an acronym first coined by Vicky Robin and Joe Dominguez in their 1992 book Your Money or Your Life. The premise of the FIRE movement is simple, but not simple: save and invest enough money that the annual interest alone will cover all your bills, resulting in infinite nest eggs.
Often referred to as your FIRE number, this number is very sexy. It's also very high — more than $1 million for most people and rising every year due to inflation, a list often overlooked by personal finance influencers. "Chasing FIRE can be frustrating. FI isn't for everyone," Ali said. "As a result."
Barista FI, so named because Starbucks offers workers health insurance if they work an average of 20 hours, allows people to escape stressful jobs while maintaining residual income and benefits. The prospect of securing insurance coverage is especially attractive to young people seeking maternity support. In recent years, there have been reports of workers taking Starbucks jobs to help fund their IVF journey.
Why are birth rates so high?
Fertility treatments are expensive "because everything else is expensive," said Dr. Shaheen Ghadir, a dual board certified physician and assistant professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at UCLA. "There are other levels of staff involved in fertility treatment, embryologists, very technical people who do procedures in IVF laboratories," Ghadir said. Setting up a good IVF lab "could cost millions of dollars," he added.
In the United States, besides technology, there are other factors that increase the cost of childbirth, says Dr. Fertility-based medical practices. "We're a capitalist country, so we have a lot of competition. This drives up prices. And drug companies don't have to negotiate with the government to lower drug prices," Gunner said.
The Lupus decision to stay in Medicare was a huge help when dealing with infertility. "The pandemic hit, it's May 2020, we're completely shut down and we're like, 'This seems like a good time to try and have kids,'" Ali said. "We did and it took two and a half years before we finally had our first child."
"We were very fortunate to go through this process and our first transfer resulted in a successful pregnancy," Josh said, adding that the total insurance coverage was about $3,000. Through their efforts to share their experiences on social media, the Lupos have gained hundreds of followers, thanks in part to their connection to their personal stories and financial challenges.
"We have a lot of friends that we didn't know were going through infertility," Josh added, "but sharing has forced them to share the truth with us and have this community." The support is there and I think it helps us a lot.
Personal finance is personal, but these tips are universal
If you have specific life goals or personal aspirations, restructuring your financial plan will get you there faster. Consider these tips when deciding what you want in life.
Widen the difference between income and expenses
Personal finance can quickly become intimidating. It can be summed up in nine words: make more money, cut costs, invest the difference. By focusing on any or all of these guidelines, you're moving in the right direction. This could mean getting a part-time job, taking an honest look at your current budget, or learning the basics of investing. According to a recent Gallup poll, fewer than three in five Americans own stocks.
At the same time, let's take a look at the reasons. "During our FIRE journey, we've talked to 'successful' people, and they've said, 'I wish I'd slowed it down a bit because I'm really not happy all the time,'" Ali says.
Be aggressive when it comes to your work benefits not aligning with your family planning goals
If funding your family plan is a priority, look for a job that offers the benefits you need, Ghadir says. "Many of my patients who are looking for a new job are looking for a job that offers great maternity care and benefits — give yourself a chance," she says.
Stay informed when evaluating major investments
An additional challenge in the infertility industry is that the patient population is particularly vulnerable, Gunner says. "They're willing to do anything [and] do whatever tests are recommended to try and improve their ability to get pregnant, so they can sell more if they want to," she explained. Gunner also recommends two websites, FertilityIQ and ReproductiveFacts.org, where expectant parents can get more information for free.
Lupus wants to use their platform to have real conversations about money, work and family challenges.
"It is unacceptable that we live in a country where access to basic services to raise their families is so expensive," Ali said. "There are huge financial barriers to parenthood, adoption isn't that easy and fertility treatments don't always work. It's a terrible situation. Be kind and patient with yourself."