For LGBTQIA+ people wanting to start a family, it's important to be financially prepared.
Adding a new member to a family is always a joyous occasion. And while most parents would agree that the financial aspect of parenthood is worth it, there’s no denying that it’s sometimes costly – especially when fertility services or adoption is involved.
For growing LGBTQIA+ families, fertility services and adoption are often the norm, and as a result, growing their families typically requires planning ahead. Lacy Haden-Peaches, a senior diversity, equity and inclusion program manager at Commerce Bank, has been through the experience herself.
“My wife and I wanted to conceive through IUI, or intrauterine insemination,” Haden-Peaches explains. “For us, the first step in that process was to find a provider who was safe and affirming for LGBTQIA+ couples. When you’re looking at providers, there are a lot of different things you want to review, including the future experience of your children.”
She adds that the costs involved in choosing a fertility services provider were a factor in their decision. “The cost can change a lot, depending on your personal experience. For example, I assumed I wouldn’t have a problem getting pregnant — I come from a family of very fertile people. But as I went through the process, I wasn’t getting pregnant. That impacted the final cost quite a bit and added a lot of complexity.”
Haden-Peaches notes that different service providers have different cost structures, so it’s important to compare — and keep notes. “My wife is a spreadsheet person,” she says. “She built a big spreadsheet that listed out all the pros and cons and costs of each provider we were considering. That was very helpful.”
It’s important for any couple to know what they can afford. “Do the research to understand what your health insurance will cover, whether your employer has additional benefit programs to help, and those kinds of things,” Haden-Peaches says. “Learn what your benefits will cover and what they won’t. If you and your partner have different insurance policies, you need to understand the differences between the two as well.”
Fortunately, an increasing number of employers today are offering fertility benefits, which can help offset the costs of fertility and adoption services.1 In addition to helping to cover the costs of these kinds of services, some benefits also include access to people who can guide you through the family-forming process and connect you with the right doctors and agencies.
“If you aren’t sure whether your employer offers fertility benefits, it’s always a good idea to ask,” says Greg Marx, a vice president and benefits manager at Commerce. “Sometimes people don’t realize that they have benefits available to them through their insurance provider or through a specific fertility benefits provider. It’s worth asking questions to understand what’s available to you and how it would work.”
As for the cost itself, the final numbers will depend on a couple’s specific situation. “You definitely want to do as much research up front as you possibly can,” says Koji Watanabe, a vice president and senior financial planner with Commerce Trust. “Because individual situations can vary so much, estimating the cost can be tricky. But if you talk with doctors and with people who have gone through the process, it can help you gain a firm understanding of what the potential costs are. That’s the best place to start.”
Watanabe adds that setting up a transfer to a savings account is a great way to start saving for such big expenses. “Have it done automatically, so the money gets moved without you needing to do anything,” he says. “If you have to manually move it, you might not always do so. This way, you’re less tempted to spend the money elsewhere.”
Another thing to keep in mind is the impact spending money on fertility or adoption services might have on one’s other financial goals. “If you’re looking to buy a home or start a business, depending on your situation, those goals might have to go on hold for a bit,” says Watanabe. “Having a financial plan in place or working with a financial advisor to help you balance everything can really be helpful.”
An issue that LGBTQIA+ people need to consider is that of estate planning, given that they may be non-biological parents to their new child. “It’s ideal to have estate planning documents in place prior to the child’s birth if at all possible, especially if one of the people in the relationship is giving birth,” says Jared Roberts, an assistant vice president and private client advisor at Commerce Trust. “It can be an uncomfortable topic to address, but there can be unexpected issues that arise during childbirth, and you don’t want to leave anything to chance. The best way to get started is to contact an estate-planning attorney; many will provide an initial consultation for free to help you understand what you need for your individual situation.”
As Haden-Peaches notes, such estate planning documents can be expensive. “We had to pay for a second-parent adoption, which is something any LGBTQIA+ couple needs to look into, even if you’re married like we are,” she says. “Look into your state laws to understand what might be required of you. That’s an additional expense, but it’s necessary. You have to make sure your legal rights are there and that the non-gestational parent or parents are safe and protected.”
She adds that she and her wife took as many steps as possible to prepare themselves financially for the process of growing their family. “In our case, we worked hard to get out of debt before we started trying to get pregnant. Aside from our mortgage and student loans, we cleared out all other debt. I paid off my car, we paid off our credit cards, all of it. We also made changes to our budget and cut way back on unnecessary expenses to help us prepare.”
The work and the sacrifices were all worth it, Haden-Peaches says. Her two children are 5 and 3 now. “They’re a couple of goofballs for sure, but I love them,” she says with a laugh. “I’ve always wanted to be a mom, and today, when I’m with my kids, I’m like, ‘Yeah, this is what I was meant to do. This feels right.’”
- Tips from Commerce moms on preparing financially for kids.
- Navigating the complexities of estate planning for LGBTQIA+ couples.
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The opinions and other information in the commentary are provided as of May 17, 2023. While Commerce may provide information or express opinions from time to time, such information or opinions are subject to change, are not offered as professional tax, insurance or legal advice, and may not be relied on as such. Commerce Trust does not provide legal advice to its customers. Consult an attorney for legal advice, including drafting and execution of estate planning documents.
Commerce Trust is a division of Commerce Bank.