Q: My husband and I have been married nearly nine years. After two miscarriages, we feel the best option for us is in vitro fertilization (IVF). The cost of this process is about $16,000. We went to a lending company, and all they can offer is $6,000. The rest is money my husband and I don't have. We're thinking about taking a credit card loan because we can't hold out long enough to save the balance. Do we have any other options?
A: If I had the luxury of responding only from my heart, I would tell you to do absolutely anything that would help you create the family you and your husband so dearly want. From an emotional standpoint, it's easy to say there's no price too steep to pay. But you asked me for financial advice, so I'm going to respond from my head: I don't think it's wise to go into debt to finance the IVF. Less than 40 percent of such procedures result in live births for women under 35; after that, the odds keep decreasing. Even if the treatment is successful, I'm concerned that you're not thinking through your situation. If you don't have enough money to pay for IVF now, how are you going to take care of your child and pay off this debt later?
No matter what lending option you choose, it's going to be costly. A cash advance from a credit card is the worst move you can make—assuming you could even get an advance for such a large sum. Interest rates are typically more than 20 percent. The minimum monthly payment on a $16,000 cash advance charging 22 percent interest could be $480. If you pay only the minimum each month, it will take you more than 30 years to wipe out the debt, during which time you would pay nearly $25,000 in interest. I wouldn't put this on even a low-rate card because maintaining that rate is tough: The smallest slipup in your payments can make a 5 percent interest rate skyrocket to more than 18 percent overnight. I also don't want you to ask friends or family for help unless you're sure they can afford it. Loved ones often feel the pull to say yes, even when it hurts their own standing.
So speaking from my head and my heart, I'm going to suggest that you and your husband wait until you can handle the price of the treatment without borrowing from anyone. I know the biological clock keeps ticking, but you still need to save up for raising a child. No one knows better than you do whether and where you can trim your budget. Can you move to a less expensive neighborhood? What if you both take on part-time second jobs for the next year to raise the money? I realize all this requires sacrifice, but you've got great motivation. And if you were my friend, I'd ask you to consider adoption. It's usually less costly—there are even tax breaks to help you out—and you run a better chance of reaching your ultimate goal: having a child to love.