ALANA: I mean, I’m just keeping my fingers crossed because our savings — that we're trying to save up for — that money is for having a baby, and buying things for the baby, and daycare, and babysitters and nannies. It's not for actually getting pregnant.
[THEME MUSIC STARTS]
VOX 1: From WNYC Studios, this is Nancy.
VOX 2: With your hosts, Tobin Low and Kathy Tu.
[THEME MUSIC ENDS]
KATHY: This is the very first episode of Queer Money Matters.
TOBIN: It’s our series all about — wait for it — queer people and money.
KATHY: More specifically, we’re talking about all the ways that the economy isn’t set up for us.
TOBIN: Right. So, like, at almost every turn, every financial milestone — you know, if you wanna get healthcare, if you wanna get married or retire…
TOBIN: … queer people have to be creative in how we overcome those financial obstacles that stand in our way.
KATHY: So, Tobin, what are we talking about this time?
TOBIN: Well, Alana — who you heard at the very beginning of the episode — really summed it up. We are talking about having babies.
KATHY: Like how the egg meets the sperm.
TOBIN: Mhm, mhm. [PAUSE] Except for queer couples it can be more complicated than that. And, also, super expensive.
KATHY: Now, of course, a lot straight people have difficulty conceiving and spend a ton of money having children.
TOBIN: But queer couples can’t go for that traditional method in the first place, so they have to turn to more expensive methods like fertility treatments or adoption right from the beginning. Plus, there’s hurdles like: some insurance companies want to see evidence that you’re “trying” for a certain amount of time before they pay for your fertility treatments.
KATHY: But, like, obviously, that’s just not possible if you’re in a same-sex couple.
TOBIN: Right. So, all of this is why I wanted to talk with Alana Rock, and her partner Clair Rock. They’re at the very beginning of this journey. So I visited them at their fourth floor walkup in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
TOBIN: Up to floor two…
TOBIN: And it was still two floors to go.
[SOUNDS OF TOBIN LAUGHING AND CLIMBING THE STAIRS]
TOBIN: Alright, D4. Here we go.
[TOBIN KNOCKS ON THE DOOR]
TOBIN: Hi, hello!
ALANA: [LAUGHING] Hi! Come on in.
TOBIN: Hi, I’m Tobin.
ALANA: Hi, Alana.
BOTH: [SIMULTANEOUSLY] Nice to meet you!
ALANA: OK. So this is the apartment.
[UPBEAT, BOUNCY MUSIC PLAYS]
ALANA: It’s a one bedroom. It's small.
TOBIN: The space is small. But, I have to say, they make good use of every nook and cranny.
ALANA: This is the kitchen. You can see everything from when you're pretty much standing in the middle.
TOBIN: She’s not kidding — we get the whole tour without moving more than 6 feet.
ALANA: [RAPIDLY SAYING EACH SENTENCE] Here’s the living room! Here is my office — slash the dining room table. Too many books! The bedroom. Bathroom. That’s it!
TOBIN: So, if you were to add a kid into this equation, where do you think they would go?
ALANA: Nowhere. [TOBIN LAUGHS] Honestly, we really would have to move. I’ve thought a lot about it, and there are definitely two-bedrooms in this building, but … [PAUSE] It's a fourth floor walk-up and I don't think there's room.
ALANA: And this is Clair!
TOBIN: Hi! [CLAIR LAUGHS] I’m Tobin.
CLAIR: I’m Clair.
TOBIN: Nice to meet you.
CLAIR: Nice to meet you!
TOBIN: Clair’s got short hair and tattoos peeking out from their rolled-up sleeves. They’re an information architect focusing on user experience. Which, to be honest, I’m not totally sure what that means … but Clair seems like they’d forgive me. They’re warm and quick to laugh.
[ALANA AND CLAIR LAUGH]
CLAIR: We met in college. I was actually dating Alana's best friend. [GASPS, ALANA LAUGHS]
ALANA: Oh, the drama!
CLAIR: But it's all okay. Emily ended up being a bridesmaid in the wedding. We dated for like 10 minutes, it was, like, just a summer fling.
TOBIN: Alana is bubbly and bright, exactly how you’d imagine a dance movement therapist-slash-family therapist with a musical theater background. Which is what she is. In her wedding photos, she looked like Princess Grace.
ALANA: Yeah, the whole thing was very princess-y. My mom made the tiara that I was wearing.
TOBIN: The three of us sit down at their dining room table-slash-office.
CLAIR: And we just got married in October, so we're newlyweds. [SOFTLY CHUCKLES] Yeah!
ALANA: Thank you!
TOBIN: [LAUGHS] Um, and when — when did you start talking about the possibility of having kids?
ALANA: So, I am the type of person who has always wanted to be a parent. Seriously, when I was like 16 years old, I would be like, “Oh my god, I want a baby!” And then I’m like, “Wait, wait wait wait wait! No, I'm 16 years old. I don't want a baby. That's the last thing I want.” But for me it feels very biological. Like, it’s really — it's almost like it's my hormones just takin’ over and I can't really do anything about it.
CLAIR: Maybe within the last year we like really started talking about it because like we're getting married we're both out of school and we're starting our careers and like she wants a baby yesterday. And, so, it’s like finally something that we really started talking about and it's like, the goal is within the next three years and like in my mind I've set aside like a financial plan to, like, hopefully be there in three years. But for me the biggest thing is finances and housing.
TOBIN: If you were to look at your finances right now, can you give me, like, one word to describe how it makes you feel?
CLAIR: Stressed. Just constantly stressed.
TOBIN: Have you thought about the ways that like being a queer couple has directly affected your financial status right now?
ALANA: I think a lot of this has to do with coming from the Midwest and seeing, you know … We're both from Kansas City, and seeing where our friends — especially our straight friends — in the Midwest are in their lives. Most of them own homes. Most of them have kids — by choice, you know. I mean, like if they’re … We’re at that point in our lives. And my life would look really, substantially different had I not come out, had I stayed in the Midwest. And, you know, I’d probably have a house and a backyard and two babies and a husband and I'm so glad that's not my life … [PAUSE, CLAIR LAUGHS] but it — it is something that I think about.
CLAIR: I mean, I do miss paying seven hundred dollars for a one-bedroom apartment that's two times the size of this. But [PAUSE] I don't miss Kansas City. I don't miss Kansas, I don't miss having burritos thrown at my face. No thank you. [LAUGHS] Yeah.
ALANA: Our quality of life would change a lot. I'd rather be cramped and happy than have space and feel unsafe or depressed.
[SOFT XYLOPHONE MUSIC PLAYS, THEN STOPS]
TOBIN: When you have talked about having kids, or, in this exploration of having kids, what are the options that you've considered or researched?
ALANA: So, I have a few people in my life — one person in particular — who would be willing to be a sperm donor. And, really, I think that’s our first, our go-to, our Plan A for this because he would be like our kid’s godfather, or Uncle So-and-So. And that would be a really, really great thing because I — we’ve done some research on how much sperm costs and it just is so much money. Like, $600 a vial of sperm. I'd rather see if we can kind of go within our queer family, within our community, and find somebody who would be willing to be a sperm donor.
CLAIR: That also kind of goes with our three year, like, “If everything goes well,” like, we haven’t planned for, like, having to do, like, hormone shots for Alana or, like, all the other hundreds of steps that have to be taken to have a kid if you’re … don't … aren’t with a man. Like, it's such a ridiculous amount of money.
ALANA: I mean, even with Plan A, I know that there will be legal fees required. Honestly I haven't looked up how much that process will cost or anything. I'm just kind of, like, blindly hoping that it will work out.
TOBIN: So, Alana and Clair know they have a long, potentially expensive journey ahead of them — and they are focusing on some of the cheaper avenues available to queer couples. So, what are the other options? And how much can they cost? That’s coming up after the break.
TOBIN: Are you thinking about having kids and wondering how you’re going to pay for them?
KATHY: Or have you already been through the process and have insights to share?
TOBIN: All week long over in the Nancy Facebook group, we’re talking about your queer money fears. Today, we’re digging into the finances of starting a family.
KATHY: Whether you’re in the middle of it now, thinking about it for the future, or have already figured it out all out, we want you to join the conversation. Come share your stories — and your advice — with other Nancy listeners!
TOBIN: Find us by searching for Friends of Nancy on Facebook or by visiting nancypodcast.org/facebook.
[BACKGROUND MUSIC STARTS]
KATHY: Tobin, do you want kids?
TOBIN: Uh, I think I do? I know I’m an excellent g-uncle.
KATHY: You are.
TOBIN: [SIGHS DRAMATICALLY] Thank you.
KATHY: I’ve seen you.
TOBIN: So, yes. I think I probably would like kids one day.
TOBIN: And I’ve imagined that maybe I would adopt. But, before working on this series, I sort of imagined it would just be, like, the one fee for adoption [KATHY LAUGHS] and nothing else. And so now, I’m like, “Oh, I gotta save!” [BOTH LAUGH]
KATHY: Start saving now.
TOBIN: Yes! What about you?
KATHY: I’m kind of “meh” about having kids.
KATHY: I don’t wanna be pregnant, so it’s gonna be up to my partner whether or not she wants to be pregnant.
TOBIN: Fair enough.
KATHY: Or we could adopt. I’m cool with that. I just want somebody to take care of me when I’m old.
TOBIN: [WITH EXTRA EMPHASIS] Fair enough.
KATHY: I’ve also thought about sperm donors.
KATHY: And, um, I’ve just been secretly vetting all of my male friends.
TOBIN: Wait, have I been vetted?
KATHY: [SHORT, BUT DRAMATIC PAUSE] Yeah. We can talk about that later.
TOBIN: [LAUGHS, A LITTLE SHOCKED] Oh my god!
KATHY: [INDIGNANT] It could be a good result! You don’t know. I just don’t want you to know. [PAUSE] I don’t want it to change our friendship.
KATHY: But, all the options seem super complicated, and possibly just very expensive.
TOBIN: Ah. Which brings us to this:
[ETHEREAL WHOOSHING SOUND]
CATHY: What an exciting journey you're about to embark on! I'm gonna give you a dose of reality.
TOBIN: This is Cathy Pareto. She’s a financial planner in Miami, Florida, and her job is to get people to face the facts about money.
CATHY: Just from my own personal experiences and from working with other queer couples and doing financial planning … it’s a journey.
TOBIN: She says lots of queer couples come to her with questions about how they can afford to have kids. It’s a subject she knows a ton about: she advises queer couples on the financial side of having a baby, and she and her wife also have kids.
CATHY: You have to be not just financially prepared, emotionally prepared, psychologically prepared, for all the various possible courses that you could choose to start a family as a queer couple.
[EXCITING MUSIC STARTS]
TOBIN: So I talked with Cathy about the long — probably expensive — journey that couples like Alana and Clair have ahead of them. Because Cathy says even doing something like their Plan A — an at-home artificial insemination with their friend — could run thousands of dollars in legal fees to write up a donor agreement. So I had Cathy run me through some of the numbers, starting with the cheapest option: public adoption, where you adopt through the foster system.
CATHY: That tends to run up to about $2500 to $3000. But you also then have to incur, for example, like, home studies and possible other legal costs.
TOBIN: Then there’s private adoption — where you pay to go through an agency, and there’s legal fees too.
CATHY: Those can cost up to $40,000 dollars. And in some cases you may have to also cover the birth mother's medical expenses for a period of time. So, you'd have to add that to the the bottom line.
TOBIN: And then there’s procedures like intrauterine insemination — that’s artificial insemination — or in vitro fertilization, IVF. Either way, not cheap.
CATHY: So, as an example, IVF can cost usually between $20- and $30,000 — a session.
TOBIN: And if you end up having to have multiple sessions, that’s $20- to $30,000 each time. Last, but not least, there’s the most expensive option which is surrogacy. That’s gonna run you $100,000 to $150,000.
CATHY: It’s not just the medical process that can cost. It’s all of the associated legal expenses that are absolutely worth it and necessary. But you need to account for that when you are budgeting to start a family.
[EXCITING MUSIC ENDS]
TOBIN: Cathy tells me she decided to adopt her own children after her wife gave birth. Legal costs for situations like this — or something like an agreement with your donor or surrogate — can run thousands of dollars.
CATHY: They refused to put my name on the birth certificate ‘cause, even though we had marriage equality across the country by then, the laws in the state of Florida hadn’t caught up. And I was the sole breadwinner, and I needed to ensure that my family was protected. So, you know, there was another $2000 to $3000 that we hadn’t accounted for.
TOBIN: So you mentioned your wife and you. You two were actually the first same-sex couple married in Florida back in 2015.
TOBIN: And now you have two children, which is wonderful —
TOBIN: Three children!
CATHY: We’ve been busy!
TOBIN: [GASPS] Wow, amazing! So, how much do you estimate you and your wife have spent on this process of your family and having kids?
CATHY: Hmm. Good question. I mean, I can't say specifically but certainly north of $100,000. I was very fortunate that at the time we started planning our family my other half, my now-wife, uh, worked for a Fortune 500 company and they provided for some portion of the costs, for the procedures, which was a huge relief for us financially. But you're still gonna be responsible for any out-of-pocket costs, and the follow up, you know, legal fees … That’s generally on you.
TOBIN: For couples who maybe don't work at companies that have things that could benefit this process, you know, if you're truly on your own and trying to figure out financially how to do this, what advice do you have for couples who are maybe in that situation?
CATHY: Well, start your planning early because it’s costly. And you have to have really candid conversations with each other about what your vision is for the family. And it might take time to be able to build the resources and the understanding between each other to have the strength to start this journey. Just have, you know, that solid foundation. What are your visions for education? Discipline? Family involvement, finances … all of the above.
[SLOW MUSIC STARTS]
TOBIN: If all this seems intimidating… you’re not wrong. But there are more than 200,000 children being raised by same-sex couples in the US — and maybe more than 3.5 million if you include bisexual parents in a different-sex couple and queer single parents. And while there are so many ways to go about it — and every family is different — we wanted to share some stories about how some queer parents became, well, parents.
[PHONE RECORDINGS BEGIN]
KAELYN: Hi, I'm Kay. I'm a mother who lives with my queer spouse and our two year old daughter. All together we spent about $4000, inclusive of copays on various medical visits and blood work as well as three attempts at IUI, intrauterine insemination. My advice would be — I mean, on top of the piece that's about preparing yourself financially, I think it's to prepare yourself emotionally for what is a very sanitized way of getting knocked up. It's very medical, it's very sterile. And there's also a lot of emotion involved just in the act of trying to get pregnant.
KAELYN: I called my insurance company to see if they would cover this for same-sex couples explicitly and was actually told by the person on the phone who also disclosed to me that her mother was in a same-sex relationship and felt really bad about it, that they did not cover fertility treatment for same-sex partners. So I went into it kind of assuming the worst: that it was gonna cost several thousand dollars, even just to try. And we were very lucky in that my insurance actually did cover the treatment because my doctor was willing to diagnose me as infertile, even though I'm not actually infertile. And it turns out my insurance did cover the procedure, because as far as they could tell I was infertile. One thing that was surprising to me was how quickly it became about money, even though a lot of it was covered. I did have this, like, one thing I was holding on to, which was like, I want the least amount of medical intervention necessary. So, you know, we — what started from this idea of, like, “I'm gonna just, like, do this in the most natural way possible,” became, like, “Give me all the drugs, and the hormones, and the trigger shots.” It was like, “Make as many eggs as we can.” But the money thing kind of, like, factored it out and the urgency of feeling of, like, “Okay, I just wanna get this done.”
[TRANSITION SOUND PLAYS]
JASON: My name is Jason Becton. Me and my husband, Patrick Evans, own MarieBette Cafe in Charlottesville, Virginia. The business is named after our daughters, Marion and Betty, who are aged 5 and 7. When we were [SIGHS] looking to adopt, we had two options: foster-adopt and private adoption. For our first daughter, we chose foster-to-adopt which actually didn't cost anything for us. And during the time that we were fostering her, we were given a stipend by the state and training was actually paid for as well. So that was pretty good. For our second daughter, the adoption was through a private lawyer and that was more costly. I don't know the exact amount but it was probably somewhere between $21,000 and $23,000. My advice for couples at the beginning of this process is to really try to explore your options and do as much research as possible. If you choose to go the foster-to-adopt option, make sure that you emotionally prepare yourself for the possibility that it may not work out and [PAUSE] also be realistic with what kind of situations you're willing to take on. It's been six years, almost, since we adopted Betty and I don’t really think about the expense anymore. [LAUGHS] But, yeah, I love my kids. And it definitely was worth it for me to go through building our family through adoption.
JESSIE: My name is Jessie Paré. I live in Chicago, Illinois with my wife, Connie, and our daughter, Nola, who is 2 years old.
JESSIE: My little family spent between $25,000 and $30,000 trying to conceive our daughter. It ended up being a lot more expensive than we thought it would be. We decided to use a known donor. We thought that using a known donor might save us little money. That's not the only reason why we did it … but in the end it ended up costing us significantly more because there's all sorts of FDA regulations about using the sperm of a donor that you are not in a relationship with. We tried about 11 times and we finally decided, after doing some more research and changing up our insurance, that insurance would cover one round of IVF about 90 percent. So a typical IVF cycle is around $20,000. So out-of-pocket, that was about $2000. [PAUSE] Thank God. You know, we were using credit cards to pay these bills. We were going into debt. We were, you know, skipping student loan payments. We were, you know, making a lot of — in hindsight — probably irresponsible decisions in order to make this happen. So it was an overwhelming relief to find out that she was pregnant. Looking back, what I would tell other couples is: one, to go through your insurance policy with a fine tooth comb. The second thing I would say — when going into this process, each couple should really sit down beforehand, set expectations for each other and for your financial boundaries: when is too much, how much is too much. And set those realistic expectations with yourself so you're not one year into it, and fifty thousand dollars later. When I look at my daughter, I definitely am so, so thrilled to have a child and to be raising an amazing little human with another amazing human which is my wife. But the cost has definitely impacted how we raise her. The cost has definitely impacted our decision not to have a second child which I would have loved to have had. The cost of having her has really changed the trajectory of our financial path. You know our financial security is a little more unstable because of the cost of our modern family.
[PHONE RECORDINGS END]
TOBIN: So there are a lot of couples who have figured it out, but it takes a lot of financial and emotional planning. Alana and Clair — the couple from the beginning of the episode — are still figuring out what that means to them.
[CHILDLIKE PERCUSSIVE MUSIC STARTS AND ENDS]
TOBIN: Do you have in your mind, like, a limit of how much either time-wise, emotional-wise, money-wise … like, a limit on what you're willing to put into this process, or do you see yourself hitting a limit on that?
ALANA: As far as having a kid in our lives at some point there's no limit. But as far as us trying to make it happen in this, you know, quote-unquote more traditional way of getting pregnant, I think I've got about a year. A year of trying. And then going to explore other options. I do think that would be really hard. It — That would be really hard. But I am willing to kind of open up the box a little bit. So maybe that looks like we might, you know, foster a teenager who's LGBTQ and needs a place to stay. Like, I'm not just like, “We have to have a baby in our lives by this amount of years or it's just never going to happen.” I — I’m really open to a lot of different options.
[BOUNCY PERCUSSIVE MUSIC STARTS]
TOBIN: Is this a … house pin? It’s a Hufflepuff?
ALANA: Oh yeah!
CLAIR: We’re a Hufflepuff household.
ALANA: Yeah, we are a strong Hufflepuff household. We are just, kind, and fair, and loyal, and hardworking.
TOBIN: [SERIOUS] Mhm. [ALANA LAUGHS]
ISABEL: What happens if … your kid isn’t a Hufflepuff?
TOBIN: That’s our producer Isabel.
ISABEL: Like, what would be the worst-case scenario of their house?
CLAIR: [WITHOUT HESITATING] Ravenclaw.
ISABEL AND TOBIN: [SHOCKED] Really?
CLAIR: I don't want a kid that's smarter than me. [EVERYONE LAUGHS] Like, I don't care if you're a Slytherin. You might, like, kind of be a jerk but at least you still have some good qualities. Actually, Gryffindor and Ravenclaw. Because Gryffindors are like, “We're better than everyone!” and I'm like, “You're not.” [LAUGHS]
ALANA: My answer to that question was going to be Gryffindor just because I'm like, “No, don't challenge me!” like, “You're not —“ [TOBIN LAUGHS] like, “This isn't the time to be brave. Go clean your room!,” you know? [ALANA LAUGHS]
[ALTERNATIVE PSYCHEDELIC MUSIC STARTS]
TOBIN: And a little reminder! We want to hear from you -- what are your queer money fears about starting a family? Or, if you have kids, tell us your story. How did you make it work? How much did you have to save? Head to nancypodcast.org/money and let us know.
KATHY: Next up on the show…
VOX: If there were no equality issues and no transphobia, I honestly don’t know what field I would be in, only because...there would then be so many possibilities, I could literally do anything.
KATHY: From the hiring process to a wage gap to a patchwork of legal protections, we talk about how being queer can limit your career path. That’s on the next Queer Money Matters.
[ALTERNATIVE PSYCHEDELIC MUSIC ENDS]
[CREDITS MUSIC STARTS]
TOBIN: Alright, credits!
KATHY: Our producers —
TOBIN: Isabel Angell and Alice Wilder.
KATHY: Production fellow —
KATHY: Editors —
TOBIN: Stephanie Joyce and Jenny Lawton.
KATHY: Sound designer —
TOBIN: Jeremy Bloom and Jared Paul.
KATHY: Executive Producer —
TOBIN: Paula Szuchman.
KATHY: Special thanks to Tigue, who contributed music to this episode!
TOBIN: I’m Tobin Low.
KATHY: I’m Kathy Tu.
TOBIN: And Nancy is a production of WNYC Studios.
[CREDITS MUSIC PLAYS OUT]