Moral Money: our reader wants to know whether to invest the money instead
Dear Moral Money,
I feel bad about spending £550 a year on keeping my embryos in storage, rather than using the money to build a university fund for my existing children.
I have an emotional connection to the early stage, completely viable life sources that I created – even if I have no current plans to develop them into pregnancy and a new life.
I am blessed with twins from my very first round of IVF utilising a donor, and feel sure that my family is complete, but it took a lot of effort and expense to produce those embryos and it feels like tempting fate to bin them. I solo parent my family, and this was always the intention. We are a stable and happy unit, but what if…?
I don’t even want to voice the fears about something happening to my beautiful boys, but what if I wanted more children at some point in the future? I am 10 years older now, and harvesting and fertilising more eggs is much less likely to work.
I got a shock when I recently asked for an estimate of what I could achieve by saving £50 per month to build a university fund for the boys over the next 10 years – I realise you already know this, but to me it stacked up to more than I imagined, creating an impressive £8,000 pot. When I saw this number I realised it could be a much better use of my money than paying for continued storage.
It has all come to a decision point, because I have to update my instruction for the storage facility and choose whether or not to continue. With wage increases not keeping up with increasing household bills, I can’t afford to do both the storage and university fund investment. So should I prioritise providing for my twins education over nurturing my embryos?
This is surely one of the more unusual dilemmas I have addressed, and I am so pleased to hear of your successful fertility treatment resulting in healthy, happy twins – congratulations. I admire your independence and feel your gratitude for your family.
Over the last few years a few of the women I have created financial plans with have included expenses for family planning, which includes IVF. It seems now we are having families later in our lives, and nature is not always willing to be as patient as we would prefer, it is becoming a more routine part of family planning.
However, it was only last year that the law changed to permit storage to exceed a 10-year limit, and so this is the first time I am considering the longer term costs of continuing to store embryos over decades, and I thank you for highlighting how this could be a drain on resources that could possibly be better utilised.
I am impressed by your forward thinking and readiness to prepare for your children’s education costs, and this is part of building resilience into your finances and lifeplan. Nothing pleases me more as a financial planner than seeing someone spot the benefits of regular investing over the long term to create wealth.
I have no experience to call upon to understand the emotional tie you may feel to the embryos, but having done a bit of research I can see you are definitely not alone in feeling this bond. I can appreciate that IVF takes determination, hormonal imbalance and financial commitment to complete the rounds of treatment to produce embryos, but as for the emotional attachment I can only imagine.
I believe there are choices about what to do with the embryos if you elect not to keep them in storage for yourself. There is an option to donate your embryos to stem cell research, or to mothers who cannot create their own embryos. Alternatively, they can be thawed out and disposed of. Even as I type these options I can feel that each would have its own challenges. It will certainly be down to your personal choice, and so I am going to focus on the “money” part of the dilemma, because this is where I feel better equipped to provide some input.
Maybe we need to examine the situation from the other end of the scenario to give us direction? How likely is it that your 10-year-old twin boys are going to miss out on university education if you don’t start saving now? Obviously, I don’t have enough information to be able to answer that for you, but I do know that you are independent, a planner, an organiser and a go-getter from what you have shared. I also get the impression independence is massively important to you, and having created your family you want to be sure you are able to provide for them.
I think the answer about whether you should begin regularly investing right now toward education costs lies in how confident you are about being able to come up with resources later on. The current short-term squeeze you mention, due to cost of living not pacing with pay increases, is temporary – how does the difference between spending and earning look through a 10 year lens?
Assuming a 6pc annual investment return – without tax or fees – let’s look at what would happen if you delayed the regular investing for, let’s say, two years. Saving £50 a month, you will create £6,130 instead of the £8,163 you could achieve over 10 years. By paying in £1,200 less, the pot will have a £2,033 shortfall.
However, if you dedicated your next pay rise to regular investing toward the boys’ education, maybe you could catch up the difference without having to cut any of your current spending commitments? Save £68 per month over eight years instead of £50 over ten years and you create almost the same amount.
It feels like a harsh decision if you pose it as the embryos or the university fund. If you realise you can do both, and each decision can then be made in isolation this will have less emotional toll.