The second instalment of Simon Hill’s journey to becoming a father. It’s about the money…
A man once told me a story about money, it went like this: The board of a FTSE 100 company is meeting at lunchtime. As they start to debate the next item, an investment of £10bn, there is a knock at the door, and Liz, the sandwich lady comes in. Picking out a sandwich, drink and crisps, the FD hands over a £5 note. “It’s £5.50, John”, says Liz. “Eh?!” John looks up, “It was £5 yesterday and has been since I’ve been here.” “Well”, says Liz, “prices have gone up and it’s now £5.50.” There then ensues a long debate over the price of sandwiches and subsidising the canteen. The debate ends; John looks up and says “Let’s vote, whose in favour of the investment?” All raise their hands and the business agrees to spend £10bn. The point is that it’s very easy to pay for something, when you don’t appreciate the amounts of money involved. But, when we are asked to pay for something which, we can relate back to time spent in our day job, it really brings home how much something costs.
Paying for surrogacy is a bit like the £10bn investment. It involves cutting edge science, which we have only heard about on TV and is paid for by sums of money we will only deal with a few times in our lives, let alone actually see laid out before us on a pallet. Add to this the emotional time and personal investment and it goes from being a risk to something we can’t fully get our heads around.
At the parenting conference we attended in August 2012 there was a presentation by an agency; let’s call it ‘Agency A’. At the end of the presentation, there were questions. One of the questions was, ‘how much is it’? To which the reply was, ‘about 100,000 dollars’. Clearly the speaker didn’t want to alienate his audience. A quick calculation of 1.5 dollars to the pound and it works out around £66,000. Hmm, I thought, £66,000 doesn’t seem so bad. That’s a quantifiable figure.
At the time I was also attending counselling. I asked my counsellor, how could I get £60,000? His response was quite clever. He told me to take a white sheet of A4, and half way up draw a line from left to right. Next he told me to mark a start point at the left edge of the line. Then he asked me, what I could afford to save a month? “About £1,000”, I said. “Okay,” he said, “£60,000 divided by £1,000 is 60. So that’s 60 months. At the right edge of the line mark your end point: month 60.” And there laid out before me was a five year timeline to pay for surrogacy. This way I was able to start to quantify what it might cost me to have a child. For £1000 a month I could: lunch every working day for £50 or go out each weekend and spend £200. What does £1000 mean to you? £60,000 is a lot of money.
Two years later, I started to investigate it further and in July of 2014 I agreed to meet Agency A. When I got to their offices, you could tell that there was money, but decorative taste was clearly harder to come by. I met a very nice lady who during the course of our conversation confirmed it was ‘about $100,000.’ She said to contact them once I had the money ready.
66 months is a very long time and I wanted to have children while I was in mid-life, so, I sold my house and moved in with friends. Three months later, following completion, I had £66,000 in the bank. I put £16,000 to one side for a new deposit and prepared to transfer £50,000 into dollars. It took a lot of thought. Was I really going to make this commitment? At this sort of price, even a slight fluctuation in the exchange rate could mean losing thousands of pounds. The pound had been at 1.7 dollars, now it was 1.64 dollars. Should I wait for it to go back up? I decided to take the plunge and get on with it. Today I am very thankful. The dollar got stronger a few weeks after and still today is trading around $1.50 to the pound. I could have lost out on a lot of dollars. For weeks after my father said to me “transfer it back, you will make two or three thousand pounds” –yes, but then I won’t have any dollars!
I contacted Agency A again and spoke with my proposed project manager. My ‘professional head’ kicked in, “I need to pin down the costs before I sign contracts,” I said. “Well,” he said, “we tell our couples to budget up to $150,000 just in case, but hopefully it’s less.” “Hang on a minute”, I replied, “that’s not $100,000”. Suddenly I had gone from $100,000, ‘up to $150,000.’ I now needed £100,000, not $100,000. However, I decided to push on and see what the details looked like. I asked to visit their offices once again to work through the different costs. “We still wouldn’t be able to give you firm costs” came back the reply.
I went through the outline costings, budgeting $119,000 and $130,000 for worst case. New costs were added, and the budget became $150,000 and worst case $170,000. Since selling the house I had gone from $100,000 to a worst case of $170,000 which couldn’t be guaranteed. It was all too much of a gamble for me. So I left it.
This gives you some idea of what I am up against. Transparency is available if you ask the right questions. But as this is such an emotional and new process, knowing the right questions is often not possible. In February this year I was offered a fixed price deal at $120,000. This gave me some surety and peace of mind. It is roughly £80,000 of which I already had £66,000, meaning I only had to find £15,000. The package included project management, surrogacy and fertility agency fees, egg donor fee, surrogate fee and US legals. All that remained were deductibles such as maternity clothing, three month maternity leave salary compensation (if applicable) and UK legals. Interestingly without the fixed fee deal I calculated these costs were about $153,000, not far from Agency A’s pricing. So I signed on the dotted line.
Today my costs are now closer to $138,000 (about £90,000). What’s changed is small additions to the fixed package, such as: add $2,000 for ‘unlimited’ US legals, $1,500 for a contract enabling your children to legally contact their egg donor, $5,000 for the surrogate salary compensation, deductibles increasing by $2,250, counselling $299, surrogate’s lawyer and travel $3,358. And still, I’m confused, e.g. is surrogate travel part of deductibles? No one seems to be able to tell me, least of all my project manager! So I rely on my own spreadsheet, which I regularly review. And now this means I will dip into the house deposit money.
As a result I now have a GoFundMe page. If you like my story please do contribute to my fundraising campaign, so that I don’t finish with too much debt to the detriment of raising my children. Any contribution is valuable to me, so please contribute what you can at: gofundme.com/simonhill.
Next time I want to cover off family and friends. We live inside very complex social networks and mine isn’t an exception to this, how do you tell friends and family? If you have any questions, please contact me on twitter.
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