Modern State of Fertility 2020: Career & Money
Earlier this year, we partnered with SoFi to survey thousands of people with ovaries about how careers and money influence their plans for kids. Why? There’s been plenty of research on the impact of parenthood on our salaries and jobs, but far less exploring how our salaries and jobs affect our decisions to become parents in the first place.While analyzing the data, COVID-19 changed the world in ways no one could’ve predicted. We learned that money is the biggest motivator in delaying timelines — and with an unstable economy and millions of people unemployed, money’s on our minds now more than ever.
So, we sent a follow-up survey asking how the pandemic is affecting plans for pregnancy, and developed a tactical guide to navigating fertility decisions while facing financial stress based on advice from career coaches and financial advisors.Our hope is that by sharing data, stories, and advice, we can normalize conversations around money and fertility and use the knowledge to advocate for the futures we want.
Questions we set out to answer
Why are people putting off having kids?
Are people in certain professions more likely to delay kids?
Hypothetically, would people have kids later in exchange for a 20% raise?
What are the biggest financial hurdles for future parents?
How taboo is talking about fertility and money at work?
In their own words, how are folks mapping out their timelines for kids?
When it comes to having kids, cash is queen.
Almost half (49%) of the people we originally surveyed who want kids one day are delaying parenthood — and the top two reasons why were both money-related. Making time for travel came in third: 47% of respondents listed that as the most influential factor in delaying kids, over options like reaching certain titles and/or levels in their careers, buying homes, and working in jobs that are too demanding.
Why people are putting off having kids
Individual income didn’t make much of a difference in responses — roughly the same percentage of people across all income brackets reported they’re choosing to delay having kids.
Nearly one-third of respondents have changed their fertility or family planning decisions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
We reached out to a group of our initial survey respondents to see how COVID-19 is impacting their reproductive goals.
61% reported they’re more worried and anxious about their ability to have kids and family planning in general right now, and 31% said COVID-19 has changed their fertility or family planning decisions entirely.
COVID-19 related reasons why people are delaying kids
After pay, long hours and poor parental benefits are the two most influential workplace factors in delaying kids.
1 in 3 respondents from our original survey who said they’re delaying kids listed “working hours or pace that seem incompatible with parenting” and “poor parental benefits" (including parental leave, health insurance, infertility benefits, and childcare benefits) as the biggest job-related reasons for their decision. But we’re collectively making progress: Only 4% listed stigma around working parents or pressure from their bosses or co-workers as factors.
Workplace factors influencing the decision to delay kids
Sabrina, 32, registered nurse
"I delayed having more kids because I wanted more stability (meaning paying off more debt, buying a new car, and saving money). My hours working at night contributed to the delay. I know that I put a lot of stress on my body and I would need to change my diet habits and sleeping habits before more children."
Nicole, 27, lawyer
"Being a lawyer is a stressful career with unpredictable hours ... I knew I would delay having kids in my first two years of practice given the high-stress environment and the expectation that as a junior associate you are to be available at all times of the day."
Cindy Hernandez, 34, pediatric anesthesiologist
"I have definitely delayed having kids due to my career. Medical school and residency were grueling, and without a partner, I just didn’t think it would be a great idea to start a family alone without much support."
"We thought waiting would be the best course of action, but now, knowing that the [COVID-19] pandemic is likely to last a long while — and not knowing how long it would even take us to get pregnant — we're wondering if we should keep trying."
Advertising, creative services, design, marketing, PR, and related professionals are just as likely to delay having kids as finance professionals — and both groups are more likely to delay having kids than doctors and lawyers.
3 out of 5 respondents who work in advertising, creative services, design, marketing, PR, and related professions are delaying kids — and “I want to reach a certain title and/or level in my career first” was the top reason why.
Just as many women working in finance (which includes investment banking, investment management, hedge funds, trading, retail banking, venture capital, private equity, or leveraged buyouts) are delaying kids, but cited “I don’t have enough money saved” as the top reason why. (It’s worth noting that half the finance professionals with that answer reported making $150,000 or more a year.) Finance professionals are also more likely to list “My job is too demanding” as a factor for delaying kids than other groups.
Percentage of people delaying kids, by industry
Percentage of people delaying kids, by job title
People who work at startups are only slightly more likely to report delaying having kids than those who don’t.
We gave respondents a few hypothetical scenarios: How long would they delay having kids for a raise, title bump, or complete student loan forgiveness?
Data represents the group of respondents who said they’d be willing to put off kids for these scenarios.
Kandace Proud, 41, marketing
"I’ve spent $15,000 on egg freezing and IUI to become a single parent — now, I can’t decide if it’s worth it to keep trying. I keep asking myself: ‘Do I spend the next $10,000 and try IVF? If that doesn’t work, do I call it a day?’ Becoming a single parent will definitely make my life harder. "
Jessica H., 33, project manager at software company
"It's difficult, being in my mid-30s, to make the decision to hold off on having kids, but since I haven't been at my job for over a year yet and we don't have the savings we would like, it is the most practical thing to do right now."
Anonymous, 34, marketing
"Getting out of school debt is the main [reason for delaying]. My husband and I both have $150,000 in school loans we’ve been paying down."
Anonymous, 27, healthcare
"I have thought of holding off due to a title change in my career as well as crippling student loan debt. I would feel bad bringing a child into a world when I can't give it everything it needs financially."
Paying for childcare is the biggest financial concern on people’s minds — runners-up are the costs of fertility treatments and adoption.
75% of people said they view childcare costs as the biggest financial burden of having kids, followed by the costs of fertility treatments or adoption, healthcare, housing, and education. Yet… almost half (46%) reported they aren’t currently saving up for parenthood.
Costs that weigh most heavily in the decision to start a family
Nearly half (46%) of people who want kids one day aren’t saving for kids or fertility treatments.
Hypothetically, what would people rather do than go through infertility?
Fertility treatments can cost a pretty penny… but many people aren’t prepared to pay for them.
Nearly half (49%) of people who haven't yet paid for fertility treatments said, if necessary, they’d only be willing to pay up to $10,000. The reality is that fertility costs are much more than that: While costs vary by clinic, the average all-in cost for egg freezing is $17,000, and the average cost for a single IVF cycle is $23,000. (Source: FertilityIQ).
53% of people we surveyed who paid for fertility treatments spent between $10,000 and $39,999 — and 90% of these folks said they’d pay for fertility treatments over saving for retirement.
How people are covering costs for fertility treatments
For the LGBTQ+ community, there’s significant disparity between the perceived cost of fertility treatments and the actual cost. Our Modern State of LGBTQ+ Fertility found that 54% of LGBTQ+ respondents weren't aware that one cycle of egg freezing costs more than $5,000.
Precious, 29, entrepreneur and hearing officer
"I'm in a same-sex marriage and my wife and I have been trying to start our family for 2.5 years. During this process we had to pay for medical testing, sperm bank costs, ovulation kits, insemination tools, everything! It has been very expensive to fund our treatments: We paid $10K for IUI and then took out a $30K loan to begin the IVF process."
Courtney Yazzie, 29, customer education and content at a startup
"Being in a same-sex marriage, finances have definitely impacted our timeline to get pregnant. We both have jobs that would allow us to be pregnant and we both have great parental leave. Our careers are not roadblocks in and of themselves — the roadblocks come from the financial strain and the lack of insurance coverage for fertility treatments and procedures."
Anonymous, 32, business operations
"I delayed having children until now to focus on my career, as well as due to my fertility problems. Fertility specialists are not covered in-network under my insurance, and so it's costly for me to even seek out a fertility specialist, much less go through IVF or hormone shots."
Fertility conversations (even at work!) are becoming less taboo. The same can’t be said for convos about money.
Respondents said they’re more likely to share their plans for kids, experiences with infertility, and early pregnancy news at work than share info about personal debts or finances.
Here’s an interesting tidbit: People are about as open to talking about money as they are to crying at work.
How likely are people to talk about the following things at work?
Over 80% of the people we surveyed have positive things to say about their workplaces.
We found a very bright spot in the data: The vast majority of people with part-time or full-time jobs reported they feel supported and respected, and they’re able to find great examples of working parents at their companies. (Woohoo!)
A tactical guide for tough times
Expert advice, data, and stories from 1,000s of women
Mapping out a timeline for having kids can be hard no matter what career you’re in, but an economic downturn further complicates plans. We developed the ultimate playbook for navigating fertility and career decisions while dealing with financial stress — it's full of tactical advice from SoFi, Career Contessa, Kunik, Fairygodboss, Tech Ladies, HerFirst100K, Empower Work, and others. Curious how people from different career paths responded to our survey? We’re also sharing data from 10 different industries and 1,000+ personal stories on delaying kids (or not), organized by job title.
In their own words
Want to browse 1,000+ more stories by different professions? We can make that happen.
We make personalized fertility information and support more accessible for people with ovaries. Now part of Ro, we offer fertility essentials — including at-home tests and tools — that help you get proactive about your reproductive health.
SoFi helps people achieve financial independence to realize their ambitions. Their products for borrowing, saving, spending, investing, and protecting give their more than one million members fast access to tools to get their money right. SoFi membership comes with the key essentials for getting ahead, including career advisors and connection to a thriving community of like-minded, ambitious people. For more information, visit SoFi.com or download their iOS and Android apps.
This trend report was conducted in February 2020 as a cross-sectional survey of nearly 2,000 people to examine the experiences that they have related to fertility and their careers. We conducted a follow-up survey of 406 people in April 2020 asking about the impact of COVID-19 on their reproductive goals.A cross-sectional survey means that we gathered the data at a single point in time and did not attempt to change or alter their beliefs in any way when gathering the data. What can (and can’t) this type of study tell us? A cross-sectional survey is a great way to learn about the number of people who have made different fertility decisions. This type of study can’t tell us anything about causation.
2,116 participants total; 1,894 participants were used for data analysis
Age range: 20-45 Mean age: 32 (SD: 4.89)
Prefer not to say
American Indian or Alaska Native
Black or African American
Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander
Hispanic or Latina
Prefer not to say
Note: Participants were able to select more than one racial/ethnical background option. The table indicates the total number of participants that indicated each race. The total will add up to more than the total number of participants because they could select more than one.
Heterosexual or straight
Gay or lesbian
Prefer not to say
What is your current employment status?
Unemployed and currently looking
Unemployed and not currently looking
What is your current individual annual income?
Less than $25,000
$25,000 to $34,999
$35,000 to $49,999
$50,000 to $74,999
$75,000 to $99,999
$100,000 to $149,999
$150,000 to $199,999
$200,000 or more
What is your current relationship status?
In a committed relationship or partnership
Single, never married
In an open relationship
Prefer not to say