Saving Money’s in My DNA


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So I’m really bad at science, which is unfortunate because I really love it. In college I had aspirations of being a sports medicine doctor, but then my science-turns-brain-to-mush reaction got in the way, and I settled for English instead. But recently I let science back into my life in a very non-brain-to-mush way. I had the opportunity to have my DNA tested using a saliva sample. Johnny wasn’t very interested in having his DNA tested because, as he said it, “I’d rather not know what diseases I’m going to get.” I’m quite the opposite, and I’d rather know what I’m predisposed to. Anywho, I just got my results last week, and I’m kind of obsessed! But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start at the beginning.

A few weeks ago I received a DNA kit (aka a kit with a tube for me to spit in) from 23andMe. I spit in the tube, which Johnny said was gross to watch because I’m such a terrible spitter, and sent it back to 23andMe. And lo-and-behold, three weeks later I have all my DNA results online and ready for me to see. And here’s the kind of information it entailed:

  • health risks (what I’m at higher, lower, and average risk for — such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s, obesity, etc.)
  • inherited conditions (e.g., syndromes, diseases)
  • traits (e.g., eye color, lactose intolerance/tolerance, muscle performance, likely birth weight of my children)
  • ancestry (where I originate from, peeps!)

That’s the gist of it, but 23andMe provides over 240 health reports. It’s a boatload of info. Maybe some of that information seems scary, but getting the results actually wasn’t scary at all! It was mostly just really cool. So cool, in fact, that Johnny wants to do it now, too. The health risks I have a higher likelihood for weren’t a surprise since I’ve had parents or grandparents with those conditions. And although my likelihood was higher, it was always only a few percentage points higher than average. It’s not like it said, You have a 50% higher chance of getting this terrible disease!! It was more just like, Oh, hey, 5% higher chance, so eat healthy, k?

Anyway, I loved it, and I’ve been showing my results to all of my family members. And they’re all wanting to get their own DNA kit now, too. I got to try out 23andMe for free, but the kit is only $99, which is kind of awesome considering what you’re getting in return. When 23andMe was founded, the price of the personal genetic service was $1,000 (barely a dent in the ol’ budget, right?)  and over time they’ve been able to reduce it to $99, making it widely available. That’s pretty insane. Your DNA. Analyzed. Science. Awesome.

And, on a financial note, knowing what I now know because of 23andMe, I can potentially save our little family thousands of dollars in medical bills in the future. If I start now, I can prevent almost all of the health risks I’m predisposed to with a few easy lifestyle changes. And because of that, getting Johnny’s DNA results, too, will be worth every penny. Sure, some things you just can’t predict, but after looking through my personalized risks and knowing my family’s history, I know the ball’s in my court on a lot of things.

Admittedly, I feel a renewed motivation to be healthy, and it’s also given me some pride in my ancestry and where I came from. Who knew nerdy science stuff could be so cool? GO SCIENCE!! [cue Bill Nye theme song]

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

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22 Comments

  • Reply Jordann @ My Alternate Life August 14, 2013 at 9:01 am

    That is really cool! I could never have one done because my husband is a bit of a hypochondriac but I still love the idea.

  • Reply Anastasia August 14, 2013 at 9:23 am

    This sounds so cool! I am adopted and know nothing of my family medical history or ancestry. I definitely will be saving my pennies to buy the kit for myself! Now that I am married and the idea of future babies is floating around in our heads, I have been so curious of things that I could pass along to my kids… What if I have a recessive gene for GINGER BABIES ahhaha just kidding that would be adorable!
    Thanks for sharing :)

    • Reply Brian August 14, 2013 at 10:49 am

      I was also adopted so, like you, have no idea what my family medical history is. In fact, for a long time it was actually illegal to find out that information (since I was born in a different country). However, a few years ago the government sent up a webpage were you can sign up to get that information (or if you really want to, options for communication with your birth parent(s)). I haven’t done any of it yet, but my wife really wants me to

      • Reply Anastasia August 14, 2013 at 10:56 am

        Oh wow, Brian do you know of the website?

  • Reply Anastasia August 14, 2013 at 9:25 am

    BTW not sure if it is just my computer… but the post is showing up twice

  • Reply Becky @ RunFunDone August 14, 2013 at 9:46 am

    I think that is really cool…but I am SO curious as to whether you frugal friends would REALLY think it was worth $99 if you had to pay for it. I run into that when I get free stuff for my blog as well. I’m soooo cheap, so when I get a free race entry, I avoid writing about the price, because I never know if I would have thought the race was worth the price if I had to pay for it. It’s tough to know!

    • Reply Joanna August 28, 2013 at 11:56 pm

      I might not have gotten it done this quickly, but I’ve actually had my eye on this DNA test for a while. So I was thrilled when I got to try it for free!

  • Reply Meghan August 14, 2013 at 10:05 am

    My Mom bought the test for me, and she pays the monthly maintenance fee for the whole family (score!). I guess a distant cousin has been working on genetic research for our Mohawk ancestry line (it was a long time ago and I’m a ginger so it’s funny that I’m 9% NA). I don’t know if it would be all that great if it was just me, but my family is linked together so I can see what I got and from whom! I’m not sure I wanted to know that I was at a higher risk for BC but considering the fact that my grandmother and her sister had it, I’m not totally shocked. I didn’t find out anything that would make me change my lifestyle, even though I’m like halfway immune to HIV (Kidding! Actually, that’s true and my grandfather and half-uncle are completely immune according to the test, which is cool, but I’m not going to go out and get all crazy. This gene may explain why Magic Johnson is still around though).

    My friend and her husband used it to check to make sure that he didn’t carry the recessive gene for cystic fibrosis because she knew she did. He also came from the Islands and is mixed race, and wanted to find out more about where he came from. The results were really fun for him!

    Can you believe how many people show up on your distant relative list?? It’s weird to realize that we share small sections of DNA with so much of the public.

    23andMe, if you are reading this, you should offer re-tests for current customers if they used an old chip, like an update. My Mom is always complaining that she didn’t use the most up to date one but it’s not quite worth it for her to shell out another $99. :)

    • Reply Joanna August 29, 2013 at 12:00 am

      That is all really cool, Meghan! I think I would like it even more if my family did it, too. Both my parents are actually planning to do it soon, so it will be neat to see what I go from whom.

      I hope your mom gets that retest! :)

  • Reply Tabitha August 14, 2013 at 10:06 am

    Do you know if your doctor accepts the results? Or if you needed to have genetic testing done for pregnancy or something at a doctor’s visit and you tried to whip this out would the doctor just look at you like “puhleese,,,” and have tests done anyway?

    • Reply Joanna August 29, 2013 at 12:05 am

      Good question, Tabitha! I’m not sure whether doctors accept the DNA test. They should, but it probably differs from doctor to doctor.

  • Reply Insourcelife August 14, 2013 at 10:19 am

    Sounds like a cool idea… if it’s free! I agree that it would be interesting to know some of the info provided by this test, but at $99 it’s still not something that my frugal self will ever do. I guess I’ll have to live my life and find out what’s in store for me :)

    • Reply Joanna August 29, 2013 at 12:10 am

      The price is actually pretty incredible considering what you’re getting. Good for you, though, for sticking to your frugal guns and deciding what you’ll spend your money on!

  • Reply Mrs PoP August 14, 2013 at 10:28 am

    I think it’s interesting how much the cost had come down, but still don’t think there’s much I would want to know. I eat as healthily as I want to, exercise regularly and wear sunscreen. Beyond that, if I’m going to fall down and die I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want to know.

    • Reply Joanna August 29, 2013 at 12:11 am

      Haha, touche, Mrs PoP! I think half of people are like you, and the other half are like me. I’d rather know everything! :)

  • Reply Jake @ Common Cents Wealth August 14, 2013 at 11:11 am

    That sounds really cool. I think my wife would really like to try something like this out. I’ll have to tell her about it and maybe we’ll try it out.

  • Reply Kasey @ Debt Perception August 14, 2013 at 11:27 am

    Neato! That sounds really cool. I’d probably have a long list of health problems but it’s to be expected as a cancer survivor, nothing would scare me! I couldn’t justify a $99 purchase though, when student loans need to be paid off!

  • Reply Jane Savers @ Solving The Money Puzzle August 15, 2013 at 10:03 am

    My mother has Alzheimer’s. My father’s mother had Alzheimer’s. I just don’t want to know.

    Sometimes when I forget a word or can’t find something I just set down I worry that it is an early sign. I just don’t want to know.

  • Reply Chris August 15, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    Sounds like a fun idea, but I would want to know more about the company before I start sending them vials of my DNA to do whatever with. Also, how private is this information? Just saying, if you were running for office or up for a big promotion and a competitor ran across this info…

    “You don’t want Chris to run your company because he could drop dead at any moment from . He’s 40% more likely to get it than normal people!”

    Just be wary of the info you put out there!

    • Reply Joanna August 29, 2013 at 12:20 am

      You bring up some good points, Chris! I think their privacy policy is quite good. And I don’t really feel very protective about my DNA, haha. But I have some family members who would never do something like this for the very reasons you mention!

  • Reply Linda February 28, 2014 at 6:45 pm

    FYI – $75 for international shipping! So although very interesting, not something I’d ever do!
    Good thing I have family history to fall back on – no BC thank goodness, but gluten intolerance/coeliac disease for sure, and high cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure from my Mom’s side.

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