I Have a Question


Questions of general gospel interest answered for guidance, not as official statements of Church policy.

Our twelve-year-old plans to serve a mission, and we would like to begin saving for it now. But how can we really prepare with costs rising all the time?

Jerry Mason, director of education for a financial planning association and a ward family history consultant in the Roswell First Ward, Roswell Georgia Stake. The answer to this question depends on a variety of factors: who will pay for the mission, the anticipated cost, the number of years before the mission call, and the amount of money that can be saved each month.

It is best to begin saving as soon as possible. If parents teach their children the importance of sharing the gospel and the blessings and growth they can receive from missionary service, children will want to save money so that when the time and opportunity to serve a mission comes, they will be prepared not only spiritually but also financially.

A family may want to hold a family council to discuss how to financially support children or parents who want to serve missions. Even if they can afford to save only a little each month, that small amount can be extremely helpful, since many families must support their missionary on a “pay as you serve” basis, with missionary expenses coming out of the monthly budget.

Some missionaries pay for all of their missions. Other missionaries pay part of the costs, with their parents paying the rest. In some exceptional cases—such as a young convert whose nonmember parents cannot or will not support him or her—relatives, friends, priesthood quorums, or ward or stake members may help pay for part of the cost of a mission. Married couples who are saving for a mission may be helped with contributions from their grown children. Some extended families have a special missionary fund, to which each family contributes a certain amount each month or year. Missionaries can then borrow from the fund when necessary, and when they have completed their missions, they help “pay back” the fund.

Once family members have discussed the options for funding a mission, they can decide which plan seems most appropriate for their circumstances. In our family, for example, we decided that as parents, we will pay for the second half of each child’s mission, with each child saving the money to pay for the first half. Each family member who plans to serve a mission is expected to have saved enough money to fund half of a mission before receiving a mission call.

Wise parents will help their children assume responsibility for saving for a mission. However, though parents should counsel with each child about an appropriate amount to save each month, it is usually best for the child to make the final decision about how much to save, assuming the main responsibility for preparing for his or her mission.

Once a family has made plans about how to fund a mission, they should estimate what a mission will cost. Here it may be useful to divide the costs of a mission into two categories: preparation costs and actual living expenses during the mission.

Preparation costs include clothing, medical and dental examinations, passports and visas (when needed), the first $50 of transportation costs from home to the Missionary Training Center (MTC), and the first $100 from the MTC to the mission field. (The Church pays the balance.) An average cost for all this is around $1,000.

Monthly living expenses for a missionary (including several weeks in the MTC) averaged about $350 per month in 1988. (All numbers are estimates in U.S. dollars; costs may be more or less, depending on where the missionary serves and currency exchange rates.)

How much, then, should a prospective missionary and his or her family save each month? The chart, developed according to the stated averages, may help families to calculate the amount.

How does the chart work? Let’s assume that the Joneses’ son John was just ordained a deacon. He will be nineteen in seven years, and the Joneses wonder how much to save each month in order to finance his mission. In reading the chart, they would go to the column “Years before Mission” and read down the column until they come to the number 7. The monthly figure to save depends on the rate of return they earn on the money saved or invested. If they put the money in a savings account that earns 4 percent interest, they can find the monthly amount to be saved by reading down the 4% column until they arrive at the row that intersects with 7 years.

Using the chart, they find that they would need to save $97.15 a month in order to have enough money to pay for John’s mission at the time he enters the MTC. The amount needed to be saved each month gets smaller as the percentages earned in interest get larger.

The chart shows that the number of years in which a family can save before a mission call is as important as the rate of return in determining the dollar amount of the monthly savings. In fact, at any age, the difference between saving at 4 percent interest and 10 percent interest is never more than $22 for any month. For example, if the Joneses start a savings account now for their two-year-old son Jeff, they will need to save between $17.66 and $32.25 a month. However, if they begin a savings account for their sixteen-year-old son Jim’s mission, they will need to save between $224 and $240 a month for his mission. That’s a big difference!

A word of warning: ask questions when you set up any type of account or investment; find out if the money is properly insured and what can happen to the funds if they aren’t insured. It is not wise to put money into an account where there is a likelihood of losing the amount saved or invested. Many people have invested large amounts of money with promised high rates of return, only to later lose all or part of their savings.

Another thing to keep in mind when choosing an account to save or invest in is how soon you will need the money and what restrictions may be placed on withdrawing it. If the mission is fewer than twenty-four months away, parents and prospective missionaries may want to place savings or investments in insured accounts from which funds can be easily withdrawn as needed.

If the Jones family begins to save $97.15 a month now for twelve-year-old John’s mission, they should have enough savings to fund an average mission when John turns nineteen. But what about inflation? you may ask. Won’t the cost of a mission seven years from now be considerably higher than the amount they have saved? How can they inflation-proof their savings program?

Once a year, the Joneses should figure out how much their cost of food has increased over the past twelve months. Suppose that, a year from now, they figure out that they are paying 4 percent more for food than the year before, when they first started saving for John’s mission. To inflation-proof John’s missionary savings fund, the Joneses can increase the amount saved each month by 4 percent. In this case, 4 percent of what they have been saving is $4. So the Joneses simply add the $4 to the $97.15 and begin saving $101.15 each month. Every twelve months, they should increase the amount of their monthly savings by the same percentage that their food costs have increased.

This program does not take into account taxes on the income earned from interest earned by a savings account. Since every country’s tax laws are different, it would be impossible to address those issues here. But the basic plan as outlined, with individual adjustments made for taxes and a family’s other financial obligations, can serve as a starting point for helping a family develop a plan to fund missions for children or parents. Such a plan will also work for funding college or other educational or vocational plans.

If at all possible, it is best for families to plan ahead and save for missions. However, some individuals or families may find that, despite careful planning and hard work, family circumstances prevent them from having enough money to completely fund a mission. In such cases, the prospective missionary should counsel with his or her bishop or branch president to determine how additional funds might be obtained.

Prospective missionaries and their families should plan wisely, save, and work hard toward funding a mission. If they have faith and ask the Lord for help, he will assist them in finding the means necessary to do his work.

Recommended Monthly Savings to Fund a Mission (in U.S. Dollars)

Years before Mission

Rate of Return Earned on Savings

 

4%

6%

8%

10% *

3

246.19

238.97

231.90

224.98

5

141.78

134.73

127.93

121.39

7

97.15

90.32

83.84

77.72

9

72.45

65.85

59.71

54.01

11

56.81

50.45

44.64

39.35

13

46.04

39.92

34.44

29.56

15

38.20

32.32

27.16

22.68

17

32.25

26.61

21.77

17.66

  1.   *

    A high rate of return is not always available or advisable.