It's an exciting time in life when you or someone you know opens the white envelope containing the much anticipated mission call. For many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, all the nail-biting and sweaty palms seem fun in the moment, but when the rush tapers down and the reality of the financial side kicks in, that nail-biting and palm sweating doesn't seem so fun anymore.
The truth is, serving a mission is expensive, really expensive. Diligent saving and frugal living are always encouraged and help many families prepare for the financial setback of having a missionary in the field, but the reality, every missionary has his or her own story and comes from a different background. So although preparation is recommended where possible, it's not always the full solution to paying for a mission.
It has been said that the Lord works in mysterious ways and sometimes unexpected blessings come your way, but in the chance you aren't as lucky as one of the missionaries in these videos, it's important to prepare and save so you can meet the expenses of your mission.
How much does a mission really cost?
In general, sister missionaries can expect to pay about $400 a month or $7,200 total over the course of an 18-month mission. That same monthly amount totals nearly $10,000 for elders for a 24-month mission in the United States. Foreign mission costs can vary somewhat depending on the location.
As previously alluded to, future missionaries and their families should begin making financial preparations for a mission as early as possible. When they can't pay for it all, family, friends and the Church step in to help out. Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles made reference to this in a general conference address in October 2012. Elder Nelson said, "Missionaries support that privilege [paying for a mission] with their personal savings. Parents, families, friends, and donors to the [Church's] General Missionary Fund may also assist."
The math of a mission
How early should one prepare? Well, that depends. The obvious math dictates that the earlier a boy or girl starts saving money, the less he or she has to accumulate each year toward the goal. The later they start, the more financial ground they need to cover in a shorter period, assuming a missionary leaves at the minimum age of 18 for men and 19 for women.
If a teen starts at age 12 working five hours per week and is paid minimum wage ($7.25 per hour in Utah), they'll make approximately $1,700 per year up until age 18 (That's assuming they save it all and always make $7.25 at five hours per week). Add that up for six years and a young man or woman could virtually pay for their entire mission having earned just over $10,000.
The task doesn't seem quite as daunting when broken down. Nevertheless, it won't work for everyone due to individual circumstance. So other ways to prepare financially include seeking counsel from a bishop and/or returned missionaries. A recently returned missionary can provide a good current overview of what it takes financially to serve a mission, including some of the incidental and unexpected expenses (which will always be there).
Making money work for you
As money is acquired, its earning power can be increased through youth savings, other savings and share certificates (also known as CDs). There are also other types of safe investments that a future missionary can pursue with the help of parents.
Trust that the amount of money you save and spend on a mission will provide enormous returns as you serve others in the mission field. When all is said and done, it proves to be an investment in oneself.