Saving for souls: Sending a missionary out can be cheaper than leaving them at home
In November 1990, the LDS Church announced the standardization of mission costs which, at the time, could vary from $150 to $750 a month. The current standardized cost is $400 for missionaries from the U.S.
On top of this are non service-related expenses that are paid with personal funds, says church spokesman Scott Trotter.
"These expenses may include clothing, bicycles, medical costs not paid by the mission, phone calls home and other personal expenses," Trotter says.
But how do these expenses all add up against having a child at home?
Marsh takes conservative estimates of average income from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's "Cost of Raising a Child Calculator."
For a family making $58,000 a year or less:
— Transportation costs for a child are about $2,150
— Clothing is about $988
— Education is about $1,150
— Other expenses are about $900
This is a total of about $5,188 a year saved in expenses by not having a child at home.
With tax advantages added in and the cost of the mission taken out, Marsh says it is about $1,348 a year cheaper to have a kid out on a mission.
To outfit a missionary, however, can cost anywhere from $800 to $2,000. Marsh says this could be paid for by the money saved by having the missionary out serving. He also says in some areas a missionary may receive close to $1,500 in cash donations from relatives and ward members.
Marsh jokes that when he has shown these numbers to faculty and staff at BYU, some parents have suggested that the church's next big missionary announcement could be that missionaries could serve twice as long.
But these numbers are averages and not every missionary has the support of family to this extent. Others want to pay for their mission as much as they are able.
A great problem
Sarah Martin in Highland is a junior who has been going to Utah State University for two years. The way her life's schedule had been going, she was not planning on going on a mission.
"Now, with the age change, it seems like it is the perfect time," she says.
Martin has been working two jobs — only the money she was saving for college is now going toward her mission.
"My parents are awesome and support me 100 percent," she says. "They would pay for it, but they would like me to pay for as much as I can so I would value it more."
Martin says she just finished filling out the paperwork and was planning on meeting with her bishop to move the process forward.
The opportunity to serve a mission has opened up for many who didn't plan to go or to go so soon. For Palmer, this is a great problem to have.
"There are some financial challenges that are not pleasant," he says. "Often my clients are dealing with an unexpected illness or a disability something bordering on the tragic. These things are why we have emergency funds and are prepared. But a 'problem' such as not knowing how you are going to come up with the money so your child can go do spiritual voluntary service? That's pretty awesome. It is great for people to come up with solutions for things that are positive."