Saving money for a mission


He didn’t know how it would be possible, nor how he could save the thousands of dollars required to serve a mission. All he knew was he wanted to serve.

Michael Bischoff, a sophomore from Keene, N.H., always found it difficult to get a job in high school. His birthday fell late and he was always younger than his friends, so his first job was working as a custodian in the Marriott Center more than three years ago. He saved every penny he made. He knew if he really put his mind to it, he would be able to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

But the time to leave for his mission came sooner than expected and Bischoff was not financially ready. He realized the time required to save the money for a mission wasn’t what he thought.

“I had saved up some money, but not nearly enough,” Bischoff said.

Bischoff’s story is just one of many in which saving for a mission brought trials before the rewards. Missions are expensive. Clothing, shoes and possibly a bike can take a bite out of the wallet. Not to mention the monthly cost of $400. The average mission now costs about $10,000 for elders and about $8,000 for sisters.

[pullquote]”There are some good fundamental things that you can do if you are saving something that’s long term. That is a completely separate equation from something that you’re going to use in 18 months.” — Andrew Holmes[/pullquote]

Andrew Holmes, chairman of BYU’s Finance Department, said many prospective missionaries will invest a lot of their time watching shows offering financial advice on television. They take the advice and invest money into options not suitable for a short-term goal, like a mission.

“There are some good fundamental things that you can do if you are saving something that’s long term,” Holmes said. “That is a completely separate equation from something that you’re going to use in 18 months.”

Holmes recommended prospective missionaries open up a certificate of deposit with their local bank. Certificates of deposit are similar to a savings account, but instead of open access whenever money is needed, there is a “maturity date” at which the money can be withdrawn. CDs have fixed interest rates and the term of a CD can range from one month to five years.

Holmes said high-risk, high-yield options, such as playing the stock market, are also not suitable for the short-term goal of a mission. Market fluctuations can hurt or harm someone in a period of days. Holmes said the competition involved in the stock market isn’t appropriate for prospective missionaries.

“There are thousands of people that have advanced degrees, they have real-time information,” Holmes said

Steven Thorley, a professor of finance, agreed with Holmes. He  said CDs are good for prospective missionaries because the interest rate is better than a savings account. However, Thorley believes the biggest problem is not where the money is put, but the actual ability to save. Many things compete for attention, like college, a car, dating life or the next best thing.

“There’s a lot of other things to be saving your money for,” Thorley said. “Good things … or trivial things.”

Thorley served a mission in Denmark before the Church equalized mission costs. Thorley’s mission cost him more than average missions of his day.

“Saving that much money is a daunting process,” Thorley said.

Just like Bischoff, Thorley really set his mind to saving for his mission. He worked all through high school at a gas station saving as much as he was able, about 25 percent of the mission. His family covered the rest.

“The savings goal ought to be 10 percent of everything you make,” Thorley said. “Pay your tithing, 10 percent, and then put 10 percent in an account.”

Bischoff scrimped and saved every penny and his family helped where it could, but money was tight. Unexpectedly, the week before the first payment was due, Bischoff’s dad received a raise. $400 a month. Exactly what Bischoff needed. Bischoff said he knew it was because of his dedication this was made possible.

“Start early, pay tithing,” he said, “and don’t spend money on little things that you don’t really need.”


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