Question about Funding for missionaries:
"In what different ways do missionaries plan for retirement?"
Back then I saw retirement savings as a luxury item, unnecessary luggage for my missionary journey. I wouldn't wait and do more fund-raising for it. Now that I see the burden of younger generations carrying their parents financially, I'm thinking differently. An inheritance to give to your children is a great blessing, something you can trust God for, as well believe he will give you plans to accomplish that.
Saving for retirement is like giving. Some believe 10 percent tithe is required, others that generosity of heart is the only requirement. To my knowledge, there is no requirement or even recommendation in our agency to save a certain percentage for retirement and I'm not sure what candidates are told.
If I was asked, I'd suggest, aim for 10-15% of your paycheck to be saved for future needs in retirement. It's standard financial advice. We missionaries aren't more special than everybody else. We get the same problems others face in retirement. God doesn't give us a free pass for being in ministry. We plan for a legacy to the next generation and it isn't only spiritual, but financial too. Start now with a monthly amount, no matter how small, automatically withdrawn from your bank account so you won't miss it so much.
Many missionary families are already paying over $1000 in medical costs monthly for insurance, etc. Do you think your retired years will be cheaper than that in medical costs?
To conclude, we should be recommending best practices to our missionaries and that would seem to point to retirement savings, not being an optional extra. God can provide for that just as much as he provides for health insurance in your budget. I believe we'd be doing our missionaries a service if we recommended a percentage amount that at least equals the amount currently paid on health insurance and medical needs.
See also an article with missionaries discussing this very issue: Money and Missionaries: Do You Have a Plan for Retirement?
Our mission, WEC, is one of the agencies that allows missionaries a variety of retirement packages, ranging from nothing at all to whatever they can afford on their support.
Some are concerned that if we allow a missionary to serve with little or no financial provision for the future, they may not have a future. History is on our side. We began as a mission in 1913. We presently have two thousand missionaries. WEC has had a multitude of missionaries retire in the years of our existence and no retiree has ever been destitute, because God has always provided. Some have gone to retirement centers in Florida built specifically for missionaries from faith agencies. Some have had houses given to them. Some have gone to live with siblings or children. We even have retirement units at our WEC campus.
I'm a missionary sent by a local church that has no retirement plan. So I'm preparing for my retirement by in my budget a monthly contribution to a retirement fund. For a small fee, a good accountant or financial planner can give you specific retirement advice. Or at no cost you can research retirement planning for yourself.
The most important retirement savings advice is to start early. Those who wait until later to begin saving have to save a much higher portion of their income than those who begin earlier.
Yes, I was imprisoned, terrorized, robbed, had my life threatened dozens of times, and was thrown out of two countries. My retirement fund is looking good in heaven with Jesus where it belongs. Here on earth my treasure is not. My years in missions were truly a joyful experience that I would not trade for an IRA or a 401K.
Another family is on their own, though they are allowed to work. But the pay is minimal. They are not covered by any agency except for our church, with minimum support. As a member of our church and friend of the family, I feel moved to support them and see how I can help to start a retirement funding for them. Please advise!
Editor's note: Helping a missionary family with minimal support set up a retirement fund is a great idea. Discuss it with them, and if they are not opposed, talk to your bank or a financial adviser about setting up a retirement account.
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