At the end of my last post, I posed the question, “How do you set a fair and reasonable support level for Missionary Mike?” Let me see if I can answer that question based on a family of four with two school aged children.
The first part of a support estimate is the base salary and housing allowance. We base our missionary salary and housing on a percentage of the average U.S. salary for school teachers. In our example we would begin with $2,600 salary and $1,200 housing allowance each month. We will assume the two children are home schooled with expenses of about $236/month for materials, fees and taxes. This amount will depend on the options available in the host country.
Our missionaries must have health insurance. For many of us, the bulk of the premium is paid by our employer as a benefit to us. We don’t know the cost of the whole premium but only our part. Our missionaries must pay the full premium, and in some cases pay for insurance in their host country and in the US. The options depend largely on their field of service. We try to keep the insurance budget to $1,200 per month but it can be as high as $2,200/month in the US.
Because we believe it is wise for missionaries to plan for retirement so churches do not have a great burden of supporting missionaries well into retirement, FGM requires a minimum contribution of support funds to the missionary’s retirement account. In our example the missionary will be required to raise about $350 for retirement benefits.
When you look at your pay stub, you probably see several lines of taxes that are withheld from your paycheck. Your employer is required to match some of those amounts, but you never see it until you retire. Current laws in the US require certain church and religious workers to pay a self-employment tax that includes the the amount the employer would normally pay. That adds 9.8% to the support estimate so the missionary will have the funds to pay his taxes. He may have additional taxes due in the host country as well. We will discuss that in a later post.
Remember, we started with a salary and housing of $3,800 per month. Nothing remarkable for a professional with a college degree and sometimes a masters or doctorate. Add an allowance for children’s education along with benefits funding and insurance and the burdened cost of paying that missionary a salary of $3,800/month with benefits is up to $6,133/month.
Coming up next: Missionary Support: Cost Of Living and Overseas Taxes
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