Paycheck Chronicles

Figuring The First Paycheck


When you are brand new to the military, there are lots of things to learn.  I recently had a question from a reader, a parent, about their child's pay while in basic training. Here's the question:

My son left for basic on 1/11/10. You told us his pay would be retroactive. His first paycheck went into his account on 2/11/10. His check that went in today was for only half of what the first one was.

I am in charge of his bills while he is gone and I needed to find out why his pay was only half of the what the first one was.

Also, do check stubs get sent to him at basic, his home or do they not get one.

Thanks in advance.   Becky

These are good questions, and from the other questions I'm reading, they are pretty common.  Here's my reply:

I hope I can explain this clearly.  Service members get paid twice a month, but their pay is based on a monthly amount.  At some time during the first part of the month, the mid-month pay is calculated using estimates of what the total monthly pay will be.  In theory, the mid-month pay should be one-half of the total monthly pay.  The end-of-month pay (on the 1st) is basically whatever is left over after they have calculated the final total pay for the month, minus the amount that was paid in the middle of the month.  Whenever there is a change in status, (such as entering the service, getting promoted, moving to an area with different allowances, etc.), there is the strong possibility that the estimates will be off and the two parts of the monthly pay won't be equal.  It is really unfortunate but it happens all the time.

In your son's case, I can think of a variety of things that could have happened but there is one that seems most likely, that the February mid-month pay included both the regular February mid-month, plus the half of January.  I know that they try to get the retroactive pay attached as soon as possible so that makes a lot of sense.

Your son will have access to his pay stubs (called Leave and Earnings Statements, or LES for short) online through a website called MyPay, once he has computer access.  They can be a little confusing to read at first but there are good online explanations available at the MyPay website.

So, what do you think?  Does that answer the question?  Did I miss anything, or mess it up?

I'm thinking about doing a series on finances for people who are new to the military.  Can you think of any topics I should cover?  Thanks for your help.

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