Paycheck Chronicles

When Will I Get My First Pay? and How Much Will I Get Paid?


When you are new to the military, everything is confusing.  The language, the clothes, the paperwork, and the pay.  I see the same questions repeated over and over:  When will the first pay come?  How much will it be?  How will I get it?

Nearly all the time, these questions come from people who are leaving for basic training and leaving a family behind, or from a spouse who is waiting at home while their new enlistee completes school.   Since I hardly ever hear this question from singles, I'm going to answer it for the married crowd.  Please, please be aware, this is all anecdotal evidence and it is different for each branch of service.  Your recruiter will hopefully give you more branch specific answers, but if he doesn't, you can use this to help figure it out.

When a new military member enters basic training, they will need some documents to make sure that their pay and allowances are set up correctly.  First, they will need the routing number and bank account number of the account into which they want their pay deposited.  They will need to take marriage certificates, social security cards and birth certificates for the spouse and kids.  In most cases, these get mailed home shortly after arriving at basic.

In my totally unscientific poll, the average amount of time before the first pay was deposited was 21 to 35 days, with just a few people stating that their pay took longer.  The Marines seem to be different, though, and I have heard numerous people say that the Marines didn't have access to their pay until the end of basic training.

You also need to know how military pay is calculated and paid.  The whole pay period is a month long, from the 1st until the last day of the month.  Most pays and allowances are paid on a monthly basis, including base pay, basic allowance for housing (BAH) and basic allowance for subsistence (BAS).  For the mid-month pay, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) will calculate what the monthly amount will be and then pay half, using the information that is current up until that date.   Sometime around the 22nd-24th of the month, DFAS will finalize the month's accounting and issue a Leave and Earnings Statement (LES) for all the military members.  The LES lists all the pays and allowances, all the deductions for things like Social Security and taxes, and any allotments for savings, bills, etc.  The LES will come up with a grand total for the month, then list the amount paid mid-month, and calculate the amount that will be paid in the End of Month (EOM) pay.

You can learn how to read an LES in this article:  How To Read A Military LES.

The amount of each pay will be erratic at first, for a variety of reasons.  At many Basic Military Training locations, the new recruits are issued a debit card to use in the military exchange, and that will come out of one of their first pays.  It can take a while for BAH and family separation pay to get properly organized.  In addition, everything gets paid retroactively to the first day of BMT, so you might have a big check, then a smaller one thereafter.

The military doesn't hand out pay stubs like many civilian jobs do.  Everything is available online at a website called MyPay.  You can learn more about MyPay access at How To Access MyPay.

Please leave comments, errors and suggestions below.  I am hoping to develop this into a really comprehensive guide to help all new military families.  Thanks for your help.

Other posts that might help you as you transition to military life:

From The Mailbag: Pay for New Enlistees

What Is Income Tax Withholding and Why You Want To Get It Right

From The Mailbag: New Marriage Questions

Figuring The First Paycheck

From The Mailbag: Leave and Earnings Statements

Need Uniforms? Check The Thrift Stores

Take Advantage of the Saver's Credit

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