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.

About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.
  • Gina

    I recall that my son was given a debit card in reception to buy supplies at the PX. This was subtracted from one of his early paychecks. That might explain the difference in net pay also.

  • Jennifer S.

    At one point in time, you could get someone (such as a spouse or family member) a limited-access password so they could log on to MyPay and view the LES, but they could not make changes to your account. Now that they have migrated to the new log-in credentials, I don’t know if this is still supported.

    If you are considering a series for those new to the military, I would strongly recommend covering how to actually read an LES, especially the information contained in the text at the bottom.

  • Danielle

    It’s been years since my husband enlisted, and he’s not home to ask right now, but if I recall correctly a nice chunk was taken out of his paycheck to pay for his uniforms, as well as what he paid for at the the little NEX. I don’t rememeber which check it was taken out of though either. Fat lot of help I am ;)

  • Antonia

    Hi my husband is in basic now and it is a big mess.

    He lost the direct deposit info for our joint account and had to open a new one up that i am not a joint account holder on. So I do not have any way of getting to the funds to pay the bills. Even though we are married no one will talk to me. So if you are going to do a report on new to the military and finances. I would strongly suggest you mention to your readers the importance of getting a power of attorney for who you are leaving in charge of things. So people will talk to them if things go wrong.

  • Debra

    Does anyone know how to navigate My son just got out of Boot and does not know how to access his pay stub. I think these young boys need at least written instructions on these important issues. They have been through so much, and have absorbed so much information at Boot…money was the last thing they had time to think about. Thank you if anyone has knowledge of, im sure others have the same problem.

  • William Santoro

    Hello I recently got seperated for the corps. I worked throught Nov 22 of that month and was seperated on the 23rd. I recieved a normal pay check on the 1st of December but I never recieved the one for Nov 15 through the 22nd which should be at least half a months pay plus the BAH. Dont we get paid for our previous months pay because if we deploy we dont get paid the extra money till the next months pay peroiod so I should be seeing a pay check for 20101115-20101122 with my BAH as still part of that check. Thank you for your time.

    • William, thank you for your service. The paycheck that was on 1 December should have included all your November pay. Pay is distributed in the same month it is earned, with the 15th being mid-month pay and the 1st being the end-of-month pay.

      When you deploy, it sometimes take a while for DFAS to get the accounting straightened out and make all the adjustments. That is why you often see the deployment pay changes occurring during the next month.

      Good luck to you in your new life!

  • Alana

    My husband is in bootcamp right now and is finally getting his first pay. I am trying to get out of my in-law’s house ASAP. I need to know how to get copies of his paystubs since I obviously can’t login to his MyPay. Help!

    • KateKashman

      Alana, if you don’t have access to his MyPay account, then you need to have him mail/email/fax you his LES (Leave and Earnings Statement.) MyPay is the only way to access it.

  • gera

    I am leaving for NAVY boot camp at the end of november and I know payday is the 1st. and 15th of each month. What I need to know is how long does it take to get my first deposit. I am married with 1 kid and don’t have extra money to cover rent and bills while I am gone.(in case of not getting money deposited with in the first month)

  • laura

    My husband left for ARMY basic training on March 31, 2015.. I received a paystub with no money on April 15th. Instead he owes $30.00 for life insurance? when will I be getting the money in his account? I’m falling behind on bills, and ‘Im getting worried . thank for your Help (:

    • sheofthesea

      Laura, first military pay typically arrives between 3 to 6 weeks after entering basic military training. I would anticipate that he will probably be paid on the 1st of May, but that isn’t guaranteed.