Do Military Members Get Paid Enough?

Do military members get paid enough for the sacrifices they make and the risks they take? The answer is a lot more complicated than simply looking at one's monthly paycheck.
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Several years ago I wrote an article on my other website about food stamps in the US and how they are not providing enough assistance for some people. Many people are finding that food prices are quickly rising and they are running out of food stamp benefits before the end of the month. In some parts of the US, people who receive food stamps are lining up at stores at midnight on the first of the month because that is when their benefits are automatically deposited in there accounts.

This reminded me of how the base commissaries are always crowded on the 1st and the 15th of the month, because this is when military members get paid and they need groceries.

I mentioned this in the article, but followed that up with the fact that military members get paid twice per month vs. once per month, and military members have received several good raises over the last few years. However, it wasn’t too many years ago when it was fairly common for low ranking military members to be on food stamps. While not unheard of now, it is much less common than in previous years. (note: the military now offers Family Supplemental Subsistence Allowance to eliminate the need for military members to receive food stamps).

Over the last few years, Congress has voted on several consecutive pay raises, which greatly enhanced the quality of life for most military members. Here is a link to the military pay chart. If you compare the new pay rates to historic military pay charts it is easy to see how much has changed in the last few years.

But is it enough? Everyone knows the dangers of being in the military. Many military members put their lives on the line every day, which makes them some of the most underpaid people in America. But there are also other considerations, such as working with hazardous materials and in dangerous situations, being on call 24-7/365, and dealing with long term deployments and family separation. This begs to ask the question, is a job worth your life? But to me, being in the military is more than just a job. It is a duty and a way of life.

The benefits. On the other side, there are multiple benefits military members enjoy that many people don’t consider. Military members receive tax free housing and food allowances, free health care, access to high tech training and other educational benefits, multiple pay allowances depending on job and/or location, numerous veterans benefits including the GI Bill and the VA loan, military discounts, and other veterans benefits which may vary depending numerous factors including state of residence, disability status, and more. And military retirement benefits are among the best in the world.

There are obviously a lot of pros and cons to military pay. It is a complicated system, and there are many people who receive relatively little compared to other military members and their civilian counterparts, and there are others who receive more than other military members and their civilian counterparts. I think a lot depends on the individual military member and their personal situation. There simply is no cut and dry answer to whether military members receive enough pay for the service they provide our country.

In the end, you can never put a price on a human life, and I am not going to attempt to do that. Even though most military members will never get rich off their paycheck, most earn enough to live comfortably.

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About Ryan Guina

Ryan Guina is The Military Wallet's founder. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over six years on active duty in the USAF and is a current member of the Illinois Air National Guard.

Ryan started The Military Wallet in 2007 after separating from active duty military service and has been writing about financial, small business, and military benefits topics since then. He also writes about personal finance and investing at Cash Money Life.

Ryan uses Personal Capital to track and manage his finances. Personal Capital is a free software program that allows him to track his net worth, balance his investment portfolio, track his income and expenses, and much more. You can open a free Personal Capital account here.

Featured In: Ryan's writing has been featured in the following publications: Forbes, Military.com, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, Reserve & National Guard Magazine (print and online editions), Military Influencer Magazine, Cash Money Life, The Military Guide, USAA, Go Banking Rates, and many other publications.

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  1. Opal says

    No they don’t get payed enough. Even NFL players are getting more pay than them and what do they do for us? Nothing! Soldiers keep our country safe! 🙂

  2. Alexyss says

    There is no way that the Army members are paid enough. Every time I talk to my brother or his girlfriend (both in the military) they are always broke. My brother does not eat a lot and neither does his girlfriend. That cuts out groceries. And neither are party crowd type people. They don’t really leave base so no gas needed. He never has his money for my mom. He’s on our phone plan and so my mom has to make us more broke.

  3. desarae says

    military Healthcare is not “free”… you pay something monthly no matter if you are married or single. wether it is 12 dollars or 30 dollars a month, you still are getting it taken out of your check… and the base medical actually sux! but thats besides the point… just like someone else mentioned about having to pay monthly for chow… this too gets taken out of your check, and so does living in the barracks.. married or single if you live in the barracks a certain fee comes out of your check also… and when youre deployed, they charge you monthly just like they do if you were on homeport. meals and housing are not free!!! so for people saying how military embers get all these extra great advantages!!! -ha shows how much you know… even worse is that the housing on base, is more when youre ranked higher… my husband is an e-6 my neighbor is an e-4. he has been in 2yrs longer than my husband but never advanced…. why shoud our rent be 2thousand more than my neighbor and we have the same number of rooms ,same style of house ame everything but yet the rate is different because my husbands is an e-6? below is an example of how the tricare works… even if its 500 yearly for a family… its still not FREE!!! people on medicaid dont pay a single penny for their kids or family to see a doctor! thats free!!! mlitary healthcare is not free….

    Tricare Prime. This option is kind of like an HMO concept, and requires that one specifically enroll in the program (active duty members are enrolled automatically). Individuals enrolled in Tricare Prime are assigned to a Primary Care Provider (PCP), which is usually the local military medical facility (base hospital). In order to receive specialist care, they must be referred by their PCP. Under this program, there is no enrollment fee or cost-sharing for active duty members and family members of active duty. For retirees (under age 65) and family members of retirees (under age 65), there is an enrollment fee of $230 per year for a single individual, or $460 per year for a family. In addition to the annual enrollment fee, retirees and their family members pay a cost-share of $12.00 per outpatient visit, $30.00 per emergency care incident, $25.00 per mental health outpatient visit, $11.00 per day for inpatient care, and $40.00 per day for inpatient mental health care. There is a maximum $3,000 “catastrophic cap,” that a retired family would have to pay each year.

  4. Ryan Guina says

    Nebu, your best bet is to see if you can find a military recruiter in your area or contact your nearest US embassy for more information. Additionally, look at the website of the branch you want to join and see if there are any frequently asked questions or information about receiving a visa to join the military. Best of luck with your journey.

  5. Lee says

    I see both sides of this discussion but I have to remark to Jon. Let me preface by saying that I am a manager of 20+ airmen and have been in for 23 years. I hear what you are saying about the military didn’t issue you a family, learn how to budget, etc. Back when you and I were both airmen, we walked to appointments and our jobs if need be, stayed in the dorm rooms, and ate at the dining facility. WE (our age group) should be financially sound. No, we didn’t have all of the resources (money management classes, how to buy a car that’s not a lemon”, we learned the hard way.

    Well, today’s military is extremely different now. Bases are bigger, appointments are more frequent, demands are more pressing. With our force shaping and roll backs, I have SrAs and SSgts filling MSgt slots because we have literally lost all of our SNCOs. Where does my point lead? We are asking more of the lower ranks. Their culture is now that of a SNCO. They have to handle this all on a Amn wage. They have to buy vehicles (one within means, of course), which leads to car payments, which leads to insurance (remember how much insurance costs under 25?), which leads to buying gas (a meek 11 gal, 4-cylinder Saturn that used to run on a full tank at $20.00 now fills up for $39.50 on the dot), which leads to car repairs…do you see my point?
    The responsible Airman that doesn’t drink, smoke, go out, drink Starbucks weekly, that lives on a good sized base has to have a VEHICLE to drive to work, attend meetings, go to mandatory appointments. Guess what…add this all up and it well exceeds the current Amn’s pay.

    No one here is right, no one wrong. Our community is unique and we need each other now more than ever. Let’s stop the judging and buckle down to help each other the best we can.

    That is my very humble 2 cents worth..

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