Military families, we may not be getting the pay raise we think we deserve or what we expected, but a raise is a raise and it’s a New Year! I am vowing to look at the positives and celebrate any raise at all. Before we get into raises, though, I want to know something. Do you understand your/your spouse’s Leave and Earnings Statement (LES) and do you know what you’re entitled to?
Understanding the basics of military pay is one of the most important steps in setting your budget and being in control of your finances. Receiving the right pay on payday is something most soldiers - not to mention their spouses - take for granted. We just assume that the military knows what is owed to us when we really should make no assumptions at all. Knowing how much pay you are supposed to receive and making sure that you understand your Leave and Earnings Statement (LES) is imperative.
The LES is a comprehensive statement of a member's leave and earnings, showing their entitlements, deductions, allotments, leave information, tax withholding information, and Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) information. Your most recent LES can be found 24 hours a day on myPay. A quick Google search of “How to Read an LES” will grant you your choice of services and a quick rundown of all of the working parts of the LES from basic pay to benefits, allowances, and special or incentive pays that members of the Armed Forces may also receive depending on their career field or location.
It is important that you understand and know what is owed to you – and even if it is a small percentage, that raise will fatten your wallet. Start by sitting down with your soldier and identifying what pay he/she receives now. You can download and print a current LES via myPay. Compare to the 2013 and 2014 military pay tables. Then to determine the difference. Don’t forget to calculate and add in (or subtract) the other entitlements, deductions, allotments, and taxes (or tax benefits) applicable to your situation.