Some people like to label military members as rich, but the reality is quite the opposite.
The military compensation is not lavish; many military families are struggling to stay financially afloat, and some are even grappling with debt. However, what the military does offer is job security, a stable paycheck, and substantial benefits.
So why is it that people assume that you can make a lot of money in the military?
Military Money Myths
Myth #1: Enlistment bonuses are standard for joining the military.
Truth: While some recruits may receive a bonus, it’s not the norm. These bonuses are typically offered to fill undermanned positions, and eligibility requirements may apply.
Myth #2: Military members can afford homes, indicating financial comfort.
Truth: Thanks to the VA loan, many military families can buy homes with little to no money down. In some cases, this can be more cost-effective than renting an apartment.
Myth #3: Military pay increases with each child.
Truth: There is no specific military dependent pay. Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) does increase with dependents, but it doesn’t rise for additional dependents beyond the first.
Myth #4: The military covers all living expenses, and paychecks are “free money.”
Truth: Military members have bills and financial responsibilities like anyone else.
Myth #5: Military members are exempt from paying taxes.
Truth: They pay taxes, even on bonuses. While income earned in a tax-free combat zone is exempt, there is a cap to this exemption.
Myth #6: Military families with non-working spouses must be wealthy.
Truth: Many military spouses face challenges maintaining employment due to frequent relocations. It recently took me 10 months to get a position that was not minimum wage. Living on a single income often involves careful budgeting.
How Much Money Do Military Members Make?
Did I mention that the military doesn’t get paid enough?
A newly enlisted member earns about $24,204 annually as of 2024, before taxes. With long working hours, some military members find themselves earning less than minimum wage.
If they reach the rank of E-5 after about four years, the annual pay increases to approximately $40,388.
Of course, they do get tax-free BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing) in addition to that with varying amounts based on the affordability of the area.
While military members, with prudent financial management, can lead comfortable lives, they are far from being considered rich.
Whoa! Is the military worth it then? It depends! Military life is certainly not for everyone.
Strict adherence to orders and rules distinguishes military life from conventional employment. It’s not a regular job that you can quit at any time.
However, joining the military can provide opportunities for future success, offering valuable job skills and the potential for a paid college education.
Still, there are civilian careers that may offer higher pay than military service.
Careers That Pay More Than The Military
Consider these jobs that pay at least $40,000 per year (about $19 per hour).
- Physical Therapy Assistant
- Surgical Technologist
- Automotive Technician
- HR Coordinator
- Sales Representative
- Air Conditioning Technician
- Repossession Investigator
- Marketing Representative
- IT Technician
How To Become Rich In The Military
Can you be rich in the military? Yes, but not through relying on a paycheck alone. The key to financial success, whether in the military or not, involves:
- Save your money: Allocate a percentage of your income to savings (aim for at least 20% in your monthly budget).
- Invest your money: Make your money work for you through smart investments, balancing safety and returns.
- Build your income: Develop job skills to advance your career and explore multiple income streams.
Military-specific savings tips include:
- Save some of your BAH by finding cost-effective housing.
- Take advantage of free or affordable entertainment on base.
Whether you have a substantial income or a modest one, living below your means is the cornerstone of financial success.
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In a nutshell, the idea that military members are rolling in wealth is a bit off. Despite the stability and perks, many military families face financial challenges. Let’s clear up the misconceptions about bonuses, home-buying perks, and tax breaks – they don’t automatically make military life a cash paradise.
Sure, the paycheck may not be a goldmine, especially early on, but with smart financial moves, like using benefits wisely, military families can lead a comfortable life. Choosing a military career is about more than money; it’s a journey of growth and unique opportunities.
To navigate military life financially, let’s be friends with smart money practices. Saving, investing, and exploring extra income streams are key. Whether in uniform or not, these financial principles pave the way for a prosperous future. Here’s to financial well-being, no matter your career path!
Yes, military members pay taxes based on their home of record (not the place they’re currently stationed). However, they can get their income tax-free if they are deployed in a combat area.
Military officers are not rich, but they do make a decent income if they climb the ranks enough. As of 2024, the lowest Warrant Officer (W-1) makes $3,739.80/ month and up to $12,269.10/ month as a W-5 with 40 years in the military. A Commissioned Officer (O-1) makes $3,826.20/ month with a max of $18,491.70/ month as an O-9 at 24 years of service.
There is no highest-paying military branch. Service members across all the branches receive the same basic pay for their rank; this includes the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Space Force, and Coast Guard. However, it is easier to rank up and make more money in some branches based on your rate.
All branches of the military receive the same benefits. These include education benefits (such as TA and the G.I. Bill), VA loans, healthcare (Tricare), dental, and retirement savings (TSP).
A typical military contract is 4 years; however, they range from 2 years to 6 years of service and up.