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Is that paycheck correct? What Spouses Need to Know

September 24, 2019

How to make sure that paycheck is correct. What to do if you are underpaid or overpaid. And is getting overpaid really a bad thing? Simple tips to be better prepared for yourself and your family - By Deena Donk

As a spouse, how do you currently handle your Coastie’s paychecks? Do you have a detailed spreadsheet dedicated to your family’s finances? Or do you cross your fingers each time you swipe that Target card hoping there is money in the account? Wherever you fall on this spectrum, there are few things ALL spouses should be aware of when it comes to their Coastie’s paycheck.

Who am I to share this knowledge with you?

I am a proud Coast Guard wife who is also a Veteran in my own right. I spent 5 years enlisted in the Air Force and, luckily for you and me, all the military branches use the same pay system. Personal finance has always been an interest of mine. Whenever I get the chance I try to educate others on its importance. Everyone should have a solid understanding of their family’s finances to prepare themselves for the unknown.

Now, lets get to the real question here.

Why is this information so important? Why have I stressed this so much and written an entire blog post about it? Because being knowledgeable and aware of your finances is the best way to be prepared for an emergency. Sometimes emergencies are unavoidable so why not prepare for them ahead of time?

Let me give you a real-life example…

I had this one friend; we will call him Fred. Fred got overpaid while in the military. He was so excited about the “surprise money” as he called it, that he promptly spent it all. A few months went by and Fred forgot all about it. But the finance office didn’t. Fred was abruptly reminded of this when he got a $200 paycheck. You see, the financial office noticed the mistake, and subtracted the money out of Fred’s future pay. Fred found himself in a terrible situation and had to borrow money from a friend to pay for rent.

So what can we learn from Fred’s mistake? Fred never looked at his paychecks or even knew what was in them. Fred also didn’t know that his future paychecks would suffer from that one overpayment. His lack of knowledge left him unable to prepare for a paycheck $2,000 less than he expected. This lack of awareness and planning left him financially vulnerable, a place none of us want to be.

Drumroll please…

Let me introduce you to the LES or Leave and Earning Statement. This is the military’s version of a pay stub. Your Coastie will have access to this through a program at work. Ask them about it! If that conversation has never happened, then there is no better time than the present. Ask your Coastie to go over their LES with you. Thank you conversation starter!

Three basics you NEED to know.

1. Know what their correct base pay is.
You would be amazed at how often a person’s base pay can be inaccurate. My own husband had a discrepancy with his pay and I was able to figure out where the error was because I knew what his base pay should have been. So where is it, and where can you find it? Every Coastie gets an established base pay that is congruent with their rate and time in service. Since base pay can change often, Military Benefits offers a current pay chart that can be accessed here. If the pay is incorrect from what the chart says, your Coastie may need to talk to his finance office. It may take a few paychecks for the finance office to fix the error. So please, try to be patient.

2. Know where to find information on other pay discrepancies.
All spouses should get comfortable with research to solve any pay discrepancies. Not sure what a type of pay is? Google it! The internet is full of useful information and people who have gone through similar situations as you. Whenever I have found something in my pay or my husband’s pay that didn’t look right, I looked it up. More times than not I was able to figure out what it was and why there was a problem. This information is helpful for when your Coastie has to contact finance to have the discrepancy fixed.

3. Have an open dialogue about finances with your Coastie.
If there is one thing to take away from this article, please let it be this. Talk to your spouse about your finances. They affect both of you! As long as you both are comfortable talking about money, any problem that arises will be easier to solve. If you and your spouse already discuss money, that’s great! Keep being great! But if not, there is no better day than today to start! Remember, finances don’t have to be such a dry and serious topic. But it does have to be discussed so everyone in the family is on the same page. This wacky and wild Coast Guard life can be tough at times, but don’t let money be the aspect that adds stress to your life.


Disclaimer: Written as a contributing guest columnist. Opinions are the author’s and are not intended to convey or imply any endorsement of any company, service, or person.

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