Leaving the military also means leaving some nice financial perks behind. Unlike most civilian jobs, the military pays service members an annual salary plus money towards meals and housing costs. And while it may not seem like much at the time, it definitely adds up when you no longer have it.
So how much money do you need to make on the civilian side to have a comparable lifestyle? Let’s break it down.
The most straightforward amount is obviously your base salary, which is determined by your rank and your number of years of service. For our example, let’s use an Army captain with five years of service who makes about $60,000 a year and an Army sergeant with five years of service who makes about $30,000 a year.
Next, you’ll want to consider the Basic Allowance for Subsistence, or BAS, amount. This amount is intended to offset costs of a service member’s meals and does not increase with dependents. The amount also changes each year based on the price of food as measured by the USDA food cost index. For 2014, the going rate for officers is about $246 a month or $2,952 a year and for enlisted service members it’s about $357 a month or $4,290 a year.
BAH – Highly Variable, Very Valuable
Then you’ll want to consider the Basic Allowance for Housing, or BAH, that is factored into your paycheck. The amount you’re entitled to is based on rank, if you have dependents and the region you’re living in. Using the BAH calculator, you’ll see that an Army captain with dependents living at Fort Hood would make an extra $1,581 a month or almost $19,000 a year to cover housing expenses. An Army sergeant without dependents living in the Fort Bragg area would make about $1,000 a month or $12,000 a year to help with housing costs.
Looking at our examples, the captain would need to make an additional $22,000 a year to lead a comparable lifestyle in the Central Texas area, which means a starting salary of about $82,000. Our single sergeant would need to factor in about $16,000 more making his ideal starting salary on the civilian side about $46,000.
Don’t forget other cost-of-living adjustments
Of course, there are other perks that help out your military paycheck like hazardous duty pay, dependent compensation, and cost-of-living adjustments that aren’t even considered in these scenarios.
Overall, each service member’s paycheck is going to be a little bit different.