Military E4 Pay Compared To “Sally McBurgerflipper” Pay


Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions or viewpoints of the International Brotherhood of Veterans (IBOV).

I realize that the following breakdown of a post that I recently saw circulating on facebook will not make me Mr. Popular, but I have to get this out there, so I am submitting it here.  I am tired of reading comparisons of Military pay to civilian pay that leave the reader ill-informed.  The Military pays pretty well.  What other job can you sign up for at 18 years of age with nothing but a highschool diploma under your belt, get a guaranteed paycheck each month, 30 days of vacation (leave) a year, learn a skill or trade through Military training, and even take advantage of the tuition assistance program to get a free college education?

Do I think the Military should be paid more?  Yes, of course.  Do I think that civilians should be paid more? Well, I guess it depends on what kind of job it is they have, what the requirements are and other factors.  It is hard to say.  I am not here to fight for higher pay for civilians, but instead I hope that I will be able to break down the numbers to help provide a more accurate picture of the current pay for an E4 in today’s Military compared to a civilian worker with similar levels of education, similar age and living in the same geographic area using the numbers from the facebook post below.

The following was originally posted as a public post on a facebook page. In the post, the monthly paycheck of a specialist (pay grade E4) is broken down in an attempt by the original author to prove that what he calls the “Sally McBurgerflippers” of the world have no room to complain about their paycheck.  I do feel that the original author left out some important information as he outlined the hourly pay, but not the benefits that Servicemembers receive and does not take into account that the “Sally McBurgerflippers” have to pay for many of the same benefits the Servicemember enjoy for free.

Originally posted on facebook.

20150712-fb“Since some people want to complain about their $8.75/ hour, here’s a military E-4 (specialist) pay stub for the month. $2122.80 for one month of service (base pay). Disregard the other amounts, because the majority of e-4’s don’t get paid them. Subtract the deductions (which EVERYONE pays no matter where you work, we just have the privelege of paying out the ass) and you get 1709.19. Divide this amnt by 4 to get one week’s pay, you get 427.30. We get up and do PT starting at 6:30 a.m. and we’re on the clock until 5:00 p.m. do the math, that’s 10.5 hours. 10.5 x 5 = 52.5. Divide the amount after deductions and you get $8.139.. $8.14 an hour, and you never see any soldier petitioning to increase our pay. Of course, that’s the amount after deductions so that’s not truly our hourly wage but that’s what we SEE out of it. When was the last time Sally McBurgerflipper slept in a field for a month at a time? Deployed to a combat zone? Laid his/her life down simply for the freedom of millions of men and women he/she had never met? Our NORMAL duty day is more than full time, not including the times we work until 9, 10 at night or go to the field for a month at a time or deploy for a year at a time. I can honestly say, these men and women I have had the privelege to serve beside for these past few years are among the most humble group of employees I’ve ever met. And for that… I will FOREVER be a proud veteran of the world’s finest Military.”

Below are some benefits which were not addressed in the original post.  Please understand that everything below is either provided to Servicemembers or included in their paycheck and not considered part of their base pay.


The original author’s argument fails to include that as a single Servicemember, the Servicemember is provided billeting (housing) free of charge.  If eligible to live on the economy, the service member is provided money to help cover the cost of the housing.  A civilian would have to pay for their housing out of their paycheck.  Anyone can check what any pay grade is entitled to for each zip code by using the calculator here.

Medical and Dental Insurance

Medical and dental insurance is a benefit that is provided free for Servicemembers.  A civilian would likely have to pay for their own medical and dental insurance plan or at least a co-payment out of their paycheck.

Clothing Allowance

As an enlisted Servicemember, this person would receive money every year to help replace worn out uniform items.  A civilian would not receive money from the business they work for to replace worn out clothing they would wear at work. The 2015 Clothing Allowance Chart is located here.

Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS)

Enlisted Servicemembers are either provided a meal card which allows them to eat three meals a day for free in the dining facility or they are provided money in their paycheck called a Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS) to help cover the cost of meals.  Enlisted members receive $367.92 for BAS per month.  It is assumed that the meal card equals the $367.92 that a non-meal card holder would receive in their paycheck each month.

Deployment Pay

Since the original author mentioned deployments, it should be noted that as many are well aware, many deployments are in an area where your pay is not taxed, so you have to take into account the Combat Zone Tax Exclusion (CZTE) or a “tax free paycheck”. On top of the tax free paycheck, other entitlements such as Hostile Fire/Imminent Danger Pay (HF/IDP), Hardship Duty Pay – Location (HDP-L), and even Family Separation Allowance-II (FSA) all add up to increase the paycheck that the Servicemember will receive each month while in a deployed location.

The following amounts for benefits are what I will use for the calculations below:

  • Housing: $966 (For E4 without dependents in area code 76544)
  • Health Insurance for a 21 year old male = $261 a month (source)
  • Clothing Allowance: $435.60 a year. (divided by 12 months = 36.30)
  • Basic Allowance for Subsistance (BAS): $367.92 for BAS per month

Breaking down the E4 pay WITH BENEFITS

After adding in the additional benefits that the non-deployed Servicemembers receive (shown above), the pay is not looking too bad for a single E4 approximately 21 years of age.  Using the information listed above, I calculate the base pay (2122.80) plus benefits to equal around $3,717.72 per month before taxes.  Subtract the deductions listed on the above Leave and Earnings Statement (LES) for Federal Taxes, FICA-SOC Security and FICA Medicare and you end up with $3,304.05 per month after taxes. Using the number of hours that the original author uses in his calculations (52.5 per week) and this comes out to $826.01 a week, and divided by the 52.5 hours he uses in the original post, leaves $15.73 per hour.  $15.73 per hour for pay AND benefits is a little better than the $8.14 an hour that the original author came up with.  In the end, the Servicemember only really sees what is on their Leave and Earning Statement which shows approximately $1700 per month after taxes.  They don’t think about the benefits they get such as food, housing, and medical and dental insurance which are all paid for and not included in their basic pay.

Breaking down civilian pay WITH BENEFITS

Using the same amounts used above for determining the E4 paycheck, and taking into account the pay for “Sally McBurgerflipper” that the original author mentioned, I will break down the numbers.  The original author mentioned Sally’s pay as $8.75 per hour.  If Sally was to work the same number of hours as the Servicemember (52.5 a week), Sally’s pay before taxes would be $459.38 a week or $1,837.50 a month.  I will do my best to guess on taxes, but I am guessing that Sally’s taxes will only be slightly lower than the E4’s taxes.  So, we will subtract the taxes and bring her pay after taxes to $1515.  If it costs Sally as much for housing as the Servicemember is provided by the government (because that is what the government feels the housing costs) then Sally loses $966 out of her pay to cover the cost of housing which leaves her $551.50 in her pocket for the month.  Now take out the health insurance at $261 per month and that leaves her $290.50.  We will skip the clothing allowance part.  Sally has to eat, and the government determined that an Enlisted Servicemember can eat for $367.92 per month, so Sally will use the same amount of money for food.  Subtracting the $367.92 per month for food leaves Sally McBurgerflipper with a deficit of $77.42 a month.  At the end of the month, Sally will be in the hole about $77 dollars.

With both the E4 Servicemember and Sally having a place to live, food to eat, and medical and dental insurance, the Servicemember ends up with approximately $1700 a month in their pocket and Sally McBurgerflipper ends up owing $77.42 a month.  Does this paint a different picture than the original facebook post of the pay comparisons of an E4 to a civilian “burger flipper”?  I think it does.

Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions or viewpoints of the International Brotherhood of Veterans (IBOV).

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