If you are one of the many people who get your military pay early, this March end-of-month pay period is going to be long. Every time we have a long pay period, Facebook explodes with conversations on this subject, and they provide a fascinating look into how people handle their money.
Actual Military Paydays
Because every month is not 28 days long, and because banks don’t work on weekends and holidays, military pay doesn’t always come on the 1st and 15th of the month. Any time that the 1st or the 15th falls on a weekend or holiday, the actual military payday is pushed to the previous business day. If there is a weekend and a holiday together, the actual military payday can be up to three days earlier than the 1st or the 15th. Usually, these things sort of balance themselves out over the course of the year, with military paydays usually coming 14-17 days apart. But every once in a while, the calendar falls in a crazy sort of way and the paydays come a lot closer together or a lot further apart.
Early Direct Deposit
Then, many military-friendly banks and credit unions offer early direct deposit of military pay. The number of days early and the exact details vary by bank or credit union, but a popular offering is “one business day early.” That’s what USAA offers, and it is (sort of) what Navy Federal Credit Union (NFCU) offers to members who use an Active Duty Checking account for their military pay direct deposit. There are a handful of other credit unions and banks that offer some type of early direct deposit.
Navy Federal Credit Union’s Overnight Posting System
Separately, but totally important for this particular pay period, is how NFCU posts their deposits. I’m sure this isn’t the language that NFCU uses, but I’m trying to make this easy to understand: NFCU schedules your pay deposits to happen the night before the pay is supposed to be in your account. So, if payday is 15 February, NFCU schedules the pay deposit to happen overnight between 14 February and 15 February, so that the pay is available for use on the morning of 15 February. However, this process requires that the day on which the pay is scheduled is a business day. Therefore, when the day that your pay is supposed to be deposited (either early or on the regular day) is on the first business day of a week, then that scheduling is pushed back to the previous business day (often Friday) and is available for use on the day after the business day before the day you were supposed to get paid (often Saturday).
I know that is super-confusing, so I did a little sample. Using the calendar below, the actual military payday was Monday, 15 April 2019. Anyone who got paid on the actual payday (not using an Active Duty Checking account) should have had their pay available on the morning of Monday, 15 April 2019. However, NFCU’s pay posting system doesn’t have a way to have pay be available on the morning of the first business day of the week. The scheduling of that pay occurred on the previous business day, which was Friday, 12 April 2019. That pay posted overnight and was available for use on the morning of Saturday, 13 April 2019. Those folks got paid two days early even though the didn’t use a checking account that offered early direct deposit.
Is that at all clear?
This March End-of-Month Pay Period
Because the 15th of March is on a Monday, a lot of people receive their pay on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday, depending on their individual institution’s policies and procedures. With the first of April falling on a Thursday, that means anyone who got paid early will be going 19 days between pay deposits. In my experience, I start hearing about anything over 16 days – that seems to be the point at which it becomes a problem.
It is my opinion (and let’s be clear, everything at this blog is opinion): Folks who bank with USAA will have their pay credited on Friday, 12 March 2021, pending the receipt of pay information from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS.) Their next military pay deposit will be Wednesday, 31 March 2021.
NFCU – Active Duty Checking Accounts
NFCU offers early direct deposit as a benefit to members who use an Active Duty Checking account for their military pay deposit. For the mid-month pay, pay will be pending on Thursday, 11 March 2021, to be posted overnight and available for use on Friday, 12 March 2021. The end-of-month military pay deposit will be pending on Tuesday, 30 March 2021, to be posted overnight and available for use on Wednesday, 31 March 2021.
NFCU – All Other Checking Accounts
Folks who use any other type of Navy Federal checking account will have the same problem, just with all the dates shifted by one day. For the mid-month pay, pay will be pending on Friday, 12 March 2021, to be posted overnight and available for use on Saturday, 13 March 2021. The end-of-month military pay deposit will be pending on Wednesday, 31 March 2021, to be posted overnight and available for use on Thursday, 1 April 2021.
What’s The Big Drama?
Situations like these tend to show who is struggling and who has a good handle on their financial situation. There are valid arguments on both sides, with some folks saying that there is no way that even good money managers can stretch a paycheck for three weeks, and with other folks saying that any issues are solely a problem with your spending. Neither side is 100% right or 100% wrong, but It can be useful to see how a long pay period impacts your finances, and use what you learn to make little improvements for the future. Click To Tweet.
From a long viewpoint, there shouldn’t be a financial problem with a long pay period. Regardless of how the paychecks fall in a year, the year is still 365 (or 366) days long and there are still 24 paychecks in those same number of days. You have the same number of rent payments, and car payments, and credit card payments whether your pay comes 10 days apart or 20 days apart. Either you have the financial capacity to make it through a 31 day month, or you don’t – when the paychecks come shouldn’t matter.
But when you drill down, there can be some individual difficulties. Let’s say your grocery budget only covers 17 days of groceries – how are you going to eat for those 3 extra days? Logically, it is easy to say that you should have some left over from the last time we had a shorter pay period. But when you’re pinching pennies, sometimes it doesn’t work out that way.
A long pay period is a great way to measure how you are doing with your finances. If you don’t even notice, you’re probably doing a good job. If it is a bother but not a big deal, you are probably doing OK but have room for improvement. If it is an emergency, you need to make some major changes.
What You Can Do For This June
If you are living paycheck-to-paycheck, start planning now to get through this March. Cut back your spending, and use the tips in 85 Ways To Get Through A Long Pay Period to ensure that you won’t be short on any essentials at the end of the month.
What You Can Do For The Future
If this month is going to be tight for you, get through the month and then start planning now to avoid problems during future long pay periods – like the one happening during the second half of this November. Thanksgiving is a terrible time to be short of money. Build up your emergency fund, build a spending plan around a 31 day month, pay off debt, and do all the other basic things that build a solid financial foundation. Meet with the financial educators available at your installation’s family readiness center. Take a class. Read a book. I promise you that your life will be so much easier!
More Long Pay Periods in 2021
Depending on how you get paid (early or regular,) this will not be your last long pay period this year. Plan ahead now so that your August and November don’t have any additional stress – goodness knows that life can be stressful enough without money troubles.
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