Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Do I work? Is the JAG pay 'enough'?

To answer the first question, no, I don't work. We had 3 kids when J joined the AF and I have never felt like we didn't make 'enough' money. To start, Texas was a very cheap area to live. Coming from California EVERYTHING was cheaper in Texas! Out of seven JAG wives in Texas only one worked. She was a school teacher and they didn't have kids so it made perfect sense for her to get a job. I remember her saying once that the money she made allowed her to buy more things she wanted not just the things they needed. Most of the JAG wives here in Germany don't work either, but we are in a foreign country which may make job hunting a little difficult :)

However, 2 factors come into play for us. First, we don't currently pay any law school loan payments each month. The University J went to offers a loan repayment program for those graduates who take government jobs and make under a certain $$ amount each year. Well, we fit that category. Otherwise we would have to pay $700 a month toward student loans. Which we save at least that much a month anyways but if we had to pay it then our savings wouldn't be as high and we wouldn't feel comfortable like we do.

Second factor, I am frugal by nature. I don't buy whatever I want but at the same time I don't feel deprived. If we want to go out to eat, we do, just not multiple times a week. If I want a new dress, I buy it. Our home has nice things, (admittedly I'm on the vain side a little) I like nice clothes for me and my family but somehow we have enough money.

I'll also note that once J became a JAG we have NEVER received such huge tax returns before. Last year we received nearly $11,000 and the year before that (where we were AF for only half a year) we got $8,000 back! BAH is not taxed so you actually make more money than the IRS docks you for.

Lauren, I remember thinking the same thing you did before J started working as a JAG. J went to a top 10 law school and his peers we're coming out making double, nearly triple with bonuses than what he started off earning. With that said, for our family, money hasn't been a worry at all. Obviously, we're not rolling in the dough like his peers are but my girls get to be with their Dad each day so it's worth the pay off :)

If there are other JAG wives reading this and you have good input please speak up and I will post your comments because this is a good question. It was definitely one of my main concerns before J accepted the position.


  1. I am an Army JAG wife and have been for a little over a year now. I do work, however we do not have children and my husband is currently deployed so it is a good way to keep me busy. My husband's salary is enough for us to live on and for us to put a good deal in savings. My pay is really only used for "fun money" and to pay large amounts on debts we are paying off such as my car, which we plan to pay off in a months time. We are looking at coming out of his first deployment with two cars completely paid for, and huge dents put in our student loans!

  2. Hello. I would like to thank you for sharing your experiences! I'm a young father who is currently finishing my undergraduate studies and considering JAG as an option to serve our country and still be with my wife and daughter every day.

    How much family time does your husband get to enjoy each day? Do you go through any long deployment separations? Do you think I could afford to send my daughter to a private school on a JAG salary?

    I have so many questions, but I'd greatly appreciate any insight you can provide on the few questions above. Either way, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for publishing this blog.

  3. I'm also looking for a law school loan repayment program. Would you share which law school your husband attended, and whether or not they still offer this repayment program? I apologize for asking so many questions. My wife and I are trying to seriously weigh this option before spring semester begins. Thank you again! :)

  4. Thanks so much for this! It definitely makes me feel much better. We will have student loans for the first year, but luckily we qualified for the repayment program after that. I really appreciate all of the insight!

  5. Hi LOAJW -

    Have read through everything you've posted - thank you for your family's service to our country!

    Do you or Top Gun have any advice for an active attorney applying to JAG? What is JAG looking for in a candidate these days? What should you stress in your interview? Does the interview even matter?

    Thanks in advance!

    Potential JAGger

  6. Hello! I am an AF JAG wife and I'm so glad I've stumbled upon this blog. Sometimes it seems we JAG spouses are all alone . . . after all, no one likes a lawyer ;-)

    I am an attorney myself, which makes it very difficult to work at every new duty location (paying for the application, taking a refresher course, sitting for the exam . . . etc). I am licensed in two states and although I'd love to go back to work, I'm not willing yet to expend all that energy on a third license.

    My husband's pay is enough for us to live on, but after paying our HUGE student loan bills every month, there isn't much left over for the fun stuff. I would recommend to any potential JAG spouses out there (or any military spouse really) to consider a portable career, something that you can do anywhere.