A majority of human resources professionals appear to believe that employees are likely to overreport the importance of pay in employee surveys. However, research suggests the opposite is actually true. We review evidence showing the discrepancies between what people say and do with respect to pay. We then discuss why pay is likely to be such an important general motivator, as well as a variety of reasons why managers might underestimate its importance. We note that pay is not equally important in all situations or to all individuals, and identify circumstances under which pay is likely to be more (or less) important to employees. We close with recommendations for implementing research findings with respect to pay and suggestions for evaluating pay systems. © 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.