How to read your paycheck

Drag the magnifying glass over this sample paycheck and pay stub to learn about each part.

Use the magnifying glass to learn more about each part.
As you use the red dot to drag the magnifying glass over the paycheck stub, the elements are explained here. Drag the magnifying glass up/down to see more
This additional form that’s attached to the check is called the pay stub. It shows the details of what you have earned and what amounts have been deducted during the pay period. This is the pay period, that is, the calendar days for which you are being paid. This is your gross income, the full amount you earned during the pay period. This is your net income or take-home pay--the amount you’re being paid after taxes, insurance, or other costs have been subtracted from your gross income. (While it’s great to see the total you’ve earned, your take-home pay is the amount of your check. When you plan your spending, be sure to use this smaller, net income, figure. It’s the actual amount of money you have to work with.) This is the number of withholding allowances you are claiming. It determines how much money your employer takes out of every paycheck to help cover your taxes and whether, at the end of the year, you’ll receive a refund or owe more taxes to the government. (When you start a new job, you’ll be required to fill out a federal W-4 form and indicate this number. Click on Library to learn more.) This section shows taxes. Remember: you don’t take home every dollar you earn. You must pay taxes and employers by law must pay them from your paycheck. The most common taxes are federal income taxes and in many states, state income taxes. You have to pay a Social Security contribution with each paycheck to fund retirement and medical care after retirement. These are workers’ compensation or disability taxes. These fund programs that provide support if you’re injured on the job or are unable to work. Contributions to unemployment insurance provide support if you lose your job through a lay-off or no fault of your own If you’re a full-time employee receiving health insurance benefits, you usually have to pay part of the cost yourself, and it’s often deducted from your pay. Sometimes other deductions may be taken from your paycheck, for example, union dues or contributions to savings and retirement plans that you choose to participate in.
It's a good idea to read your pay stub every time you get paid. Make sure it’s correct, and ask your boss if you have any questions.
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