Understanding Your Pay Stub

A GIF of Rachael from Friends giddily celebrating her first paycheck. The text above reads First paycheck vibes.

If you’ve ever visited a viral Reddit thread, you’ve seen the horror stories. A company refuses to pay over-time. Or a worker was over-paid and now they have to pay it back through deductions on their next paychecks.

Don’t read Reddit? You may have seen it in the news. In October 2022, an Alabama judge reaffirmed that a stainless-steel manufacturer owed $13.2 million dollars to its workers who weren’t paid overtime at the correct amount, in a timely manner, or for all time worked. The paper trail that got them this decision and payout? It included pay stubs.

Your pay stub isn’t just a useful tool in a lawsuit.

Your pay stub is a key document that provides a lot of important information about your employment and your pay. It also helps you manage your money.

That’s why you need to understand and review your paystub.

Sure, it can be a confusing, full of numbers and abbreviations that don’t seem to make any sense. But don’t worry – we’re here to help!

Here’s a quick guide to understanding your pay stub:

First, what’s a pay stub?

For most of us, money is something that we work for. We exchange our time and talents for compensation that we can then use to purchase the things we need and want in life. Your pay stub documents that you’re being paid fairly.

Your pay stub is a physical record of the money earned from your job during a specific period of time, typically weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. It shows how many hours you worked, your hourly rate, and any deductions that were taken out of your pay.

Why is the information on a pay stub important?

Image explaining various abbreviations common to a pay stub. The top text reads The Nav.it guide to understanding your pay stub
YTD - year-to-date
Fed/FWT - Federal tax
St Tax/SWT - State tax
Ins/Med - insurance/medical insurance
STD/LTD - short-term/long-term disability

This information is important for a number of reasons. First, it can help you keep track of your earnings and ensure that you are being paid correctly. Second, it can help you budget your money and understand where your money is going. Finally, if you ever have any questions about your taxes or deductions, your pay stub can be a valuable resource.

If you’re like most people, money is important to you. That’s why it’s so important to understand and track your pay stub.

Next time you get your paycheck, take a few minutes to look at your pay stub and familiarize yourself with the information it contains.

How to get familiar with your pay stub

The first thing you’ll want to do is make sure that all of the information on your pay stub is correct. This includes your name, social security number, and the dates of the pay period. If anything looks off, be sure to bring it up with your employer.

Next, take a look at your hourly rate. This is the amount of money you earn for each hour that you work. If you’re salaried, this will be a set amount that doesn’t change from week to week. But if you’re paid hourly, your rate may fluctuate depending on the number of hours you worked or if you received any overtime pay.

Then, take a look at the total hours you worked during the pay period. This should match up with the number of hours you actually worked, minus any breaks or lunches. If it doesn’t, again, be sure to bring it up with your employer.

After that, you’ll see a breakdown of any deductions that were taken out of your pay. The most common deductions are for taxes, social security, and Medicare. There may also be deductions for things like health insurance or retirement savings.

Still confused about the contents of your pay stub? That’s ok.

Here’s a break down of what you can expect to find:

Gross pay: This is the total amount of money you earned before taxes and other deductions are taken out.

Net pay: This is your take-home pay after all taxes and deductions have been taken out.

GIF of Rachael from Friends confused and asking, "Who's FICA? Why's he getting all my money?" The text above reads Reviewing your pay stub be like.

Deductions: These are money that is taken out of your paycheck for things like taxes, health insurance, or retirement savings plans.

Taxes: The government requires that you pay taxes on your income. The amount of taxes you pay will depend on how much money you make and what tax bracket you are in.

Health insurance: If you have health insurance through your job, money will be deducted from your paycheck to help pay for your portion of the premium.

Retirement savings plans: Many employers offer retirement savings plans, such as 401(k)s, that allow you to save money for retirement. Money is deducted from your paycheck to go into these accounts.

Other deductions you may see on your pay stub

  • Life insurance: If you have life insurance through your employer, the premium may be deducted from your pay.
  • Disability insurance: If you have disability insurance through your employer, the premium may be deducted from your pay.
  • Union dues: If you are a member of a union, the dues may be deducted from your pay.
  • Parking: If you park at your workplace, the parking fee may be deducted from your pay.
  • Child care: If you have child care expenses, the payments may be deducted from your pay.
  • Charitable donations: If you make charitable donations through your employer, the amount may be deducted from your pay.

When you understand numbers on your pay stub mean, you can double-check that you’re getting paid what you’re supposed to be and covering for what you plan for.

A woman sitting at her kitchen table on her laptop. The overlaid text reads How to budget based on your pay stub. The read now button links to the article Budgeting Based on Your Pay Stub.

If you notice a discrepancy on your pay stub, don’t panic! There are a few things you can do to figure out what’s going on.

First, check to see if the hours you worked match up with the hours listed on your pay stub. If they don’t match, that could be the reason for the discrepancy.

Next, take a look at the deductions listed on your pay stub. If there are any deductions that you don’t recognize, contact your HR department to find out more information.

Finally, if you still can’t figure out what’s going on, reach out to your human resources department, manager or supervisor. They will help you figure out what’s going on and get the issue resolved.

Related Reads:

How to Stretch Your Paycheck

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Learn more button links to Nav.it for employees page.
We’re here to help you break free from the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle and navigate your financial journey, one day at a time. Nav.it At Work gives you the tools to take control of your financial future.


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