How To Read a Paycheck Stub

by Cindy Quarters
Your pay stub describes your earnings and deductions.

Every paycheck comes with a stub that gives you the details about your earnings and deductions, but if you aren’t used to reading the information, you may have trouble figuring out just what’s going on. After you understand your paycheck stub, it is easy to determine how much you made in the current pay period, how much you’ve made for the entire year and what’s going on with your deductions.

Find the section of the stub that’s labeled "Gross pay," "Salary" or something similar. The figure in this section represents everything you earned before any deductions are taken out. The amount should match your hours worked multiplied by your pay rate, your salary, or the total commissions you earned for the pay period.

Look for the word “Federal.” It may or may not mention taxes, but this field shows how much money is being withheld from your paycheck for federal taxes. You may also have a “State” field, if your state has an income tax, with an amount withheld for state taxes.

Locate any additional deductions in the same section where the federal tax deduction is shown. The exact list depends on your location and situation, but you can expect to see deductions for Social Security tax and Medicare and for optional programs such as health insurance premiums, union dues and possibly a 401(k) retirement savings account.

Locate the "Net Pay" section of your pay stub. This is the gross amount of your pay minus all the deductions, and it should match the amount of your check.

Scan your paycheck stub to see if it contains year-to-date information. Typically, the YTD statistics include your gross pay so far for the year along with a net pay total and an itemized total of each payroll deduction.

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