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HR Resources: How to Read a Pay Stub with Lesson Plans

When you earn money at a job, you'll probably get a pay stub with each paycheck. Many people don't bother reading their pay stubs, as they're more concerned with the money they've earned on payday.


The information presented on a pay stub is both helpful and important. If you don't read your pay stub, you won't know about the deductions subtracted from your paycheck, and you won't know where your money is going.

It's even possible that money is being deducted incorrectly.

Learn how to read and understand a pay stub so you can track your earnings and deductions. You might also want to use a paycheck calculator to figure out your take-home pay.

1. Pay Period: The pay period is the date range covered on the pay stub. You might be paid weekly, biweekly, or monthly, depending on your company's payment policy. The pay period will be important to know if you ever need to contest errors with paid leave or deductions.

2. Gross Pay: The gross pay is the total income you earned during a specific pay period. Gross pay is your earnings before deductions, and it should always correspond with your salary amount.

3. Net Pay: The net pay is the amount of money you earn after deductions are subtracted from the gross pay. The net pay is the amount paid with your paycheck, whether by direct deposit or with an actual check.

4. Taxes: The taxes deducted from your paycheck will include federal, state, and possibly local taxes. Federal taxes are based on your earnings and deducted according to the exemptions you indicated on the W-4 form you filled out with your employer. State taxes are based on the unique policies of your state of residence. Local taxes are somewhat uncommon, but some municipalities deduct local taxes from residents' income. The Federal Insurance Contributions Act, or FICA, includes money withheld to fund programs such as Social Security.

5. Medicare: Medicare is a mandatory deduction from gross pay to pay for health insurance for retirees and disabled people. Your employer will match your contribution to Medicare.

6. Social Security: Social Security is a mandatory deduction from gross pay. Your deductions will be matched by your employer and placed into an account that you can access later.

7. Year-to-Date Information: The year-to-date information contained on your pay stub shows the total amount of money withheld for the different categories. Monitoring year-to-date information helps you track how much taxes and other money has been withheld during the calendar year.

8. Health Insurance: If your employer offers health insurance, you may have a deduction to help pay for your coverage.

9. Employer-Sponsored Retirement Account Contributions: Your employer may also offer a savings plan that you can contribute to each paycheck.

10. Flexible Spending Account: Some employers set up accounts for employees that allow them to save pre-tax earnings to use to pay for medical expenses.

11. Health Savings Account: This account enables you to save pre-tax earnings to pay for medical expenses. Employees with high-deductible insurance plans may have this benefit.

12. Leave Balance: A leave balance shows the amount of paid leave you have available for the current year.





  • 1
    Select your pay stub template.
  • 2
    Provide the information required.
  • 3
    Preview and pay.