Sign me up for updates. Sign up now

Donate Take Action

Understanding the information in your paycheck stub


Understanding Your Paycheck

Whether you receive a paper check or direct deposit, your employer should send you a paycheck “stub” each pay period.  A paycheck stub summarizes how your total earnings were distributed.  This includes how much was paid on your behalf in taxes, how much was deducted for benefits, and the amount that was paid to you after taxes and deductions were taken.

Paycheck stubs are normally divided into different sections:

  • Personal and Check Information:  This section includes your personal information, i.e. your name, address, and employee number.  It also includes your filing status--single or married--as well as the withholding number that you elected on your IRS form W-4.
  • Earnings:  This section lists your earning from the pay period and includes overtime.  The earnings section also shows pre-tax deductions for different employee benefits that you may receive, such as health insurance and retirement contributions.
  • Deductions:  This section shows additional deductions that might be taken out of your paycheck post-tax, like group life or disability insurance.
  • Withholding:  This is the money that your employer is required to take out of your paycheck on your behalf and includes federal and state income tax payments, Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, and Worker’s Compensation.

While the “withholding” section contains mandatory deductions, the other sections contain information that you have more control over.  You can use information in your paycheck stub to maximize your pay both now and in the future.

Tools to Help

Getting More Money from Your Paycheck

Learn More

Overview of Employee Benefits

Learn More

Setting up Direct Deposit

Learn More

Direct Deposit and Payroll Cards

Learn More

Show Hide Checklist

What You Can Do Right Now

Information is great. But taking small steps now can lead to big changes.
  • Today
  • Check your withholding. A simple rule of thumb is to take one additional withholding on your W-4 for every $1,000 in tax refunds you received last year. It will reduce your refund but put more money in your paycheck.
  • If you haven’t already, sign up for direct deposit if you have an account at a bank or credit union.
  • If you don’t have a bank account, determine whether to open a checking account or use a payroll card/prepaid debit card. Think about the potential advantages and costs of checking account or payroll/prepaid debit card
  • Next Week
  • Enroll in employer-sponsored benefits If you happen to work for a place that offers a match for contributions to retirement, enroll in the retirement program. Your HR department can provide you with information about choices regarding your retirement account.
  • Use the checklist to make sure you’re making the most of your employee benefits.
  • During the Next Few Months
  • Set up a linked savings account to build savings.
  • Make sure you understand your benefits. If you have questions or concerns, meet with human resources staff where you work.