How to Read a Pay Stub


So you got your first paycheck.

You look at your paystub and are now wondering what all of these numbers mean!

How did I make $1000 and yet only got $800 of that money??  

Between Uncle Sam (IRS), health insurance and potentially any employee purchases you may have made, your take home money seems less than exciting.

Let’s talk about all the different hands that are reaching into your money jar.  

"How to Read a Pay Stub"

"How to Read a Pay Stub"


Even though it is tedious and annoying checking your pay stub and learning how to read your pay stub is very important.

So important that you really need to check your pay stub every pay period.

Prior to direct deposit, it was a lot easier to review this information.

You were handed a physical check with the information.

Now because it's direct deposited into your bank and the information is probably on a website, it's not as convenient to log in and check.

Too often we assume that it is correct. Don’t assume that your paycheck is right. It’s your money!

If you must have motivation, think of your paycheck on Friday.
— Noel Coward

I made that mistake once.

I was online at the company site for some other reason and I just happened to be curious at what the layout of the pay stub was.

When I clicked on it I was surprised to see that my paycheck was wrong.

Upon further review not only was it wrong but it had been wrong for the past several pay periods.

It was a hassle to go back and fix it from several paychecks ago.

I eventually did get it fixed.

The moral of the story was that if I was checking it regularly I would have caught that mistake much sooner.

It definitely would have made life a lot easier.

Other Reasons to Learn How to Read your Pay Stub

Not just for accuracy but you also want to check for tax purposes.

If too much tax is taken out then you will get a big refund and if too little is taken out you will potentially owe taxes.

Don't be that person who finds out during tax season that taxes being taken out of your paycheck were so small that you now owe a very large “lump” sum in taxes.

It is not a good feeling trust me.

Suddenly finding out that you owe a $1000+ in taxes that was not planned is no bueno!

How to Read your Pay Stub- Components


1. Period Start/End

This is important because it determines how the other numbers are calculated.

Typically, if you are a salaried worker this range will be over a month’s span.

If you are an hourly employee then this date will be over a week or 2 weeks depending on your company’s pay period.

2. Gross Wages/Current Earning

This is the total amount of money that you were paid for the given pay period
(Before any withholdings or deductions).

If you’re on salary then it would be your salary per year divided by the number of pay periods you have in a given year.

If you are an hourly worker then it would be the number of hours you worked in that given pay period times your hourly pay rate.

3. Federal Taxes

This is the amount of money that was taken out for the federal income taxes.

The amount will vary depending on the exemptions that were taken when you filled out the W-4 tax form.

4. FICA (Medicare)

It is a combination of social security and Medicare taxes paid by both employee and employer.

Medicare is a federal government program that employees have to pay (your employer matches it) into the system.

Some of the benefits the program provides are hospital payments for Americans age 65 and older and disability benefits.


5. State Tax

The amount of your money that went to the state.

Not applicable for all states because some states do not have income tax (ex. Texas).

6. City Tax (if applicable)

The amount of money taken out going to your city. Not everyone will have this just depends on your city.

7. Social Security

Payment into the social security system.

The employee puts in 6.2% of their gross income into the system and the employer matches it and also pays into the system.

Social security provides benefits to current recipients such as retired workers who also paid into the system.

8. Medical Reimbursement/Pre tax Benefits

The amount of money taken out for medical related pre-tax benefits.  

Such as HSA or flex spending plans.

HSA and flex are accounts that you contribute your pre-taxed money (i.e money that will not be taxed) for healthcare related expenses.

Both of them have their pros and cons.

9. Insurance Deductions

Taken out for insurance premiums.

This would be the amount you are required to pay for the insurance plan you have through your employer.

Normally calculated per month but the amount is typically split up between the number of pay periods you have in a month.

Example: if you get paid twice a month your premium would be divided by two and that amount will come out each pay period.

Some employees are fortunate enough to have their employer pay some or all of their premium.


10. YTD Pay

This is the total amount you have been paid since the beginning of the current calendar year.

When you multiply your gross pay by the number pay periods you have so far in that calendar year.

So if the current pay period is in October.

The YTD pay would be how much you have been paid since January of that current year.

11. YTD Deductions

This is the amount of money that has been deducted from your paycheck that calendar year.

12. Net Pay

The amount of money that you received during the pay period.

This is after taxes and deductions. Typically this will be less than your gross pay.

If you are a new nurse the sky's the limit for you from this point forward.

Check out our blog and keep checking back we have ways to manage your money and improve your position so you will stand out for those raises at work.

**It is important to note that paystubs from all companies look different so keep that in mind when using this as a guide to learn how to read your pay stub.**

Have you looked at your paystub before and discovered that it was very wrong!?

Please share this article so we can get the word out and educate others.