Skip to content

Money Management: Knowing How to Read Your Paycheck Stub

money management paycheck stubMoney management is important when taking control of your finances. If you’re trying to manage your finances, then it’s important to understand your paycheck. Learn more about how to read your paycheck stub to aid in money management. 

Money Management: Knowing How to Read Your Paycheck Stub

Getting your paycheck every two weeks is exciting, but getting your paycheck stub is more along the lines of stress-inducing. What do all those numbers mean? Why are there so many different sections?
Understanding your pay stubs isn’t hard if you know what to look for. It’s especially important for easier money management. We’ve put together this guide to help you learn how to read your paycheck stubs correctly.

So let’s get started!

Note: Ready to invest? Sick of the volatile stock market? Check out the cool alternative options below from trusted affiliate partners!

  • Vinovest: Invest in wine!
  • Fundrise: Invest in real estate investments with as little as $10!
  • Crowdstreet: Invest in online private equity real estate!
  • YieldStreet: For high-income earners only. Invest in art, real estate, legal finance, etc.

Paycheck Stub Terms You Need to Know First

Before you show you how to read your paycheck stub, there are a few terms you need to understand first. These terms will pop up at least once each on your paystub, but you may see them there several times. That’s why it’s important to know exactly what they mean.

Here is a short description of some of the most important paystub terms.

Reporting Period

The reporting period records the dates during which you made the money shown on the paycheck stub. There will be two different dates—the earlier as the start of the reporting period and the later as the end of the reporting period.

Year to Date

Year to date (or YTD) refers to the amount of money you’ve made from the beginning of the year (either calendar year or fiscal year) to the current date.

Gross Pay

Gross pay is the total amount of money you’ve made before any deductions have been withheld.

Net Pay

Your net pay is the amount of money you have leftover after deductions. Because of this, it will be smaller than your gross pay, and it is the amount of money you actually get to put in your bank account and spend.


Deductions are any taxes or other plans (such as a 401k) that have been taken out of your gross pay. Each deduction will be documented on your paystub so you know exactly where your money went.

Related: How to Stretch Your Budget When You Live Paycheck to Paycheck

Learning How to Read Your Paycheck Stub

Now that you understand these basic paystub terms, we’ll show you how to read the rest of your paycheck stub.

First of all, at the top of your paystub, you’ll see a lot of information. This will include things like the name and address of the company you work for, your name and address, your Social Security number, and your employee ID number.

Underneath this personal information, there are five other sections. Here’s a quick description of each one.

1. Gross Pay

The first section of your paystub will document your gross pay for this pay period.

If you earn an hourly rate, such as $20 per hour, this rate will be listed along with the total number of hours you worked and the total amount of money you made. If you earn a yearly salary, it will show this instead.

Your gross pay will also document any other type of income you earned outside your normal wages. This can include things like overtime, tips, bonuses, etc.

Related: 12 Ways to Increase Your Income This Month

2. Taxes

There are a number of taxes that will be taken out of your gross pay.

For example, you’ll likely have to pay the following taxes:

  • Federal income tax
  • State tax
  • Social Security tax
  • Medicare tax

Depending on where you live, you may have to pay some other types of taxes as well. But anything you have to pay will be listed under this section.

3. Other Deductions

You might not see a separate section for other deductions. Some paystubs include these deductions in the same section as the tax withholdings. So even if you don’t see a separate section for other deductions, don’t panic. They’re still there.

There are a variety of other deductions that can be taken out of your gross pay.

Some of them include:

  • Insurance plans
  • Health savings account
  • Flexible spending account
  • Retirement plans

If you don’t have any insurance plans or retirement plans through your employer, these things won’t be withheld from your paycheck.

4. Net Pay

After you make it through the taxes and deductions, you’ll see your net pay. This is the amount of money you have leftover to spend.

It’s a good idea to go through and do the math yourself to make sure the net pay amount is accurate. If you do find a mistake, you should contact your employer right away. They’ll be able to help you fix the problem and get you the money you deserve.

5. Year to Date Pay

At the very bottom of your paystub, the total YTD gross earnings, YTD deductions, and YTD net earnings will be documented. These numbers show you how much money you’ve made throughout the entire year.

Related: You’re Broke and Your Paycheck Isn’t The Problem

Creating a Paystub as an Employer

Reading a paycheck stub is one thing, but creating dozens (or even hundreds) of them as an employer can be even harder. After all, you have to make sure you get the right information in the right places.

Instead of trying to do it all alone, you should consider using a pay stub generator. This type of tool will make your job much faster and much easier. It will also keep help prevent you from making any mistakes, which will keep your employees happy.

Mastering Your Paystub

Reading a paycheck stub isn’t hard if you know what all the terms mean. The next time you get a pay stub in the mail, you can use these tips to figure out:

  • how much money you made,
  • how many deductions were withheld from your earnings,
  • the amount of money you get to keep

Want to learn some other helpful finance tips? Make sure you take a look at the rest of our blog!


AUTHOR LaTia Longuemire

My name is LaTia Longuemire. I enjoy writing, singing, and cooking in my spare time. My passion is helping others. At this stage in my lifetime, I'm primarily focused on my children. They are everything that keeps my world spinning.

Related posts