Paycheck 101: A 2024 Guide to Understanding Your Earnings

Total pay is the amount of the paycheck before any taxes or other deductions are taken out or any contributions are added. Many employers will put your paycheck into your bank or credit union account. Direct deposit is when your employer puts your paycheck into your bank or credit union account. The method of calculating overtime pay varies depending on the industry, location, and company policies. In the United States, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) offers guidance on how and when to calculate overtime pay. According to the FLSA, all non-exempt employees are entitled to overtime pay for any hours worked over 40 hours in a workweek.

This could be due to a job change or the birth of a child, for instance. If your circumstances change, then you should inform the IRS or your company’s human resources (HR) department as soon as possible. If you have paid too much tax, they will calculate the amount you are due and pay you a refund. Benefits are additional forms of compensation that go beyond your base salary or hourly rate.

Like high-yield savings accounts, CDs are all interest-earning bank accounts that can help grow your money. If your 2024 earnings are similar to 2023, you’ll want your federal paycheck withholdings at roughly last year’s effective tax rate, Loyd said. Withholdings are an amount from your paycheck taken out to pay federal and state income taxes. They are dependent on not only your income, but also your number of dependents, which, if you’re right out of college, is typically 0 or 1.

Taxes vary from state to state, but they typically range from 0% to 13%. (Seven states have no income tax!) California, Hawaii and New Jersey have the highest income taxes in the country, while Florida, Alaska and Texas are among those with no income taxes. This is really the crux of why a pay stub is provided to employees.

Pay stubs in the U.S. vary according to how they are generated, but most contain a number of key features, including your pay, taxes, and deductions. It’s important to ensure that this information is correct, but not enough people make an effort to do so. Doing your own calculations—or verifying the accuracy of those performed by the IRS—can save you (or your employer) from making a costly mistake. All the information understanding your paycheck on your pay stub is important to insure you are being compensated correctly. Be sure to review all the parts of your pay stub including deductions, withholdings, and earnings frequently to make sure you are all your money is going where it is supposed to go. Start by reviewing your expenses and identifying any nonessential items that can be reduced or eliminated, as even small cuts can add up over time.

  1. You’ll generally see these fields marked as the acronym “YTD” (year-to-date) on your pay stubs.
  2. A W-2 is a form your employer sends you at the end of every year.
  3. Another option is to open a secondary savings account to track your progress.
  4. Net pay is the amount of money you take home after all necessary deductions, taxes, and contributions have been subtracted from your gross pay.

There are several online freelancing platforms you can use to get started, like Fivver and Upwork. Similarly, gig economy apps like Uber or TaskRabbit could provide an extra income stream, but also frequently require you to provide your own equipment. While this option definitely isn’t possible for everyone, being able to avoid car payments, expensive maintenance fees, and gas costs can save you a lot over time. Using public transit or biking might also help you avoid using ridesharing apps, which can get very expensive over time. If you’re interested in saving money long-term and don’t mind spending some money, consider investing in energy-efficient appliances or solar panels.

There’s some standard information that’s included no matter how a pay stub is designed. The amount is calculated based on a bunch of things, including how you filled out W-4 paperwork when you started your job and how much you earn. This is money withheld (which is another way of saying deducted) from your check for the US government.

Anatomy of a Paycheck

A W-2 is a form your employer sends you at the end of every year. Your W-2 also says how much money was taken out of your paycheck for taxes during the year. You use your W-2 when you file your taxes with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and some states. The law says your employer must take money out of your paycheck for taxes. You can choose how much money to withhold from — or take out of — your paycheck.

Financial goals

That way, you won’t forget and accidentally overspend money you were planning on saving. High-yield savings accounts are similar to regular savings accounts that you’d find at brick-and-mortar banks, but they offer more competitive interest rates. Putting your money in a high-yield savings account is a great way to make money off of your savings without risk. Your W-2 also says how much money your employer took out for taxes. When you see that your W-2 is right, you can get rid of your pay stubs for that year. Your employer will take money out of your gross pay for taxes and benefits.


Many workers contribute via paycheck withholdings based on a completed form called a W-4. If you are a salaried employee, where the company takes taxes out, you’ll get a W2 form. If you are freelance or part time, you will either get a W2 or if the company doesn’t take taxes out, a 1099 form. The downside of being 1099, as we’ve established, is that you have to manage your own taxes because your employer isn’t withholding that money from your paychecks. But on the positive side, you can take more deductions, which will help you to either get a bigger return or, if you owe taxes, pay less. If your company offers one, you should absolutely take advantage of it.

What Is Commission Pay and How to Choose the Right Payroll Structure?

Make sure to budget enough money for debt repayment to avoid this, and try to pay off debts as fast as you can to avoid paying too much in interest. You should keep roughly three to six months’ worth of expenses in your emergency fund. You might want to keep more than that saved to budget for healthcare costs or other emergencies if you’re more likely to run into them.

Work and your financial life

Savings accounts typically have a cap on how many times you can withdraw your cash per month, although some don’t. While it can be inconvenient to not have access to your money at any time, this can also be a perk if you don’t want to be tempted to dip into your savings. Putting your emergency fund in a high-yield savings account can also help you earn extra money off of your emergency fund. Using a budgeting app can help you keep track of your expenses without having to do it all manually. Budgeting apps can also help show you areas where you might be overspending.

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