Your pay stub records all the relevant information from your job, but it’s not always laid out in a manner that is easy to read and digest. There are three main categories that the information on your pay stub can be divided into. 

Read on for an overview of how to easily read your pay stub. 

Calculator finances

Personal Information

Your pay stub should always have your personal information on it. This includes your name, your address, your employee number, and the last four digits of your social security number.

Your pay stub will also tell you what pay period it is for, and provide information about your employer. While all of this is administrative, it is important to hold on to pay stubs for a while, as they can as a proof of employment or residency and can be important for tax purposes. 

In the event that you’ve lost your pay stub but still remember the information on it, you can generate pay stub here. 


Of course, the most important thing that your pay stub records are your earnings. These will be divided into gross and net earnings. They will be divided into what you’ve earned this pay period and what you’ve earned year-to-date (YTD).

Gross earnings refer to all of the pre-tax earnings that you’ve received. For the most part, this won’t matter to you since you don’t get to see some of that money. However, you may be able to contribute some of your gross earnings to specialized savings vehicles, like a Health Savings Account (HSA)

What you really need to pay attention to is your net earnings line item. These are your take-home wages, less all the deductions that have been taking out. 


Your pay stub will also note down all the deductions that you are subject to. There are four main deductions that you have to contribute to. Just like your earnings, they’ll be divided into deductions for this pay period and year-to-date.

The first two will be state and federal taxes. State taxes are highly variable, with some states having no income tax at all. 

The other two main types of deductions are for social security and Medicare. Most of the time, these two are combined as a line item called FICA on your pay stub. FICA stands for the Federal Insurance Contributions Act, and your deductions are taking from your gross pay. 

Social security deductions amount to 6.2 percent on up to $132,900, while Medicare is a flat rate of 1.45 percent up to $200,000, and then 2.35 percent on earnings above $200,000. 

Check Your Pay Stub Records Each Week

You should always compare your most recent pay stub with your pay stub records to ensure that information has not changed. It’s the best way to make sure that your pay isn’t accidentally decreased, or that more tax than is necessary is withheld. 

For more information about managing your personal finances and employment, check out the Finance category under the Life section of my blog!