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May 24, 2017

Congratulations! You’ve just graduated - or you’re about to - and now it’s time to find your first career job, and potentially your first paycheck. A pay stub (whether you view it in person or online) showcases your total earnings for a pay period. Here’s what to expect when first looking at a paycheck or pay stub. 

Gross pay - This your pay before taxes are taken out. 

Net pay - The actual amount you’re earning after everything is accounted for. 

Federal income tax - This is how much is withheld from your paycheck on the federal level, based on your federal W-4. This includes Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes. 

FICA - FICA is made up of Social Security taxes, which help fund the federal program for retirees, and Medicare taxes, which help fund the government health system for the poor. Social Security is 6.2% and Medicare is 1.45%. 

State tax - This is the amount withheld in taxes from your paycheck based on the state you work in. Some states do not collect any state tax. 

Local tax- Some cities, counties, or school districts levy local taxes on employers and employees, and these affect paychecks. 

Year-to-date - This portion of a paycheck shows how much you have paid toward a particular year. 

Insurance deductions/retirement plan contributions - These will only show if you opt in to programs like a 401(k), but it is shown on each paycheck how much is taken out and put toward these programs. 

Wage garnishments - This will only show if you’ve earned back pay for some reason. Back pay usually comes when you haven’t been paid the correct amount during a certain pay period. 
Click here to calculate your first paycheck or here to experiment filling out a W-4. 

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