How to Read Your Paycheck Stub

If you are like most people, your paycheck means only one thing–money in the bank! But if you find yourself living paycheck to paycheck and need to improve your money management skills, you need to pay close attention to the other perforated portion of your paycheck, called the paycheck stub (also known as the explanation statement.) Educating yourself on how to read your pay stub and understanding the information it contains can play a vitally important role in effective money management and proper budgeting. Knowing where your money is going can help you stay on top of your finances and make the most of your hard-earned paycheck. Our free credit counseling service  can help you develop a solid budget and plan for achieving your financial goals.

What is Included on a Paycheck Stub?

Although every company prints paychecks that are unique in their own way, there are some aspects of the employee paycheck that employers must include by law. Some paycheck stubs can be extremely detailed including such items as retirement plan contributions or accrued vacation time, and others will only detail the required information. The following items will appear on every paycheck stub, and consumers need to fully comprehend their definitions and value:

  • Gross Pay: Includes the total amount of income that you earned during a particular pay period. A pay period is determined by your employer, but is typically weekly, bi-weekly (every two weeks), semi-monthly (twice per month), or monthly. This figure does not factor in tax withholdings.
  • Net Pay: Includes the amount of income that you actually take home after all withholdings have been applied. It is the amount of money that you take straight to the bank!
  • Federal Tax Amount: When you were first hired by your employer, you were required to fill out a W-4 form. This form covers any tax that you may owe to the Federal government come tax time. It is deducted incrementally from each paycheck and can vary depending on the number of exemptions you chose to claim.
  • State Tax: Depending on your state of residence, you may or may not be required to pay a state tax. Most states however, do participate, so this amount is deducted from your paycheck (the same way as Federal tax) to cover the amount of tax that you may owe to the state when your tax return is filed.
  • Local Tax: Although rare, a local tax is sometimes applied to employees of certain cities, counties or school districts. For example, if you live in New Jersey, but work in New York City, you will be required to pay not only New Jersey state tax, but also New York City tax on your earnings.
  • Social Security: The Federal government requires every employee to have a certain percentage of their paycheck withheld for social security purposes. This entitles you to receive a monthly social security payment upon retirement. For wages paid in 2018, employees and employers pay 6.2 percent in OASDI taxes. Thus, an individual with wages equal to or larger than $128,400 would contribute $7,960.80 to the OASDI program in 2018, as would his or her employer.
  • Medicare: Like Social Security withholdings, Medicare withholdings are also mandatory. Every employee pays 1.45% of their paycheck toward Medicare, and every employer contributes an additional 1.45% on behalf of the employee. Upon eligibility for Social Security, an employee is entitled to coverage for a majority of their medical expenses.
  • Year-to-date (for pay and deductions): The year-to-date fields on your paycheck stub show how much you have paid toward a particular withholding at any point in the calendar year. This can be useful when budgeting for monthly expenses or long-term goals.

Additional Items that May Appear on Your Paycheck Stub

Although not required, the following are items that may appear on your paycheck stub and are useful to money management and relevant to your employment status.

  • Insurance Deductions: Monthly payments for such types of insurance as health (medical and dental), and life insurance.
  • Retirement Plan Contributions: Plans such as 401(K) or 403(B) retirement savings plans.
  • Leave Time: Including vacation hours or sick hours. Most employers will detail how many hours have been used to date and how many hours are remaining for the calendar year.
  • Childcare Assistance: If offered by your employer, this amount may appear on each paycheck as a pre-tax benefit.
  • Important Notices: Employers often use a portion of the paycheck stub to communicate important pieces of information to their employees such as wage increases or notifications about tax filings.

Common Abbreviations Used on Paycheck Stubs

  • YTD: Year-to-Date
  • FT or FWT: Federal Tax or Federal Tax Withheld
  • ST or SWT: State Tax or State Tax Withheld
  • SS or SSWT: Social Security or Social Security Tax Withheld
  • MWT or Med: Medicare Tax Withheld

Exercise Good Money Management Skills: Be Proactive

If you need further explanation on how to read your paycheck stub or if a particular calculation doesn’t seem correct, consult your Human Resources Department for assistance. Don’t procrastinate! Exercise good money management skills by being proactive. If a calculation is incorrect, the issue may reappear on every paycheck. Also, you may not be making the best choice for a retirement plan contribution, or losing money if your earnings are not calculated properly. It is ultimately your responsibility to ensure that you are being properly compensated.

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63 responses to “How to Read Your Paycheck Stub”

  • What does SOH mean on my paystub

    • Emilie Burke

      Hi Jay! I don’t know, but you can ask your human resources office for clarity!

  • Jerry Killian

    What does mew mean on paystub

    • Emilie Burke

      Hi Jerry! I suggest reaching out to your HR department to get those details.

  • Hello Emilie,
    I’ve been with (said) company just about 1yr. From the very first check there were issues with my deductions. I had to go back to the office 3 times then on the 4th time I called I had my issue finally takin
    Care of or so I thought. First of all we do not have an HR dept. there’s just 1 lady in the office. that runs all 4 car wash locations from there. Originally I thought she was just the secretary, I recently found out that she is the second in command for this company, just the owner has more power/Authority then her. Actually except for 3 months out of the year, when the owner is actually there and then leaves out of state for 9 more months. She is technically the #1 in charge with the most power over every single Mgr combined, as well as the only person in the office where she puts all the checks together and signs them

    • Cont. from previous post🔝
      For every employ that works for said company. Last but certainly not the least, there is not 1 camera nor any employs besides just her in this (HEAD) office at any and all times. Does anyone else see some major RED FLAGS, I thought you guys would to. Now that you know this I can get to my question at hand. I get payed weekly and for some reason when I first started with this company I had to go to her and refill out W2’s 3 different times I’n a 2 month period I’ve worked a lot of different jobs in my life and never had to refill out my original W2s. Each time my dependents/exemptions would change. Then a 4th time my w2s cchhhhhh

      • Cont. from last post.
        4th time my W2s had been changed in 2 months. Every time to make it Where I pay not a lil more but a lot more taxes so I was done filling out the W2s and putting them
        I’m the tray so I called her this time to ask her why, very politely because I was still very new on the job and besides this issue I really enjoy my job. She replyd back with instead of you filing out this time how bout I filli it out for you over the phone, I say yes and normaly I claim 4 dependents because that’s the truth well when she gets to that part of the W2 she tells me ill just put 8 like everybody else. This was last August from then until November every thing was going great checks were always legit never any issues with how much I was being taxed. Will say $500 weekly with $32-37 in taxes which I was happy with. I also Had 2 separate pay raises during those months and that didn’t effect anything. From what I know they should only change so drastically like the way I’m about to say is if you claim more or less dependents, Right? Here we go I normally would have 3 deductions per check. Then starting the with first check of November and every first check of each month after until Feb.) would all have 5 deductions now.then the next 3 checks to the end of each month would all go back to just 3 deductions. Then February begins and 5 deductions on first check nothing out of the ordinary to me now that’s become the norm. Unfortunately every week since then and still
        Happening to me it’s no longer just the first check of each month it’s every check in the month and every month after as well each and every check now has 5 deductions. The 2 added deductions that would just appear on first check of every month are FWH and ORSWH which are now added on every check now. Does anyone know why? Am I being scammed out by the office lady?

        • Emilie Burke

          Hi Zack! I applaud you for being vigilant. While I’m not a lawyer and not in a position to offer specific advice, FWH and ORSWH are both legitimate withholdings (Federal withholding and state withholding – assuming you’re in Oregon). If your employer is claiming too many deductions, and therefore withholding too much money, that money should theoretically all be coming back to you when you get your tax return. More importantly, if you feel uncomfortable with his boss’ actions – even if they’re not doing anything wrong – it’s not a bad idea to look for another job, if for nothing else, to improve your peace of mind.

  • What is (ADCT) (CILL) (HSIN) (IDTH) (LTD) (Tobco user)?

    • Emilie Burke

      Hello! If these are all on the same row, it’s likely related to your health or life insurance (or both), considering they’ve flagged you as a tobacco user. Hope that helps!

  • norma higgins

    what does the letter F mean under TYPE column on my pay stub

    • Emilie Burke

      Hi Norma! Usually pay types are specific to the places of employment. Common ones are R for regular, H for holiday, and O for overtime. Your best bet is to ask the HR person at your company!

  • Cartwright

    What is Ermatc on my check stubb?

    • Emilie Burke

      Hi Cartwright! That seems to be a unique acronym- it’s one I’ve never heard before. I’d suggest reaching out to your company’s human resources department to clarify that for you! Hope that helps!

  • hesham

    what is hours/unit and how it is calculated

    • Emilie Burke

      Hi Hesham! That’s usually read as “Hours per Unit”, but without more context it’s unclear what a “unit” is! Hope that helps!

  • Can you tell me on my check stubs where is says status the letter a is there what does that letter stay for

    • Emilie Burke

      Hi Julie! Do you have any more details so that I can help you? Unfortunately, that’s just a little too vague!

  • christy franciosi

    how do I calculate YTD on my paycheck mine is all wrong.

    • Emilie Burke

      Hi Christy! Your YTD amount should be all the money you’ve earned this calendar year. You can add up the amount on all of the paychecks you’ve made this year! Hope that helps!

  • Will my gross earning be different if I’m paying for medical and dental insurance on my job.

    • Emilie Burke

      Hi Eddie! You gross earning should be the same whether or not your get your insurance through work. Your take home amount will be different, though. Good luck!

  • What is DIrDpN on an Illinois check stub stand for, I live in Illinois but my check comes from our parent company in Michigan?

    • Emilie Burke

      Hi John! I think it means direct deposit! Good luck!

  • I got my pay stub today and see
    ACA MED POST …..
    What is it why is it taking money

    • Emilie Burke

      Hi Ryan! I’m sure that’s frustrating. “ACA” is usually Affordable Care Act. I hope that’s helpful!

  • Israel

    What does M&B PENALTY mean on my check stub

  • What does cres 5% 14 mean ?

    • cers? Spell check

      • Emilie Burke

        Hi Tish! In most cases “CERS” on your paystub stands for “County Employee Retirement System.” I’d suggest confirming with your Human Resources and/or Benefits department!

  • wendra kinsler

    What does isccu mean on a pay stub

  • Brandonsmith

    On valuing and who it belongs to. There is individual letters after where the value is written. What are the letters M W J C mean?? Thank you

    • Emilie Burke

      Hi Brandon! Without more detail, I can’t be sure, but I’d suggest reaching out to your human resources department for clarification on your paycheck stub.

  • Raymond

    What is a jvc deduction

    • Emilie Burke

      Hi Raymond! Without additional details, I can’t be sure, but I’d suggest getting in touch with human resources or your benefits department to understand your paycheck.

  • c. franciosi

    how can I tell if my paycheck stubs have been altered? payroll and HR are the same person. I am being shorted on net pay, and I am now wondering @ my YTD(s).

    • Emilie Burke

      Hi C! Is your gross pay correct? If so, the difference between your gross and net pay is going towards withholdings and taxes. If you’ve overpaid, you’ll likely get a large tax refund. Hope that helps!

  • Edwin Cordero

    What does cs. Stands for in your pay stub.

    • Emilie Burke

      Hi Edwin! It’s hard to know, so I’d suggest reaching out to your human resources department!

  • Jillian

    Under allowances what does M 4 mean?

    • Emilie Burke

      Hi Jillian! I’m not sure, but I’d suggest reaching out to your human resources team for the most up-to-date information!

  • What is a G506 deduction?

  • Does anyone know wat PBON Otr mean


    What does advemp deduction mean on my pay stub thanks

  • What do SMCU3 mean on my pay stub

  • What does ee2500 mean on my pay check stub

  • Ray Sawyer

    I have a bunch of deductions on my paystub. WC under something called Fringe, FUTA_E, FHW, MED, MED_E, SOC ,SOC_E, ARSUI_E, ARSWH

    • Fred Valleser

      What does med means deducted from my check written on my paystub

      • Emilie Burke

        Hi Fred! That might be related to your medical insurance, but you should reach out to your HR office to know for sure.

  • Meghan

    What does ecss means on a paycheck stub?

    • Thomas Nitzsche

      Hi Meghan, I don’t recognize that abbreviation and Google isn’t providing a good answer, so I would check with your payroll administrator at work.

      • What does Ck 945488 mean on a check stub

        • Emilie Burke

          Usually ‘Ck’ means Check, so that may be the check number. I’d suggest reaching out to you human resources or benefits department for clarity!

  • don soucy

    what does ind46r mean on my indiana check stub???

  • Kathleen Paulauskas

    What does SMCU 3 MEAN on your paystub.

  • kaia forbes


  • Jose Manuel Caratachea

    I have a question.On my check stub their is a 4 digit code or something that is deducting from me.the code is u know what that code is.again G505 is deducting money from my wages.dont know what it is can u help me out

  • Michael Koester

    What’s MDCOE mean on my pay stub? It’s a 10% deduction.

    • Thomas Bright

      Michael, I’m not sure but posting your comment in case someone can weigh in with the answer.

    • matthew ignus

      its medicare and only helps old people