I hear this all the time from people who are not even clients or in a position where they may need to talk to a debt and credit attorney, but it is also prevalent among those needing help. Over and over again, people tell me that they don’t even look at their paystubs and that it is direct deposit to their bank accounts.
Or, even worse, they don’t know how to get copies of their paystubs because the money just goes into their account each week (or 2 weeks, monthly, however often they get paid).
There are several reasons you should look at your paystub and know how to get them:
- Deductions for benefits, ancillary benefits (like supplemental life insurance), or other company programs are often wrong. Miscalculations happen all the time and you should really be paying attention at the beginning of the year, or whenever your new benefits go into effect, to how much is being deducted from your check. I also often ask what a deduction is for and people have no idea why their employer is deducting for certain things.
- Severe under-withholding or over-withholding on taxes, so that you get to the end of the year and you either have a huge balance due or a huge refund. There are easy tools out there to figure out how much you should be withholding from your pay to make sure that you are on track. In fact, the IRS has a great withholding calculator that will tell you what your exemptions need to be set at to not owe taxes. Please note that you have to use your paystubs to use the calculator!
- Gross income is important to know. Gross income is what you get paid before any deductions are taken out. Almost everyone can tell me how much money is deposited into their account on payday, but very few know how much they make from a total income standpoint. If we are looking at a potential bankruptcy strategy, gross income is used to begin the calculations.
- Finally, looking at your paystubs is one of the first steps to getting finances organized. We have a tendency to not look at things that stress us out (like a list of our debt, our credit score if it is low, and…our paystubs). It’s hard to create a full financial plan and budget if you don’t know what those numbers look like.
If you don’t know how to read your paystub or see deductions that you don’t understand, which can be common because each company often uses different abbreviations for things, talk to your human resources department about what is being deducted and how to change your withholdings, if necessary.
This is just a basic overview and is not legal advice specific to your situation. If you have questions about your rights when it comes to debt and credit, you should speak with an attorney in your area for legal advice. If you live in California or North Dakota and would like to speak with Jen Lee Law regarding your situation, please schedule an appointment.