7 Common Paycheck Deductions, Explained | ETF Trends

With two of my sons working this summer and bringing home paychecks, I’m getting more and more questions from them about paycheck deductions.  

Both of them are working part-time. Although their paychecks aren’t huge—typically $100-300—they still had to process the reality of receiving smaller paychecks than they’d expected. Not surprisingly, their first question was: “Is this just my paycheck, or do you have these deductions too?”  

Sorry, guys; Mom and Dad have to deal with deductions, too. It’s just the reality of employment. But not all payment deductions are the same – and some, I explained to them, are even for your benefit.  

What Are Paycheck Deductions? 

Paycheck deductions are the various dollar amounts withheld from your gross income each pay period, resulting in reduced net pay. The more deductions applied, the smaller your take-home paycheck. 

Paycheck deductions basically come in two forms: 

  1. Involuntary deductions, which are required by law 
  2. Voluntary deductions, which you can set and which let you contribute towards certain benefits. 

Read More: “How I Taught My Kids About Compounding 

Common Involuntary Deductions

There are some common involuntary deductions most people will find on their paychecks, including:  

  • Federal Income Tax: Federal income taxes withholdings are applied to all paychecks based on how you complete your W4 Form. How much is withheld depends on many factors: how much you make, whether you’re single or married, if you have dependents, and so on. and how many “allowances” you claim. Given that, expect it to change over time. (The IRS has a handy online tax withholding calculator you can use to estimate how much will be deducted.) 
  • State Income Tax: Like federal income tax, the amount of state taxes withheld is based on how much you make. Unlike federal income tax, however, you may not always see this deduction on your paycheck. That’s because rates can vary significantly from state to state, and some states don’t even levy income tax at the state level at all. 
  • Social Security Tax: Social Security is intended to provide some retirement income for those who qualify, starting as early as age 62. This tax, also colloquially referred to as Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) tax, funds the Social Security program. Both you and your employer will contribute a percentage of your earnings towards Social Security. 
  • Medicare Tax: Similar to Social Security tax, the Medicare tax is part of FICA. It funds the federal Medicare health insurance program, designed to provide some assistance for retirees and certain individuals with disabilities. 

Common Voluntary Deductions 

Since my sons are just getting started and are working part-time, they do not have voluntary contributions taken from their paychecks. It’s still good for them to know about these deductions, however, especially given our recent conversation about compounding.  

Here are some common voluntary deductions you may find on your paycheck:

  • Health Insurance Premiums: Most but not all companies today offer health insurance to full-time employees on an opt-in basis. If you opt in, then the cost of your premiums will be deducted from your paycheck. The amount subtracted from your paycheck depends on the type of coverage you have and the amount of money your employer contributes to the policy.  
  • Retirement Plan Contributions: Some companies also offer retirement savings plans, including 401(k) or 403(b) plans. Your total annual contributions are capped by law, depending on your age and other factors. But outside those limits, how much you contribute is up to you. One thing to note: Retirement plan contributions are deducted from your paycheck before taxes, which helps reduce your taxable income as you save for retirement.
  • Other Voluntary Benefits: Other paycheck deductions might include life insurance, disability insurance, flexible spending accounts (FSAs), and other employee benefits offered by your employer.  

As I told my sons: The longer you work, the longer the list of deductions you will have. That’s why it’s smart to get to know the types of paycheck deductions early, so you can review your paystub regularly and ensure that the deductions are accurate and align with your expectations.  

* This article was created with the assistance of generative AI.  

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