I received my first pay-check, and I dont think the details are adding up.

Yearly salary: $85000

Semi-monthly salary expectation, before tax: $3541.67

Actual salary received before tax: $2897.73

After tax deductions: $2173.00

Is there something I am missing?

  • 3
    Are you sure it is semi-monthly and not bi-weekly? Semi-monthly would be 24 per year, whereas biweekly would be 26. Would still be 2 per month for 10 months of the year, with 3 per month for the other two. If you get 26 paychecks for 3269, that works out to 84994 per year (or 85000 if your 3269 number is rounded, ignoring about 0.23)
    – yoozer8
    Commented Oct 15, 2020 at 12:29
  • No, my contract says it is semi monthly specifically. It says payable twice a month which I think means semi monthly Commented Oct 15, 2020 at 12:30
  • 6
    Strangers on the internet can't tell you what your company does with payroll. Please ask them first. If it is indeed semi-monthly (example 1st and 15th), then your math is wrong and you should expect $3541 pre-tax/deductions/etc. If you're bi-weekly (every other week), then your math is correct for the expectation. If this was your first paycheck, did you work the full time span? If you started working after the pay period started, then you wouldn't receive a 100% check, but only a check for the days worked within the pay period. I'd say this is the most likely issue.
    – BobbyScon
    Commented Oct 15, 2020 at 12:38
  • 1
    $3269 is the expected biweekly (26 pay periods per year) portion of your salary. If payday is the 15th, that would typically be for the 2-week period of Sept 28-Oct 9. $2897.73 is actually a bit higher than I would expect for having worked 7 of the 10 days in the pay period.
    – chepner
    Commented Oct 15, 2020 at 13:33
  • 2
    Guys, thanks for helping me out, it turns out I forgot that I worked from 5th Oct instead of the 1st Oct that I mentioned. So I dont think there is anything wrong Commented Oct 15, 2020 at 14:53

2 Answers 2


You need to discuss this with your employer. There has been some sort of miscommunication resulting in your expectations differing from reality.

You expectation is an $85,000 annual salary, paid semi-monthly. You expect to be paid approximately $3,541.67 twice per month.

Your employer has paid you $2897.73. There are a few reasons that I (or anyone other than your employer) could speculate as the cause for this discrepancy:

  1. Your employer intends to pay you bi-weekly, not semi-monthly, a salary of $85,000 annually, in the form of approximately $3,269.23 every two weeks. A miscommunication or some other mistake led you to believe you would be paid semi-monthly.
  2. Your employer intends to pay you an annual salary of $69,545, paid semi-monthly as $2,897.73. A miscommunication or some other mistake led you to believe you would be paid $85,000.
  3. You are correct that you will be paid $85,000 per year, semi-monthly. However, you did not begin working at exactly the beginning of a pay period, so your first paycheck only pays you for most but not all of a semi-monthly period, and is therefore less than a typical paycheck.
  4. Something else entirely.

You need to ask your employer about the discrepancy; they are the only one who can explain why they paid you the amount they did.

  • Good enumeration of the possibilities.
    – chepner
    Commented Oct 15, 2020 at 13:27
  • 2
    A possible 5th one: part of the expected salary is made up by some sort of bonus structure, and that it is expected that that averages to $85k per year, but the actual number won't be known until it is calculated Commented Oct 15, 2020 at 14:15
  • 1
    I think you're using the wrong number. OP incorrectly said the expectation was 3269 (should be 3541), but OP also said the actual before tax was 2897. I think you can just forget the 3269 was even mentioned.
    – TTT
    Commented Oct 15, 2020 at 14:48
  • 1
    @TTT Yes, you are right. Good catch. I will need to fix that
    – yoozer8
    Commented Oct 15, 2020 at 14:50
  • Could you please add an incorrect assumption of start date, which I believe what caused the discrepancy. I will accept your answer after that Commented Oct 15, 2020 at 14:54

A couple of comments about being paid semi-monthly. This is based on being paid this way for 5+ years, and other co-workers and family members being paid this way.

Don't expect the paychecks to be the same every time. When somebody is paid every two weeks they expect they will get paid for 80 hours. So all the checks look the same. When you are paid twice a month the number of working days in that pay period vary. Depending on the month the pay period can be 10, 11, or 12 working days. And in February there can be a 9 day pay period.

It gets even more confusing if you don't work 8 hours every day, but they still expect you to work 40 hours a week. So if the you leave an hour early on Tuesday, but work an extra hour on Friday, and the week is split into two different pay periods; one will be short an hour, the other will have an extra hour.

That variation can sometimes cause withholding problems because the tax tables were created with the expectation the semi-monthly to work like 24 equal payments. So some employees can have over withholding on the 12 day pay periods, but under withholding on the 9 day pay periods.

For deductions set by value (insurance) that 9 day paycheck looks even smaller after a flat amount is removed. Care must also be taken with 401(k) because many let you pick either a fixed amount per check or a fixed percentage of each check. If you are trying to only have enough for the maximum match make sure it still works under the maximum and minimum paycheck. If you are trying to hit the annual limit the same caution applied.

A quick check of your numbers showed that based on your annual salary, you were paid for approximately 71 hours. That calculation was what reminded me of some of the semi-monthly pay issues. Now if you are salaried then you will find that most of the checks will be the same, except the first and last ones of your employment.

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