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I began working at my first job on February 20 and I am paid $65,000 a year as a salaried employee. My first salary check arrived, and it is only $211. Have I overlooked something? As I approach the midway point of my third week, $211 is in no way indicative of the effort I have put out.

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    What did your employer say when you asked them?
    – AakashM
    Mar 7 at 10:11
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    Sounds like you started in the middle of a pay period. Next check should be for the full period. Mar 8 at 14:47
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    Also sounds like you are paid two weeks in arrears, meaning the paycheck for a period comes two weeks after the period ends. While it stinks to wait two weeks for your first paycheck, it's nice to get an "extra" paycheck two weeks after you leave!
    – D Stanley
    Mar 8 at 16:49
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    Just to be sure: this is a real, legitimate job from a real legitimate company? As in, you go to the office every day? Or is this some form of "I work over the Internet and I got promised all sorts of things"?
    – jcaron
    Mar 9 at 13:08

3 Answers 3

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I began working at my first job on February 20 and I am paid $65,000 a year as a salaried employee. My first salary check arrived, and it is only $211. Have I overlooked something?

There are two things you will have to do to understand this:

  1. Find your pay stub.
  2. Talk to somebody in HR/payroll, if the the stub doesn't make everything clear.

As I approach the midway point of my third week, $211 is in no way indicative of the effort I have put out.

Since you said you started on Tuesday 20 February, I am going to assume that the last day of work for that pay period was Friday 23 February. That means your first check would only cover 4 days of work. The payday would have been on or about Friday March 1st.

At $65,000 a year that works out to $250 a day. I am going to assume that would make your gross $1,000 for those 4 days. Part of that stub will tell you how many hours or days were used to calculate your gross pay.

The other lines on the stub should have a code, abbreviation, or word that specifies why money was deducted from your gross pay. Those numbers should show you how they arrived at the final amount.

I am going to answer this from the United States point of view.

I am also going to ignore the word salaried. Some people/companies throw that word around, and then you find out they really aren't being treated as salaried.

Some items on your check are based on a percentage of your income. These include federal taxes, state taxes, social security and medicare taxes. In some cases the percentage is a function of the size of the check, so a small check could result in an extra small amount being withheld.

Other items aren't based on a percentage of your income, it is a flat amount from each check. These could include insurance premiums. On day one, or even earlier in some cases, you may have been given the ability to choose some of these items. Besides health insurance you could have also selected life insurance, accident insurance, pet insurance....These can add up.

Some items could have been specified as a flat amount. This could be retirement contributions, or money into a flexible spending account.

To make this even more confusing some of these could be pre-tax, and others after-tax.

The point is look at the stub. Then ask if anything is unclear or you think is wrong. The good news is that your next check should be based on 10 days of pay.

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    There are a lot of assumptions you have to make that would be easily solved by reviewing the pay stub. It is possible that OP's work week ends on Wednesday or Thursday. It is also possible that Payroll messed up OP's first day or work and did not pay for 1 or 2 days that were actually worked. These are things that should be reviewed with HR, but regardless, the next pay check will be much bigger and should represent a full 2 weeks of pay.
    – BlackThorn
    Mar 7 at 22:24
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    Easier assumption: The pay period ended on the 20th. $250 a day, $25 gross, post withholdings could be around $211. Not every company ends pay periods on a Friday--some do it by date.
    – Mars
    Mar 8 at 5:30
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    Yes. All one can really say is, Look at your pay stub. How many days or hours were you paid for? What deductions were made? Your first paycheck is often smaller than your typical paycheck because it is not for the full number of days.
    – Jay
    Mar 9 at 1:34
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Pay periods are often defined by the employer. If you started on last day of a 2 week pay period, your first pay check will cover 1 day of work.

It is early March, but your employer might have a delay between the end of a pay period and the date they pay you.

Suppose their pay periods end on a Tuesday. So you are getting paid for the work from Feb 7 to Fed 20. On a 65k salary there are 260.7 working days in a year (how exactly they calculate this may depend on local laws, statutory holidays, and the like), but it means your typical pay for a day is about 250$.

Before they put money into your account, they withhold income taxes and some other similar things - 39$ is a reasonable amount if they withheld federal taxes on a 65k annual salary.

This leaves 211$.

The check arriving more than 2 weeks after the point you worked is a bit annoying.

Check your pay stub. It should say for which days it is paying you.

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  • Direct deposit often arrives in your bank account faster than a paper check would.
    – keshlam
    Mar 16 at 4:36
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Inspect your paystub and don't stop until you have learned what every single number stands for (mhoran_psprep's answer is a great starting place). Double-check their math on every single amount. It is up to you alone to make sure they've done it right. If you discover three years down the road that a clerical error has resulting in underpaying you, you're likely out the money. Worse, if they're overpaying you and it's discovered down the road they can make you pay it back!

I would find someone in HR/payroll and ask them to set up a time to meet with you. In my experience (at least where I work) they are more than happy to be consulted like this, especially in the case of a new hire. They would much rather this than have a big blow-up when a mistake is discovered down the road. They can explain things like figuring out how they calculate the pay period and so on.

Then, learn how your various taxes are calculated and educate yourself on the various pre- and after-tax deductions. Your HR person is unlikely to help you with the tax part but you can learn it on your own. I started by downloading the IRS guide to employers on withholding. It explains in excruciating detail how and when to deduct federal taxes.

It will take a long time but be patient! Setting up a spreadsheet can help, if you're savvy in Excel. If you put in the effort, you will be totally in charge of your finances. You will be able to set your withholdings correctly to avoid under- or over-paying your taxes, you will be able to easily predict exactly how a raise/bonus/reduction/change in insurance premium will impact your take-home pay, and this understanding will pay big dividends.

You don't need to inspect every paystub like this; once you are in the regular groove they should all be the same amount. But definitely scrutinize them if the amount changes.

Also, one further added benefit is that your HR person will know you are someone who inspects your paystub. They most likely (if it's a small company) will make an effort to inform you ahead-of-time if there are changes coming, and will think twice before trying anything nefarious!

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