Series: Essentially Essential – The Pay Stub: Why Understand It

It was all jacked up

Yes, my pay stub was all sorts of messed up and if I didn’t understand it, then the issue would have persisted.

True story. For months I had collected a paycheck only caring about the bottom-line number (Net Pay). Of course, I didn’t have any real reason to look at the pay stub because it would have only told me what I already knew – that I got paid! Also, I assumed payroll processors could never mess up an employee’s pay…

It was Friday afternoon (I had been working for the company for a little over a year), I received my pay stub and as I began to fold the pay stub to put it in my desk drawer as I did many times before - curiosity struck,

  • How do I even know if the amount I am taking home is correct?
  • Are my deductions correct - 401k, charitable contributions, withholdings?
  • Do I need to make any adjustments?

As I was prompted by these thoughts, I noticed something was off. The deductions – this was the part that was all jacked up…

Most likely, you don’t review your pay stub for two reasons:

  1. You know you got paid.

    You got paid, cool! But what if you could have taken home more or saved an issue from getting even larger? Your payroll processor is human just like you, which makes them susceptible to the same mistakes you make. Even the most well-intentioned person messes up.

  2. Education. You do not know all the terms or how it flows.

    Our educational system does not teach people to read a pay stub in school, so how do people learn? If you don’t understand what you are looking at, ask someone to walk you through it or keep reading. Remember, there is no shame in making sure you’re being compensated for the work you’ve performed. I guarantee you that you are not alone in not understanding a pay stub.

Below, I have covered the minimum of what every pay stub should include. Keep in mind that pay stubs vary in look and the type of deductions based on your situation.

The Basics:


  • What is a Pay stub?
    • The document that outlines detail about your compensation.
    • The first piece of information to take into consideration when forming a budget. Every number in a budget flows from the information contained on a pay stub. 
  • Employee Name
    •  This is YOU!  (Just wanted to make sure you’re still reading)
  • Current and YTD
    • Current is what you were paid for in the most recent pay period.
    • YTD (Year-To-Date) is the sum of how much you have earned in the current calendar year, thus far.
*You should see Current and YTD in each category on your pay stub.

Earnings

*This section may look different depending on the way an employee earns wages. If you are paid hourly, you will see the hours worked and the rate (how much earned per hour). If you are a salaried employee, you may only see a current and YTD number. You may also see other forms of compensation within this section.

  • Gross Pay
    • The amount before any taxes or deductions have been subtracted.
  • Net Pay
    • The amount after subtracting taxes and deductions from gross pay. Net pay is commonly referred to as “take home” pay.

Deductions

  • Taxes
    • Federal Income Tax
      • Depends on the number of exemptions you claimed when filling out the W-4 Form when you were first hired (it informs your employer on how much federal tax should be withheld).
    • FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act)
      •  Social Security Tax
        • For 2019, the tax rate is 6.2% (the employee and employer both pay this tax for a total for 12.4%). Any dollar earned over $132,900 is NOT subject to this tax.
      • Medicare Tax
        • For 2019, the tax rate is 1.45% (the employee and employer both pay this tax for a total for 2.9%). Every dollar earned is subject to this tax - Any wages earned over $200,000 have an additional 0.9% tax for the employee.
    • State Tax
      • Each state has different laws regarding state tax. For more information, consult your Human Resource Department.
        • For an example, see the sample paystub above under the taxes section – there is a withholding for the state of North Carolina.
*Employers have additional taxes they must pay because they have employees. These additional taxes do not impact your earnings in any way.
  • Pre-Tax (Before)
    • Deductions taken from your gross pay before taxes are withheld. Pre-tax deductions reduce your taxable income, which will more than likely result in paying less Federal Income and FICA tax.
    • Below are examples of Pre-Tax Deductions:
      • Certain Retirement Plans
      • Life Insurance
      • Health Insurance
      • Health Savings Accounts or Flexible Spending Accounts
*Though you save on taxes when this deduction occurs, you may owe taxes on the withheld money in the future.
  • Post-Tax (After)
    • Deductions taken from your gross pay after taxes are withheld. Post-tax deductions do not reduce your taxable income, but could be beneficial depending on how these deductions are used.
    • Below are examples of Post-Tax Deductions:
      • Certain Retirement Plans
      • Disability Insurance
      • Life Insurance
      • Garnishments
      • Charitable Contributions

…To conclude my story, the payroll department had mistakenly deducted the 401k match (Employer contribution to my 401k) from my earnings for more than a quarter of the year. Thus, resulting in my net pay being less than it should have been. So, if you don’t want your paycheck to be jacked up, get educated on how to read your pay stub and scan over it each pay period.
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A Decade Ago

Where were you in 2007?

After their success with the iPod, Apple launched a new product that they dubbed the iPhone in 2007. Apple launched it on AT&T’s 2G network without the app store which wouldn't arrive until 2008.



A 10 year-old DVD rental company named Netflix offered a new service called “streaming video” that promised to deliver a massive catalog of television and movie content to customers over the Internet to home computers instead of waiting for the mail.



Peyton Manning lead the Indianapolis Colts to a 29-17 victory over the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI and was named the game MVP for his performance. The Dixie Chicks had the number one song, “Not Ready to Make Nice” and album, “Taking the Long Way” a rebuttal to the death threats the band faced after their anti-war comments in 2003.

LeConte Opens

In March, Kevin and I opened LeConte Wealth Management after working together for five years in a local bank investment department. We built a solid friendship before we built our business partnership. Our friendship was founded on trust and respect for the character that our families had instilled in us. We encouraged each other on good days and not so good days. Clients always came first even when our sales manager pushed us to increase production. We enjoyed our work and how it benefited our clients, many of whom were (and are) family and friends.



We had a few simple goals when we started LeConte. We wanted to create a firm that was independent of conflicts and outside influences that are typical in the investment industry. We wanted to create a business culture of skilled, honest practitioners who worked together to help clients. We wanted the freedom to pursue a healthy balance between work and our family life.

Surviving the Great Recession

2007 was a devastating time to start an investment firm. Within our first 18 months, we saw the housing crisis boil over into an economic meltdown that forced dozens of banks and Wall Street investment firms into declaring bankruptcy. The S&P 500 lost more than ½ of its value before bottoming out in March 2009. Bank after bank fought for survival by reducing their businesses to bare bones essentials. This meant most banks reduced or eliminated their bond trading functions. As a result, the market for corporate and municipal bonds seized up in a liquidity vacuum.



When we opened LeConte, we moved our largest clients away from transaction-based brokerage accounts and into advisory accounts. With nearly 40 million dollars under discretionary management, we had flexibility to take advantage of the market disruptions of the times. At the point when many other investors we either over-reacting to events or burying their head in the sand, we were on the hunt for mispriced assets for our clients.

Growth Through Innovation

We not only survived with this strategy, we laid a solid foundation for growth. We transformed our financial planning process and personnel to incorporate advanced real-time reporting technology. This enabled 24/7 access for clients to their financial data regardless of where the accounts were maintained. Our willingness to invest in technology and people when other firms were struggling to survive gave us a head start when the economy stabilized.



In 2013 Kevin and I left the brokerage commission business in the wreckage of the housing crisis and focused on growing our advisory practice. As we crossed the 100-million-dollar threshold in advisory assets, we registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington, DC. and dropped our brokerage licenses for good. Our transition to becoming a registered investment advisory (RIA) firm was complete but our growth story wasn’t.

Building on Our Advantage in the Marketplace

We added the next piece to the puzzle in 2014 when Jon Dockery, a local CPA, brought his tax expertise to LeConte clients. By offering excellence in asset management, financial planning and now tax preparation and filing, we offer a strong value proposition to Blount County residents who are busy enough in their personal and professional lives.



A decade after starting up, client assets have grown more than threefold from 40 million to 140 million. We’ve never raised our fees. We adhere to the same core principles that we discussed in 2007: Independence, teamwork, life outside of the office and community involvement.

We’ve added new team members and expanded our services so that we can help clients at every stage of financial maturity. We have maintained our technology investment pace by offering every client a customized Purpose-Built Planning portal, the LeConte Mobile app and text based notification services.

Our Second Decade

The next decade will undoubtedly give birth to significant historical events. We hope and pray that they aren’t as tumultuous as the last decade. With great clients, great team members and hard work, we look forward to seeing where it takes LeConte. Thank you to all our loyal clients who place their financial hopes and dreams in our hands. The trust that you have shown us is our most precious asset. We are grateful.

Thank You!

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Do you have an extra $250,000 to pay for healthcare in retirement?



A recent CNBC article asks the question whether $245,000 is enough to cover healthcare costs in retirement. Let that number sink in for a second. Especially, when you consider the article goes on to project those same healthcare costs up to $367,000 using the Medicare Board of Trustee’s estimate of inflation. That’s even before considering that “high-income beneficiaries” have to pay a higher percentage of the total cost of Medicare premiums. High-income beneficiaries are considered to be individuals with Modified Adjusted Gross Income of greater than $85,000 and married couples above $170,000. Currently, beneficiaries pay about 25% of the cost, but high-income beneficiaries will pay 35, 50, 65 or 80% of the cost depending on their level of income.

How much do you have saved for retirement? In your plans, have you allocated more than $250,000 to the cost of health insurance?

If not, what impact will an expense of this level have on your retirement? If the projections are correct, a quarter of a million dollar expense in retirement could derail any plan that’s not properly accounting for such expenses. As the article states, this expense could cause a detrimental impact to your yearly income at a point when going back to work is no longer a viable option. Don’t let this be your retirement picture.

If healthcare is going to be such an impact on your retirement, what other major expenses are not covered in your retirement plan? One of the core pieces of our financial planning process is to identify the specific expenses that your retirement could hold. We help you evaluate your current situation, your goals and desires, and your retirement years to create a financial plan than can hopefully withstand whatever life throws at us.

We can help you make sense of these complicated issues. Do you have questions about your retirement plans or need help figuring out how much healthcare will cost for you? Get an answer by sending us a question:

Ask a Question
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Which Tax Payer Are You?

Taxes = Fear, I don’t know where to start.

Taxes = Worry, I hope this software works!

Taxes = No big deal, my people have this under control.


Within the next few weeks, you will have most of your information to file your 2015 tax return, and some of you will rely on me or another CPA to help you through that process.  Hopefully, when the process is complete, you will feel a sense of calm about filing your tax return.

The IRS and Congress don’t make it easy to feel that sense of calm.  As has become the norm lately, Congress waited until December to pass a tax deal that was retroactive for all of 2015.  However, this deal did make some breaks permanent, which will allow us to plan for future years. 

Some of the tax breaks that have been made permanent are:

  1. Tax-Free direct payments from your IRA to a charity of up to $100,000.
  2. The itemized deduction of state sales tax for those in states without an income tax.
  3. The write-off of $250 for teacher classroom supplies

On an almost daily basis, I see the fear and worry that many people harbor deep inside them related to taxes and the IRS.  Those feelings come from the abundance of difficult tax codes and horror stories circulated through social media.  If you are tired of the anxiety that taxes bring, I’d love to assist you in a transition to quality professional tax preparation. 

The transition can be easier and less expensive than you may think.  At Leconte Wealth Management, our clients have tax preparation included as part of our comprehensive wealth management package.  If this sounds like an appealing option to you, please give us a call.

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Trump, Taxes & You…

We are at an interesting point in our political history. “Change” seems to be the buzz word that all political candidates are embracing in many aspects of their campaign. The current tax system is not immune to this change. If one of these major tax system proposals became law, it would be the first major overhaul of the tax system since the 1980’s under Ronald Reagan.

Donald Trump released his proposed tax plan on Monday. According to his release, the plan is designed to achieve 4 simple goals:

  1. Tax Relief for middle class
  2. Simplified tax code
  3. Grow the economy
  4. Don’t add to debt or deficit

What does it mean for you?

This is all just a big proposal that’s a long way from reality, but how would it impact an average client of mine. Let’s say this client is married and has $100,000 of taxable ordinary income. Under the existing tax system, this taxpayer would have a tax liability of $16,588. The Trump plan would have a 0% rate for the first $50,000 and a 10% rate for the second $50,000, so the tax liability under this proposal would only be $5,000. That’s less than a third of the current tax burden!

We have a long and winding road between now and the elections next year. Along this journey, we are going to hear many things about our country and especially taxes. I’d love to be your guide as we all try to process what this “change” means to you.

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