National Payroll Week, which runs annually the week of Labor Day, is upon us. For the 156 million wage earners in the U.S., utilizing the facts and figures listed on a paystub can prove to be one of the most important personal finance tools. As Americans gather this Labor Day to pay tribute to the contribution workers make to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of the country, here is some advice to help workers make the most of their paychecks.
Sam Kerch, Director of Finance for Symmetry Software, says that American workers contribute through the payroll withholding system about $1.78 trillion or 70.5 percent of the annual revenue of the U.S. Treasury. “Everyday, thousands of payroll professionals ensure that those trillions of dollars are filtered through the payroll withholding system accurately.” Kerch explains. However, many workers do not realize that their paychecks can be tailored to suit their unique situation and financial needs. Furthermore, Symmetry urges workers to regularly monitor their paychecks and adjust them when life changes occur. Here are a few simple tips to keep in mind in order to make the most out of one’s paycheck:
- Monitor taxes: According to the Tax Foundation, Americans are working 108 days in 2013 just to pay taxes. Workers should check the tax deductions on their paychecks to ensure the proper amount is being withheld each payday. This will help to avoid a large tax bill at the end of the year. While a large tax refund seems like a bonus, workers here are missing out on the interest that their money could earn throughout the year or on putting that money to a different use.
- 401(k): The 401(k) plan turns 32 years old this year. In 2012, Americans had $3.5 trillion in assets invested in 401(k) plans representing 18% of the total U.S. retirement market. Take advantage of employer matching and saving for retirement tax-free. To ease worries about current take-home pay, visit PaycheckCity’s 401(k) calculator to see the impact on take-home pay after enrolling in a 401(k) in addition to various estimations for future retirement savings.
- HSAs: A Health Savings Account (HSA) can fill gaps in your regular health insurance plan. HSAs allow many employees to deduct pre-tax dollars from their paychecks to pay for health-related expense not covered by insurance. Plans vary according to insurance deductibles and what options employers offer, but HSAs can be a great way to save up for big expenses like a child’s braces or new pairs of glasses. HSAs do not follow the “use-it-or-lose-it” restriction like flexible spending accounts do because money stays in an interest-bearing savings account until used for qualified medical expenses.
Other ways to maximize a paycheck include taking advantage of a “cafeteria” benefit plan whereby pretax dollars are allocated to medical and dental insurance, child care expenses, or group life insurance. The impact is savings on necessary expenses through reduced income taxes. As always, when workers experience a life-changing event such as a marriage or birth of a child, workers should update their withholding on their Form W4. To learn more about maximizing paychecks, visit paycheckcity.com. To learn more about National Payroll Week, visit NationalPayrollWeek.com.
These free resources should not be taken as tax or legal advice. Content provided is intended as general information. Tax regulations and laws change and the impact of laws can vary. Consult a tax advisor, CPA or lawyer for guidance on your specific situation.