How Long Should I Keep Pay Stubs After My Employer Pays Me?

You just got your first paycheck from your first job that isn’t mowing lawns for fast cash. Now you can really start saving up for that new cell phone that you’ve had your eye on for some time. Maybe it’s even time to start saving for your first car so you can stop bumming rides from your sister.

You look over the paycheck and notice that there’s a piece of paper attached to it. Your boss says, “This is a pay stub, and it’s important to keep it.” Your next question goes something like this, “Okay, so how long should I keep pay stubs?”

It might be important, but it just looks like a bunch of foreign words and numbers that you don’t understand.

Keep reading to learn exactly what a pay stub is, why it is important for you to keep it, and just how long you should keep a hold of it for.

What is a Pay Stub?

A pay stub is a piece of paper that you get whenever you receive a paycheck from your place of employment. If you are receiving a paper check, it will be attached to the pay stub. If you have direct deposit, you get a pay stub as a receipt of payment.

If you work for a small company or a locally-owned business, your paystubs might be made with a paystub maker. This is a great website that makes it super easy to create simple tax documents

On a pay stub, you will find an assortment of important information from your paycheck. Pay stubs record your gross pay, net pay, wages withheld for taxes, and any other deductions that might be taken from your pay during each pay period. Here is a breakdown of what that means for your paycheck

Gross Pay

Gross pay is the amount of money, in total, that you made in wages during the pay period (the time that passed since your last paycheck). It can also show you how much money you’ve made since the beginning of the year. These are the numbers before any percentage of your wages are taken out for taxes and deductions.

Wages Withheld for Taxes

Wages that are withheld are for tax purposes. Each pay period, some percentage is taken out as taxable income. Federal, state, and local taxes can be withheld from each check. You should also see that a percentage of your wages are taken out for your contribution to Social Security or Medicare under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act or FICA.

Deductions

Deductions are anything other than taxes that are withheld. This can include medical benefits, back payments on taxes, or even child support payments. These are automatically held by your employer to pay for the services so that you don’t have to worry about taking care of them yourself.

In some cases, these are mandated to make sure that you make your payments on time.

Net Pay

Net pay is the actual amount of money that was paid to you after taxes and deductions were taken out of your paycheck. This is the amount of money that the bank will cash your check for or will be deposited into your bank account on payday.

So you’re wondering why all of this is important: Why do I need to keep them and for how long?

How Long Should I Keep Pay Stubs?

It’s simple, really. According to Bank of America, the answer is one year. The company suggests keeping your pay stubs in a secure location for 12 months before shredding them.

A year gives you enough time to use them during the following tax season to compare them to your W-2 to make sure that all of the information is accurate. This allows you to get corrections to your W-2 so that you can file your taxes with the correct numbers in place.

Benefits to Keeping Pay Stubs

While the one year, as a general rule, is important it is not the only reason that you might keep your pay stubs. Here are a few more benefits to keeping your pay stub records at your fingertips.

Proof of Income

In many situations, you might be required to prove that you have an income. The simplest way to do this would be to provide your pay stub. Landlords, loan lenders, or health insurance providers might ask for proof that you would be able to afford to rent a home, take out a loan, or apply for medical insurance.

Proof of Residency

Your pay stub also lists personal information such as your name and home address. If you need documentation that shows where you live, a pay stub could prove to be useful. Applying for a driver’s license requires that you provide documentation of your place of residence.

Proof of Lost Wages

Sometimes things happen beyond your control. If your place of employment is shut down, you might be stuck in a hard place financially. You might need to apply for welfare assistance to get food stamps and medical assistance to be able to make ends meet.

Your pay stub will show that you have a drastic drop in your income and that you need help. If you are in a car accident and miss enough work, your pay stubs can show your insurance company that you may qualify for compensation for the lost wages.

So, Keeping Your Pay Stubs is Important

Now that you know what a pay stub is and can answer the question “how long should I keep pay stubs?”, you will be better prepared for the upcoming tax season and any potential problem that you might come across as an employee.

Don’t forget to keep your paystubs in a safe place for about a year. When you no longer have a need for them, feel free to get rid of them. The safest way to do that is to shred them so that no one else can get a hold of your financial information.

Image Credit: Payroll via TheaDesign/Shutterstock

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