Understanding Your Pay, Benefits, and Paycheck

Understanding your paycheck can take some time. Use this free lesson to better understand your pay and work benefits.

What are employment benefits?

Depending on company policy, in most cases you are eligible for benefits if you are a full time worker, usually meaning that you work from 35-40 hours a week. If you are eligible, employment benefits are considered part of your total pay package, along with your salary. In most cases, employees pay for at least a portion of their benefits, but your employer may pay for a fairly large portion of them as well. How much your employer expects you to contribute toward your benefits may change from year to year as benefit prices change.

Some common benefits include:

  • Health/dental/vision insurance.
    Health insurance helps cover the high cost of medical care. Some employers pay for such benefits entirely, whereas most employers pay a portion and the employee pays a portion, which comes out of their paychecks.
  • Retirement/pension plan.
    Retirement plans such as 401(K) and 403(B) plans are an excellent way of saving for retirement, with an added benefit of deferring on income tax. The amount of money you decide to put into your plan comes out of your paycheck before income taxes are taken out. Some employers reward their employees with cash for participating in such programs, while some employees fund such plans on their own.
  • Life insurance.
    In the event of your death, life insurance provides money for a beneficiary, usually a family member. This money is generally used to cover essential expenses and other financial needs. Many employers pay for a minimum amount of coverage. Employees may have the option of contributing money to increase the level of coverage. Deductions are commonly taken out of each paycheck.
  • Disability insurance.
    This benefit pays lost income to an employee due to extended illness or disability due to an accident. Some employers offer a minimal amount of coverage, such as worker's compensation. Disability insurance coverage varies greatly from state to state. If your state or employer doesn't offer disability insurance, you can purchase a plan to suit your needs.