What Nobody is Telling You About Your Full-Time Salary

How to Calculate Taxes from Your Salary

how to calculate your first paycheck

Category: Career & Work

Read Time: 7 minutes

I wanted you guys to be the first to know the tiny self-realization that I had today at work: 

I am a fraud.

No seriously, I am. For the past year as an intern, I have been living and enjoying the lavish lifestyle of a corporate babe. When in reality, I had no idea what that meant.

Nope, not until today, the fourth day of my first week at work and the last day of my innocence, when I was forced to say hello to three complicated and unwelcomed friends: Health Benefits, 401ks and the absolute worst - taxes.

It's the real world now, and they're here to play.

Now, I'm going to save you the amount of stress and shookness that I experienced and tell you the REAL TRUTH about your first full-time job salary.


That pretty little salary number you worked so hard to negotiate for will never EVER be what actually shows up in your bank account.


It's just facts, deal with it.

And it won't just be a little amount that's missing either. This isn't like that time you got that summer job at Forever 21 making $10/hr.  (How much did they take off per paycheck? Maybe $50?) Let's be real you barely even felt that.

No this, this is some hard hitting stuff that will actually body-rock your entire budget if you planned it to the T of your salary number - like I did. Let me give you a quick hypothetical reality check of what Health Benefits, 401k, and Taxes can actually do to your semi-monthly paycheck.



Let's say you got your first entry level job and you were able to negotiate up to 50,000/year. 

Let's take 50,000 and divide it by 12 months to see how much you will receive each month over the course of a year. Now let's take that number and divide it by 2, to see how much you will be getting paid bi-weekly. 

$50,000 / 12months = $4,167

$4,167 / 2 = $2,083

Hooray! That gives you just a little above $2,000 every paycheck to live off of and play with.... right?


You still have to calculate how much they're going to take in Healthcare benefits and taxes.  

Let's use SmartAsset to help figure out how much will be taken out of my paycheck. It's a great tool that breaks down everything and makes it easy to understand.

Now let's take your bi-weekly amount and subtract your pre-taxed deductions* from it. 

*Pre-taxed deductions are just another fancy word to say your health benefits and 401k. It's called "Pre-tax deductions" because they take it out of your salary before you get taxed.

Which sounds annoying but is actually a good thing because since it's percentage based, then they're actually taking less.


Estimated Pre-Taxed Deductions (based on percentage):


- Medical Insurance (2.88%): $60.00

- Dental Coverage (.29%): $6.00

- Vision Coverage: (.10%): $2.00

- 401k (3.98%): $80.00


= $1,935.00

Wooh! So you went from making $2,083 every 2 weeks to $1,935. Not too shabby, right?



That’s only the amount you're going to be taxed on, not actually money that you can spend. 

So let's take $1,935 and subtract your actual taxes from it to get your final take-home number.

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final take-home estimate:


- Social Security Tax (6%): $125

- Medicare Tax (1.40%): $29

- Federal Income Tax (8.7%): $185.00


= $1,593.00


Total Semi-monthly paycheck after all said and done = $1,593.00

Congratulations. You're looking just as bewildered as me because you realized that you paying almost $12,000 a year in pre-tax deductions and taxes alone.

Welcome to the adulting everybody leaves out.

Now that you know your true monthly numbers, you can adjust your budget plan accordingly and get a more accurate depiction of how much you will have coming in. :-) You’re welcome.

Ok, all that said and done - here’s what I realized: the most important thing is your perspective. 

Regardless if you're making $6,000 a month or $100,  God is good. 

I always have to remind myself that I am so blessed and thankful to even have an opportunity to be employed in the first place. It's so easy to take these things for granted.

So don't let this little hiccup completely ruin your post-grad experience. Like everything in life, you just gotta roll with the punches - I'm just here so you can see them coming.

Stay encouraged ladies, we got a lot of butt-kicking and queendom conquering to do.

Until next time,

- Corporate Queen

P.S. - The Bible actually commands us to pay our taxes! I was blown away (and actually irritated) when I stumbled across it, but Paul is addressing the Roman church and actually says, "Hey- pay your taxes man. It's important and the government uses that money for good." Which is disappointing bc now we aren't ignoring to it and actually gotta do it (like we had a choice lol)

Romans 13:5-7 New Living Translation (NLT)

5 So you must submit to [the government], not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience.

6 Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority.