What Are the Differences Between Gross and Net Income?

By Dan Miller · October 18, 2023 · 7 minute read

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What Are the Differences Between Gross and Net Income?

If you’re a salaried employee, the amount of money that you bring home with each paycheck plays an important role in your overall financial picture. While there are several dollar amounts that likely appear on your paycheck, two of the most important are your gross income and your net income.

Your gross income represents the total amount of money that your employer has paid you. If you are an hourly employee, it will be your hourly wages multiplied by the number of hours that you worked. If you are salaried, then it is a proportional amount of your total annual salary.

But in terms of net income vs. gross income, the net amount is the sum that is on your paycheck or directly deposited to your bank account. This is the figure that results when you subtract withholding taxes, benefits, and other deductions from your gross salary.

Read on to learn more about these two important ways of expressing income, including:

•   What is gross income?

•   What is net income?

•   How do you compare gross vs. net income?

•   How does net income vs. gross income affect your finances?

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What Is Gross Income?

Your gross income is your total salary or wages that you earn before any deductions or taxes are taken out of your paycheck. If you are a salaried employee, your gross income will be the portion of your salary that corresponds to the time period represented on your paycheck. For example, if you have a salary of $52,000 and are paid every two weeks, you will earn a gross income of $2,000 with each bi-weekly paycheck. If you were paid only once a month, however, your gross monthly income would be $4,333.33.

In some cases, an employee might be eligible for overtime pay, which could be reflected in their paycheck as well.

If you are an hourly employee, then your gross income will depend on the total number of hours you work and your hourly wage. If you work 80 hours during a pay period and have an hourly wage of $15/hour, your gross income will be $1,200 (80 times 15). In either case, any tips, bonuses, or one-time additions may also be added to your total gross income.

Recommended: How Long Does a Direct Deposit Take to Go Through?

What Is Net Income?

Here’s the difference between gross income vs. net income: While your gross income represents the total amount of money that you earn in a given pay period, your net income is the amount of money that you’ll actually receive. From your gross income, taxes and common payroll deductions like health insurance and any 401(k) contributions will be subtracted. Other deductions could include wage garnishments or charitable giving via your workplace.

The result is your net income, which may then be sent to your bank account via direct deposit or given to you as a paper check.

Gross vs Net Income: What’s the Difference?

When comparing net and gross income, know this: Your gross income should always be equal to or more than your net income. If you don’t have any of what are known as withholding taxes or other deductions, it is possible that your gross income and net income will be the same. But if you do have any money withheld for taxes, insurance, retirement savings, or other common deductions, they will be subtracted from your gross income. The result is your net income and is also often referred to as “take-home pay.”

Why Do We Go by Gross Income?

When people compare earnings and salary, they often do so by comparing the gross income, and net income isn’t considered. One reason for this is that your gross income is the best indicator to compare the amount of money paid for a particular job or position. The amount of deductions or taxes withheld can vary greatly depending on a person’s situation.

Consider two people that make the same salary — one who is married with children will usually have less taxes withheld than a single person. Also, one person might contribute, say, 10% of their salary to a company-sponsored retirement plan while another chooses not to. Another example could be one person who has deductions that reflect their carrying their family’s health insurance costs while another individual could be married and on their spouse’s plan and therefore have no such deduction.

Another reason that gross income is often a better comparison than net income is because the money that is withheld from your paycheck usually represents actual value that you receive. Money deducted for retirement savings is transferred to your 401(k) account; insurance premiums are used to pay for medical or dental insurance and taxes are paid to the government. Those deductions are serving an important and valuable purpose.

How Do Gross and Net Income Relate to Taxes?

It’s important to understand your taxes and how they relate to your gross and net income. Taxes (along with deductions) are one of the things that is subtracted from your gross income to make up your net income. The more money that you have withheld for taxes from your paycheck, the lower your net income will be. However, this may help minimize the possibility of your owing additional money to the federal or local government come tax season.

How Gross and Net Income Affect Your Finances

While your gross income can be a useful point of comparison in terms of how much you make, it’s your net income that most impacts your budget and finances. When managing your money and wondering whether to focus on your gross or net income, it’s likely that the latter is where you may want to focus.

After all, it’s your net income that represents the money that you actually receive each pay period. This money that you receive each month can be a good starting point as you learn to spend wisely by budgeting.

You can work to best allocate funds to pay your living expenses, make discretionary purchases, pay off debt, and save towards future goals. A line item budget can help you balance your finances and meet your near-term and longer-term goals.

The Takeaway

Gross income and net income are two different points of reference for how much money that you make. Your gross income represents the total wage or salary that you earned during a particular pay period. After any taxes or deductions are taken out, the result is your net income. Your net income is how much money that you actually take home and can be a starting point as you set up your budget.

Understanding how your gross income and net income affect your overall finances is a good first step on the path to a solid financial future. SoFi Checking and Savings can also help you manage your finances. It’s a single, convenient place to spend and save, pays a competitive Annual Percentage Yield (APY), and charges you zero account fees. What’s more, our tools like Vaults and Roundups can help you enhance your savings, and if you open a qualifying account with direct deposit, you can access your paycheck up to two days early.

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How can I increase my net income?

Because net income and gross income are correlated, one way to increase your net income is to increase your gross income. You might do this by finding a new, higher-paying job or by starting a side hustle. The other option to raise your net income would be to lower the amount of taxes and deductions that are taken out each pay period. This could involve, say, increasing your tax allowances to lower the amount that is withheld for taxes or decreasing your other deductions, such as how much you contribute to retirement savings.

What are some budgeting tips to help you with your income?

One budgeting tip is to make sure you start with your net income and list out all of your expenses. Make sure that your total expenses are less than your total income (this may involve making some cuts) and create a plan to save at least some of the difference. You might want to research such budget guidelines at the 50/30/20 rule for inspiration.

Is gross income more important than net income?

Gross income and net income are both important and useful in different circumstances. For example, if you are wondering whether 40K a year is a good salary, it will depend on your situation. If you are single and/or live in an area with a low cost of living, it might be. But if you are the sole source of income for a family of four, live in a location with a high cost of living, and/or have considerable debt, that same gross income could be a challenge in terms of making ends meet.

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