RIT Student Helps Workers Decipher Pay Stubs

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Web-site presentation, Anatomy of a Paycheck, explains paycheck terminology

Amid financial statements showing shrinking retirement accounts, many Americans pay little heed to the financial statements that matter most, their paychecks.

A Rochester Institute of Technology advanced technical-communication certificate graduate student hoped to change that by teaching employees about the small but vital slip of paper that’s mostly ignored, especially by those with direct deposit.

Wendy Wright, a senior technical writer at Paychex Inc., created an educational presentation on paychecks and earnings statements as a project for the course, Technical Information Design.

She later explained the project-Anatomy of a Paycheck-to Paychex’s marketing director, who liked the idea so much that it evolved into an interactive presentation now featured on the Paychex Web site. The presentation gives examples and explanations, grouped by paycheck and earnings statement, or pay stub. It defines terms such as earnings, pre- and post-tax adjustments, taxable compensation, and net or "take-home" pay. It also includes social security and Medicare tax rates, maximum withholding amounts and a step-by-step net-pay calculation example.

The presentation was recently highlighted by CBS MarketWatch, which credits Paychex as being the only payroll-processing firm among "the big three" offering easily accessible educational material on its Web site.

"It’s quite gratifying to see a project I did for class have such an impact," says Wright, 41, of Walworth.

"Wendy is incredibly creative," says Maureen White, Web marketing manager for Paychex. "She’s constantly coming up with ideas for Web-site tools. It was nice for her idea to come to fruition."

Adds Tom Moran, RIT associate professor and course instructor: "Wendy applied her expertise, skills with new media and knowledge of her audience to create a powerful and helpful presentation. It painlessly answers the questions that come to everyone who has ever opened their paycheck and wondered, ‘Where did all that money go?’"

To view the presentation, visit www.paychex.com/employees/anatpayck.html (Macromedia Flash Player required). To read the CBS MarketWatch Aug. 7 article, "Police your paycheck," that highlighted the presentation, visit www.cbs.marketwatch.com.

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