A few years back, my employer made a change to move everyone over to an electronic payroll system. In order to continue receiving an old fashioned paper payroll statement, you had to actually opt-in for it, or you’d default to having to log in to an account to see your pay statement. At the time, it was sold as the modern and convenient thing to do. Paper? That’s soooo last century!
The reality is that I’m sure they did this as a cost cutting measure, and I’m sure many other companies have done so as well. Maybe even yours? Some back of the napkin math on cost savings… $0.68 (postage) + $0.50 (estimated cost to produce) x 26 pay periods = $30.68 per employee per year. Multiply that by 1,000, 10,000, or 100,000 employees, and you have a legitimate expense and easy cost cutting target.
The sentiment around the office at the time of announcement would be best summarized as, “Oh, that’s fine. I never really looked at them anyway. And now I can get them online, if needed.”
But, I had a completely different perspective.
I immediately opted in to continue receiving my ole fashion paper statement (despite enrolling for direct deposit from day #1), and still gladly receive it to this day. And I strongly recommend that you do the same!
Why? Here’s my thinking…
1. What else do you have to remind you that you actually do something of value?
Sure, I can check the digital numbers in the cloud in my bank account to see that they have ticked upward every few weeks. But I’m a freakin’ desk jockey! As a white collar worker, there is very little that reminds me that I actually do something of value. My “production” is often in the form of a document (spreadsheet, presentation, email). At best, it’s in the form of a revenue number that I made for the company.
There’s no physical good or service produced – a bicycle put together, furniture crafted, home renovated, wall built, vehicle manufactured, landscape landscaped – EVERYTHING IS IN THE DAMN CLOUD! I think this is partly why so many white collar folks are dissatisfied with their jobs – they never get to truly lean back and observe the fruits of their labor. It’s always “on to the next project”.
My paper payroll statement reminds me that I actually did produce something that someone values – and it reminds me EVERY two weeks.
2. Occasionally, computers (or payroll) do screw up.
Sometimes payroll gets it wrong. I look over my pay statement every time it comes for errors.
- Did I get reimbursed for that personal expense?
- Was my 401K matched properly?
- Was I charged the right amount for my HDHP premium?
- Was my HSA deduction correct so that I can reach the maximum HSA contribution?
Last year, I had noticed that a massively incorrect deferred compensation payment was made. It was later corrected, but had I not seen the numbers on my paycheck, I would have never known.
And my wife has noticed payroll errors, which are much more common than one might think.
I’m a salaried employee, but if you are compensated hourly, checking your payroll statement to confirm you are getting paid for the hours you’ve worked is essential. My wife noticed earlier this year that she was missing an entire 12-hour shift and had to submit a correction. Without watching her paper statement, she probably would have never known an error was made.
3. How are you pacing for tax purposes?
If you work hourly or receive bonus compensation that fluctuates throughout the year, it is very important to know where you are at on your taxable adjusted gross income, so you can determine the tax impact.
This can guide you on whether you need to change your withholding taxes or make additional pre-tax contributions to 401Ks, HSAs, and other accounts, so you can avoid getting taxed in a higher tax bracket.
Again, out of sight is out of mind.
4. What if the unexpected happens?
Sometimes the unexpected happens and businesses close, buildings burn down, servers crash or get hacked, or you no longer have a job. How are you going to check your payroll statement when these things happen? Are you going to have everything photographically memorized? If not, you’ll be thankful you have a paper record.
Final Thoughts on Paper Payroll Statements:
I should note that I elect e-statements for EVERYTHING aside from my payroll statement. There’s just too much at stake with that one. Having proper reminders and record of compensation for what you spend the majority of your waking hours doing is still essential (and psychologically rewarding), in my opinion.
What say you?