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The Smart Money

SBCC Presents a Student's Guide to Financial Fitness


Wages for the Ages

It's not enough just to earn a paycheck.  Building credit and wealth is about thinking long-term, making careful financial choices in the present, and never losing sight of the big picture.

Essential life goals such as high credit score, home loan approvals, and even jobs can depend on your financial track record.  Once you've learned the finer points of credit and borrowing it's easy to avoid the most common traps.

Learn How to Earn

Understanding your wages, benefits and tax liabilities is the best way to maximize your earnings and build wealth.

It's Not Just About Salary... It's About Savvy.


The average U.S. college graduate earns nearly $50,000 annually. After five years, that jumps to about $60,000.

 4 in 5

Nearly 80% of American workers report living paycheck-to-paycheck, with more than 28% of recent college graduates moving back home to defray costs.

Income and Benefit

Demand is growing for SBCC graduates, and salaries are higher than ever. Choosing a future proof field means opening doors to bigger and better opportunities… with paychecks to match.

How Much Will I Earn?

Project your future earning power, based on the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics data!

Salary Calculator

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Employment and Earning Tips

1 Do your homework!


Develop a habit of acknowledging every detail of your paycheck, bills, and financial forms. Don't be afraid to ask questions if something is unclear.

2 Speak up!


Keep an open dialogue with your employer regarding salary and benefits. Explore and pursue all possible workplace benefits.

3 Get with the program!

Find out whether your employer offers a retirement savings program, in which savings are withheld directly from each paycheck, often matched by a corresponding employer contribution.

       Need more advice? Visit for up-to-date tips on earning, borrowing, spending, saving, and more!


The Tax Files

There’s no reason to be afraid of April 15, if you’ve planned properly. Let’s begin with some basics:

Checking the boxes

It’s important to understand all of the allocations being deducted from your earnings. Use this glossary to make sense of your W-2. More information is available in the official IRS instructions PDF.

What exactly is a W-2?

Your W-2 is your employer’s record of your wage and salary information, provided each year, by law, to the federal government. This is different from your W-4, which is used to tell your employer how much tax to withhold from each paycheck. Don't lose your W-2! It will be impossible to file your taxes without it. 

  • Gross Income: Your total wages, before taxes.
  • Federal Tax Withheld: The total amount held back by your employer to cover federal income tax.
  • State Tax Withheld: The total amount held back by your employer to cover state income tax.
  • Social Security Wages/Tax: The amount of your earnings subject to Social Security taxation / Social Security tax withheld.
  • Medicare Wages: The amount of your earnings subject to Medicare taxation / Medicare tax withheld.
  • Dependent Care Benefits: Any amount provided by your employer for eligible dependent expenses, including child care.
  • Deferred Compensation: Any amount withheld as part of an employer-sponsored savings plan.


Calculator and Pen

Calculate Your Tax. Then Relax!

As a paid employee, you will be asked to estimate your tax withholding allowance based on income, personal, and family factors. Making the right decision will ensure that you don’t have too much (or too little) tax withheld. Use this handy IRS tool to determine your best possible tax withholding amount:

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Tax Tips

1 Keep a record of everything

Maintain paper or electronic copies of all important income, banking, budgeting, and tax documents. This includes receipts, checks, spending and mileage logs, payroll and tax information, expense forms, and charitable donations.

2 Itemize your deductions

Keeping good records means having more flexibility when it comes to itemizing your deductions and reducing your tax burden. Many household and life expenses, including education and training costs, can be deducted with proper documentation.

3 Pay on time

Most financial problems can be avoided (or at least softened) by maintaining disciplined and timely payment schedules. Taxes are no different. Avoid penalties, liens and garnishments by filing on time, every year! Extensions may be available.

Smarter, savvier students start at SBCC!