How to Find Out Your Gross Annual Income

Quick Look

  • Salaried workers should be able to find their gross annual income from an offer letter, a pay raise confirmation letter, or their HR, payroll, or benefits system. But it’s always a good idea to review your paycheck and confirm by multiplying the per pay period gross earnings by the number of expected pay periods per year.
  • Hourly workers or freelancers should estimate an average hourly rate, average number of hours worked and calculate from there. See the examples below.
  • It doesn’t have to be perfect. The only time you need to know this exactly is when you’re doing your taxes. When using this as part of a calculation for estimating long-term retirement needs, a rough earnings number is fine.


Estimating your gross annual income is a fairly straightforward exercise. For salaried employees, you’re usually told your gross annual income when you’re offered a job or any time you receive a raise. For hourly employees or those with other forms of less regular income, you’ll need to take a few extra steps to calculate your gross annual pay. But either way, the process is pretty straightforward.

We’ll go through three examples below. There’s Beatrice, a salaried worker who earns a regular paycheck, and Thomas, a freelance designer who also does some dog walking. We’ll also walk through some tips that will be useful for other generic hourly earners (e.g. retail workers with fluctuating hours, waitstaff with variable hours and tips, etc.).

Example: Beatrice, Salaried Employee

Beatrice recently started work as a research scientist for a small company. When she was offered the job she received an offer letter that indicated her starting salary would be $60,000 per year. Based on this offer letter, Beatrice’s gross annual salary is $60,000. This is the amount she can expect to earn annually before taxes and other deductions are removed.

However, let’s say Beatrice doesn’t remember what was in her offer letter or that she just wants to confirm that the paycheck she is receiving is actually the equivalent of $60k in annual salary.

She looks at her most recent paystub (which happens to be the third one she’s received since she started the job) and goes to the pay summary area. This is what she sees:

Pay Summary Gross FIT Taxable Wages Taxes Deductions Net Pay
Current $2,307.70 $1,961.54 $414.78 $330.77 $1,562.15
YTD (Year to Date) $6,923.10 $5,884.62 $1,244.31 $992.31 $4,686.45

Beatrice knows her company pays her every other week (and if she’s uncertain she can ask HR). Since there are 52 weeks in a year, being paid once every two weeks means she will receive a total of 26 paychecks a year (52 / 2 = 26). Beatrice focuses on the current pay period and ignores the Year to Date summary line. She multiplies her current gross pay, $2,307.70, by 26 paychecks per year to get $60,000.20. She has now confirmed that her pay is exactly what she expected it would be, $60,000 in gross annual salary.

Example: Thomas, Hourly Freelancer with Side Gig

Thomas works as a freelance designer. His work fluctuates. It’s a mix of regular work with steady clients and project-based work that he finds through sites like Upwork, SimplyHired, Dribbble etc. Some weeks, Thomas works 50 hours a week and some weeks he only works 10. But after reviewing the work he’s done over the last several months, he’s able to determine some averages. He also knows that in a typical year he takes about 20 days of vacation, the equivalent of about 4 working weeks.

  • Thomas’ Design Work Summary
    • $40/hr for design work, on average
    • 28 hours a week, on average
    • 48 working weeks a year

Based on this, Thomas determines that through his design work, he earns $40/hr x 28/hrs per week x 48 weeks/yr = $53,760 in gross annual earnings from his design work.

In addition to his design work, Thomas does a little bit of dog walking on the side. He only has two clients (Fluffy and Ruffers), but they live nearby and he fits them in during his lunch.

  • Thomas’ Dog Walking Work Summary
    • 2 dogs at $10 a walk
    • 5 days a week
    • 48 weeks a year

Thomas determines that through his dog walking work, he earns $10 x 2/dogs x 5/days a week x 48 weeks a year = $4,800 from his dog walking side gig.

When Thomas combines his design work, plus his dog walking work, he estimates his gross annual income to be $58,560.

Suggestions for Other Hourly Earners

If you work a job that pays hourly, you earn significant wages in tips, are paid in cash, or have some other arrangement, you’ll need to do a few things to estimate your gross annual earnings. Here are a few suggestions.

Tracking your cash pay by writing it down in a notebook for a few weeks or a month will ensure you have an accurate picture of your typical earnings.

  • If you get a paystub but your hours vary: Just like the example from the salaried worker above, Beatrice, you’ll want to look at your paystub. In addition to looking at the summary section, focusing on the current pay period, and reviewing the gross earnings number, you’ll want to look at the hours you worked in that pay period.

    If those hours are typical, simply determine the number of paychecks you expect to get in a year, and multiple your current gross earnings by the number of paychecks.

    If your hours for the most recent paystub aren’t typical, simply estimate how many hours you will typically expect to work, multiply that by your hourly rate, and that will be your per pay period gross earnings. Then, multiply your per pay period earnings by the number of paychecks per year.
  • You get a paystub but earn money in tips not tracked in the paystub: Follow the same procedure described above to estimate the earnings by paystub. Then, add in your other earnings (e.g. cash tips etc.). If your other earnings vary a lot, get a notebook. Write down your non-paystub earnings for a week, two weeks, or a month. Multiply that by the number of like periods there are in a year (e.g. 12 months, 26 two-week periods etc.) and add this to your paystub calculation.

Estimating Your Gross Annual Earnings Conclusion

Estimating your gross annual income isn’t usually very hard.  That’s because it’s the amount you earn before taxes and other deductions are taken out. Of course, it can be made a little more complicated with situations like mid-year job changes, hours and pay rates that fluctuate, and more.

However, most paycheck companies will summarize your annual earnings in a Year to Date (YTD) review section of their website. This can be a particularly useful tool if you receive other forms of income like vested stock grants (typically called “RSUs”), or you participate in programs like Employee Stock Purchase Plans (ESPP) and make gains over the course of the year.

But most importantly, just remember that most of the time, a rough estimate of earnings is going to be good enough.

For example, when you’re using the MoneySwell Retirement Planning tool, your current gross pay is just one part of the Nest Egg Needs calculation. Not only that, but that calculation is expected to be updated from time to time. Nobody just calculates their retirement nest egg needs once and assumes it’s good forever. Therefore, a ballpark estimate for your current gross pay is more than sufficient. Get as reasonable an estimate as you can, and don’t sweat the details too much.

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