7 things you need to know about the all-american payday

The United States has some of the most versatile payday systems in the world, and it gives most of the power to the states to decide when, where, and how employees get paid. In many European and Asian countries, it’s normal to receive a paycheck once per month—in some cases, on a fixed day—whereas, in other parts of the world, pay frequency depends on whether a worker has a white collar or blue collar job.

Whatever day it lands on, it’s safe to say that payday is one of the days of the month the workforce looks forward to most. But just how important is that paycheck to American employees? We were determined to find out.

In an independent survey, QuickBooks Payroll asked 1,000 employees over the age of 18 from businesses of all sizes throughout the country what they do when they get paid, how it makes them feel, how quickly they spend their earnings, and more. Believe it or not, respondents said payday makes them feel better than their birthday or significant U.S. holidays. Below you’ll find the breakdown of the rest of our research.

1. Friday is payday for most employees

No surprises here. Friday has got a lot going for it already, marking the end of the traditional five-day workweek and the eve of the weekend. But it might be popular for more than that. Over 53% of employees said they get paid on Fridays, with the next most popular response being that their payday varies. The most popular frequency at which employees get paid is every other week (44% reported this), with only 10% receiving a paycheck monthly.

Which day of the week do you get paid?

Smaller companies are more likely to pay employees weekly, rather than every other week, with 39% of employees saying they’re paid weekly, and 33% every other week. Around 1 in 5 employees are paid twice a month, with a similar proportion saying payday falls on different days every pay period.

How often do you get paid?

2. One in four employees has received a paycheck with errors

Although it might seem like paycheck errors would be more difficult to make in this day and age, 1 in 4 employees say they’ve received a paycheck with errors. How much do those errors cost a business exactly? That’s hard to say. But 1 in 6 of our respondents said a single inaccurate paycheck would make them quit their job.

How often do employees receive late or inaccurate paychecks?

How many late/inaccurate paychecks would make you quit your job?

Employees of smaller businesses (with 20 employees or fewer) are more likely to receive late paychecks, possibly due to cash flow issues or inefficient payroll, with 68% reporting they are “always on time,” compared to 82% of employees at larger employers.

3. People who work for smaller companies value job satisfaction more than people who work for larger companies

Our survey found that, in general, employees are more concerned with pay than other employment factors like job satisfaction, benefits , living close to work, or how much they like their coworkers. That said, employees who work for smaller companies ranked job satisfaction higher (placing almost equal emphasis on the two measures) compared to employees who work for larger companies (who place much greater emphasis on pay than job satisfaction).

Additionally, people who work for the smallest companies (those with 1–5 employees) were the only employees to rank job satisfaction No. 1 and pay No. 2 on their list—suggesting they are less financially motivated.

What employees value most at work:

1. Pay

2. Job satisfaction

3. Benefits

4. Living close to work

5. Liking the people I work with

4. A quarter of employees like to treat themselves on payday

We asked employees what payday means for them, and for the most part, people came up with very practical answers. For example, for 1 in 5 employees, payday means paying off debt. This may explain why more than a quarter of respondents say they never spend an entire paycheck before their next payday—always saving something for a rainy day.

For others, payday is a day for celebration. Almost 1 in 4 employees said payday calls for a night out or a shopping spree, and 1 in 5 said they’ve spent their entire paycheck the day they’ve received it.

What does payday mean for you?

5. One in five employees says they run out of money every week

Whether it’s irresponsible spending or the cost of living, 21% say they run out of money every week before their next paycheck arrives. But a significant number of the responses indicate that payday reminds them they don’t earn enough money, while 6% are reminded they need to find a new job.

How often do you run out of money before your next payday?

What’s more concerning is that 4 out of 5 respondents said they are not saving enough money for retirement, and half could only live on savings for less than a month if they were to lose their job.

Are American workers saving for retirement?

If you lost your job today, how long could you live on your savings?

6. The majority of employees say they’re confident they could find a new job with the same pay and benefits

We wanted to learn more about the workforce’s confidence levels when it came to their income and the job market. Overall, confidence in the job market seems to be high, with 82% saying they could find another job with the same pay and benefits if they were fired. Not only that, expectations for their income improving were high as well.

If you lost your job today, how confident are you in finding another job with the same pay/benefits?

Over half (70%) of employees surveyed had high levels of confidence that their employers would give them a raise this year. But confidence levels varied by company size. We found that among employees of very small businesses, confidence in the job market is generally lower, with only 38% expecting a raise this year. Meanwhile, only 26% of those working for companies with 100 employees or more would say they’re not confident in the raise department.

How confident are you that your employer will give you a raise this year?

When it comes to money as a motivator, people were split. Less than half (43%) said not getting a raise would not negatively impact their productivity, and 33% said it would actually motivate them to work harder. A quarter of respondents, however, said they’d start looking for another job if a raise wasn’t on its way.

If your employer does not give you a raise, what will you do?

7. Tax reform has benefited some, but not others

According to the responses, employees feel recent tax reform has a more positive than negative effect on take-home pay. Over a quarter (31%) said they have more money due to tax reform, while 18% say they have less. Having said that, 35% said they’ve seen no difference, and 16% reported they’re unsure, which suggests there’s more confusion about the impact of the Trump administration’s tax reform than certainty.

What impact have this year’s tax reforms had on your take-home pay?

Regardless of how a paycheck is spent or an employee’s confidence in the economy, taxes, or their ability to get a new job, it’s clear that payday is important to American employees. To keep employees this excited for their checks, a great deal of timeliness and accuracy is required on the employer’s part. Due to varying financial circumstances and the fact that payday is of high importance to most employees, getting it right is critical for retention, morale, and the welfare of the team



QuickBooks Payroll surveyed 1,000 employees from businesses of all sizes throughout the US in July 2018. The sample was selected by Pollfish. QuickBooks Payroll welcomes the re-use of this data under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original source is cited with attribution to

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