I’m just a bloke trying to understand how much I actually got paid
The 2 numbers are never the same, so….how much did I really make last year?
FYI, the YTD (year to date) fields on your pay stubs are probably a better way to figure out how much money you actually took home. The point of a W2 is to help you figure out taxes, not so much to help you figure out your budget, and the way the information is presented rejects that.
Wages is federal taxable income, while SS wages is what’s taxable for SS purposes.
The key difference being that Federal Taxable income doesn’t include things like 401s, but social security (and medicare) taxes do.
Paying into a 401k reduces the federal tax owed, but not the social security or medicare tax owed.