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Can we afford to relocate?

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katyjac
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Can we afford to relocate?

Postby katyjac » Sun, 24 May 2015 6:24 pm

Hi,

I'll try to be brief. Any help relating to any of the questions I'm asking would be hugely appreciated.

My husband and I are considering moving from the UK to Singapore. He would do this by staying within the company he currently works for. I have tried very hard to find info on the costs of living in Singapore but decided asking those who live there would be most effective. My questions would be:

1. What are the general costs of living within a 3 bed condominium? I.e utilities.

2. My husband would earn around 90k in Singapore. Airfares would be provided but we don't yet know whether any other subsidies etc would be offered. Is this considered enough to afford a 3 bedroom condominium, probably the lease of a car, utilities, eating out maybe once a week.

3. We have 2 children who would be 1 year old and 2.5 years old. If we can't find space for a live in maid I. E can't afford a 4th bedroom which I think is very likely, what are the alternatives for childcare.

4. I would like to work to bring in income. I teach languages at high school level. Would it be relatively easy to find teaching work? Preferably within an International School.

5. Work life balance....are the hours my husband works like to increase in Singapore? He is in the legal industry.

Again, any info you could give would be appreciated. If we move we need to know we have as much relevant info as possible.

Thank you.

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Re: Can we afford to relocate?

Postby katyjac » Sun, 24 May 2015 8:52 pm

To clarify that is 90000 pounds not sgd.

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Re: Can we afford to relocate?

Postby curiousgeorge » Sun, 24 May 2015 9:32 pm

That's about SGD15k a month at today's exchange rates...well over three times what the average household makes here.
Plenty of other posts here on COL. condo could range from around 4k and up for somewhere decent. Depends on where you want to live - how about filling out the "where should I live" questionnaire?

Even places advertised with 3beds often have "maids room" which is a sleeping space off the kitchen barely big enough for the bed. I couldn't in all conscience ask someone to live in one of those rooms, but many people do.
I wouldn't know about childcare. Or teaching.
I don't know the legal hours in Singapore either. Locals tend to "work" long hours i.e. spend half the day on facebook/youtube and go home at 8pm. Expats tend to work during work hours and head out on time. 9am-5pm is more like 8am-6pm across the board here I guess.


One major point to consider - taxes. Is your husband being paid in UK or Singapore? UK taxes on where you get paid, Singapore taxes on where you are when you earn. So if you get paid in the UK and live in Singapore, you're liable for taxes in both countries - despite the double-taxation treaty, you really don't want to be paying UK tax rates. If you get paid in Singapore you can bank on 15%ish for the first six months at least, likely to go down once you become tax resident here after six months.

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Re: Can we afford to relocate?

Postby JR8 » Sun, 24 May 2015 11:01 pm

Hi Katy, and welcome to the forum,
The following is just my 2c/IMHO.
1. Our utils (same kind of place) are about S$100/month. But we don’t use air-con.
The only thing that can ramp that up is regular or major air-con use. That might add even up to say an additional $300/mo. at the extreme.
But I’d suggest getting a few fans, and adjusting. Air-con is really bad for the respiratory system anyway :)
2. Well it’s not easy not knowing your ages, what kind of ‘status’ you have back home.
I’d suggest you need the cost of moving covered (both ways). The cost of flights homes for the family once a year (aka ‘Home Leave’). And really any incidental expenses incurred as a result of your employer posting you here. Healthcare, visa costs, pet quarantine etc. 1st and last month in Serviced Apartment/(inc T+E at that time) etc.
There’s been something of a sea-change these last 10-20 years. Used to be the company wished to expat you, they covered everything; vs these days they post you then put you on a ‘local’ package (no expat extras). You need to look closely at the posting offer, and see what it offered. Unfortunately (IME) they’ll probably only produce that by the time you’re in the taxi on the way to the airport. //3 bed modern condo.... maybe $4k/mo (ballpark), in a decent Zone-2 type location. Try and get a feel for the peripheral neighbourhoods. At all costs resist the newbie urge to feel you must by default live right in the middle of town.
First time here [late 20’s/single], my group of expat friends all lived within 2 minutes of Orchard, as that after our sometimes 18hr days that was where the world started and ended. But, especially with a family get out into Zone 2, maybe just 15 minutes more on the MRT/bus, and your environment becomes a lot ‘more real’, more space, more greenery, less ‘Oxford Street’ - esp. with children in tow.
3. Do you have domestic servants in England? If not you don’t need them here, esp. if you’re not working.
4. This is arguably a whole other field/topic. I would suggest as a starting point assuming that you won’t work here. [It’s complicated].
5. My experience is the hours here are pretty brutal. That’s why we’re here, to pioneer new schemes/projects with our imported knowledge. It’s sort of where the ‘live hard/ play hard, make your money for a few years and ship out’ idea comes from...

[Just random thoughts, others might well differ :)]
'Do it or do not do it: You will regret both' - Kierkegaard

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Re: Can we afford to relocate?

Postby JR8 » Sun, 24 May 2015 11:23 pm

curiousgeorge wrote:That's about SGD15k a month at today's exchange rates...well over three times what the average household makes here.


I've seen this point made before and it almost offends me [no offence CG lol, and I've no idea where you're from].

If you're a 'Westerner' and get expatted it's invariably a brief, planned, career move; it's not an opportunity to a future life in SG. It's complete upheaval, and expensive. So, you want to get well compensated.

You don't and can't move, and instantly live on the same outgoings as a local. Neither should you expect to. Everything especially before you know the ropes is hugely expensive.


So saying that's 'Xtimes a local household' is meaningless, since they're not a local household living in an HDB and shopping at wet-markets.
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Re: Can we afford to relocate?

Postby Primrose Hill » Mon, 25 May 2015 10:27 am

JR8, I sort off disagree with you there. GBP90,000 pa gross means that take home pay after NI & income tax is approx GBP4,500-4,800 per month. Unless both husband and I are each earning GBP90,000 pa gross, its not enough for a family of 4 living in zone 2. Of course, its all subjective - if you shop at Aldi or Iceland, no mortgage to pay, paying only GBP90.00 per month because you live in zone 2, do not have at least 1 if not 2 holidays a year, watch telly all the time, do not eat out, no school fees to pay and certainly no domestic helpers than its plenty of money leftover to play around. However, take my family for example and I do not consider myself as a high flyer nor over indulgent socialite - council tax is GBP240.00 per month, grocery is easily GBP600-800 per month - a mixture of Tesco/Sainsbury for dry stuff, others Waitrose/butcher/fishmonger, eating out (average not Nobu/Gordan Ramsey restaurant type) is about GBP100 per meal for 4 of us, utilities (gas, electric & water) is about GBP500 per month, not to mention Sky/mobile phones/broadband/mortgage and school fees.
Here, SGD15,000 goes a long way. Maybe I am being delusional. But I find that I manage to save here. I can afford to treat myself every so often. I don't have to count every single penny ever so carefully like when I lived in London.

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Re: Can we afford to relocate?

Postby bgd » Mon, 25 May 2015 10:35 am

Don't rush into leasing a car. Try public transport first. It's pretty good here. Not having a car will save you a lot. Certainly enough to fund a helper who would make traveling with kids much easier.

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Re: Can we afford to relocate?

Postby JR8 » Mon, 25 May 2015 12:33 pm

Hi PH,
I think we’re talking at slightly crossed-purposes. I can’t see where I was making reference to costs in London. When I mentioned ‘Zone-2’, and ‘Oxford Street-like’, I was making parallels someone from London, yet to move here, might understand.
I agree $15k/mo here goes a long way (very, IMO, I never got paid that much). I also saved money here. But I think some of the apparent typical expectations of someone pre-move, of living downtown, having one or two cars, having a DH/maid are pretty good ways to prejudice the longer-term potential to save.
I don’t really know where these expectations come from, and we’ve discussed it before. In one case I recall one potential relocator had done a pre-relo trip here, and a local colleague in his office had suggested he should flat-hunt in the Holland Village area. I can see how that might happen, as the stereotypical view through a local’s prism might be, that that’s where all expats live. Then we had his panicking wife on the forum pulling her hair out, wondering how they ever afford the same size house in HV as they had back home, and pay for 2 cars, a DH, and put the children in private schools. IIRC that was the case that spurred the creation of the ‘Where should we live’ template. To help people to carefully consider what they really want, and not to simply fall into the expensive comfort zone of ‘Must live in D10’ etc.
I also think there is something of a disconnect, where the pre-mover imagines Asia and hence SG is cheap. Well, if you wish for the stereotypical expat lifestyle it’s not. After a stint in Tokyo, and holidaying in Norway, SG is the most expensive place I’ve been.
I also think society here is less ‘flat’ than back home, the top-end wealth concentrates in small well defined sub-districts. Since land is so limited those sub-districts, ‘D10’/Tanglin/Orchard/Holland etc are painfully expensive. So, that’s the trap, the pre-mover seeks a comfort zone, they believe they’re probably being well paid, they perhaps don’t know what costs are, imagine they’ll live like home, but have staff (DH), and someone has probably set their expectations that they should be flat-hunting in D10.
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Re: Can we afford to relocate?

Postby curiousgeorge » Tue, 26 May 2015 10:24 am

JR8 wrote:
curiousgeorge wrote:That's about SGD15k a month at today's exchange rates...well over three times what the average household makes here.


I've seen this point made before and it almost offends me [no offence CG lol, and I've no idea where you're from].

If you're a 'Westerner' and get expatted it's invariably a brief, planned, career move; it's not an opportunity to a future life in SG. It's complete upheaval, and expensive. So, you want to get well compensated.

You don't and can't move, and instantly live on the same outgoings as a local. Neither should you expect to. Everything especially before you know the ropes is hugely expensive.


So saying that's 'Xtimes a local household' is meaningless, since they're not a local household living in an HDB and shopping at wet-markets.


No offence, taken. I am originally form the UK also.

Agreed there are moving expenses, and anyone expatted to SG should ensure that they have their costs covered for things that they wouldn't normally incur (and that might include school fees if local schools are not accessible).

Here is the shocking news though - moving to a new country requires some lifestyle changes. That might mean you don't eat parsnips because they are all imported and shockingly expensive. Or that might mean you take your higher salary and buy parsnips because you want to re-create your other life here in Singapore. That's fine.

But the comparison with local salaries still stands - any expat *could* live in an HDB and shop at the wet markets and save a ton. AND still have a higher standard of living then they did back in the UK.

You see, the expat expectation is a condo with pool/gym/sauna/childrens playground, the Club membership, the domestic help etc when in reality the lifestyle is far in excess of what they enjoyed back home.
For comparison, I have four UK employees on my staff, earning between 4.5k and 6k a month, two of them with their own kids. They do fine here.

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Re: Can we afford to relocate?

Postby JR8 » Tue, 26 May 2015 2:56 pm

curiousgeorge wrote:You see, the expat expectation is a condo with pool/gym/sauna/childrens playground, the Club membership, the domestic help etc when in reality the lifestyle is far in excess of what they enjoyed back home.


Do you think so? Then why do people ever wish to leave? [I appreciate this a bit of a taboo subject].
I see it as a lot of trade-offs. There's a blistering climate, but maybe you have access to a pool. Back home a pool doesn't matter at all.
'Clubs'. In c6 years I've only visited one once, as a guest, and it was all pretty fake to me.
On the flipside I don't like paying $20 for a half-way decent beer, as 'it's a foreigners thing and they're all rich and to be fleeced'.
You go to the wet-market, you might as well have landed from Mars. You can't land here and instantly 'go native'. a) most don't wish to, and why should they b) most locals haven't the will/capacity to integrate you like a native.

I think most expats when relo'ing simply aim to maintain their standard of living, otherwise what is the point of moving here? The 'pool/club/maids' thing is from the 80s.... in fact in my experience that's how snobbier locals live these days, I know no expats who live like that.
My *overall* standard of living is lower than back home, this probably applies more-so to trailing spouses.

The plus points here are a) the opportunity to ramp up the career ladder (if you work.... obviously not for trailing spouses) b) Having a travel FOB, a Forward Operating Base to get to places you otherwise would never get to see on holiday. c) Getting deeply infused into a foreign culture.

This is my 3rd stint here. 1st as the career man, 2nd and this time as the trailing spouse. So perhaps in some ways I've seen both very different sides of the coin. No, I'm not going to move half way around the world and live in a council block with no facilities...
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Re: Can we afford to relocate?

Postby singapore eagle » Tue, 26 May 2015 3:25 pm

I also have to disagree with a couple of things that curiousgeorge says.

curiousgeorge wrote:But the comparison with local salaries still stands - any expat *could* live in an HDB and shop at the wet markets and save a ton. AND still have a higher standard of living then they did back in the UK.


Living in an HDB block is fine, but the £ for £ comparison for most UK people will be with living in a small house, out of the big cities, with a garden and plenty of green space around. Most of my friends would struggle to see how they are enhancing their standard of living if I took them to, say, Sengkang.

curiousgeorge wrote:For comparison, I have four UK employees on my staff, earning between 4.5k and 6k a month, two of them with their own kids. They do fine here.


This I find very hard to believe. Having kids here is horrendously expensive - you are barely going to survive on 6k a month. I would guess that the employees with kids you are talking about have a spouse earning a second household income.

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Re: Can we afford to relocate?

Postby movingtospore » Tue, 26 May 2015 9:32 pm

If you are a qualified teacher, you may want to start looking at opportunities with International Schools here before you move. You could end up with the best of both worlds...you could get the offer for a f/t teaching role with some help for accommodation, and tuition coverage for your children. Your husband could be the trailing spouse. :D

The International Schools will low ball you if you apply once you're here.

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Re: Can we afford to relocate?

Postby katyjac » Thu, 28 May 2015 1:41 pm

Thank you for all these comments. It's been really interesting sparking the debate! 

To be honest I would like to live in a condo with all the 'glossy' bits simply because I want my kids to have the greater access to facilities and for me, an easier transition from the UK. Whether 6 months down the line we would need these things I dont know. I won't be asking for hired help as, as was quite rightly pointed out, I don't have that here and dont need it. We rarely have the babysitting facilities to eat out here so apart from maybe lunch out with kids at the weekend would almost certainly cook at home. We also barely drink alcohol. 

As such I'm starting to feel more confident that we could, having children pre school age, afford a nice 3 bed condo and not feel too restricted money wise. My only concerns remain working hours for my husband and what I do with my kids if I manage to secure a job myself which ultimately I would prefer to do.

My husband would be working near Tanjong pagar. Can anyone she'd any light on areas 'relatively' close to this or easily commutable / family friendly areas where we could look at renting? I have tried hard to understand the zoning system etc but it is a little confusing from the outside.

Thank you again.

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Re: Can we afford to relocate?

Postby JR8 » Thu, 28 May 2015 1:55 pm

As a starting point, can I suggest you look at this FAQ item/questionnaire? -> viewtopic.php?t=101985 [If you wish to/have time to go through it, post it back into this topic].

It should prompt you to consider things holistically, and perhaps some things you haven't thought of yet, yet which will influence your time here. Then the feedback from others will be that much better, and more useful to you.
'Do it or do not do it: You will regret both' - Kierkegaard

katyjac
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Re: Can we afford to relocate?

Postby katyjac » Thu, 28 May 2015 2:08 pm

Will do. Thank you.


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