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Moving from Atlanta, US to Singapore

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stillwater
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Moving from Atlanta, US to Singapore

Postby stillwater » Tue, 12 Mar 2013 4:07 am

My company wants me to take a regional position in Singapore to manage our Network Design and Engineering division for APAC and is planning to offer me a secondment offer. The term would be for 2 years. I am looking for some advise on what I need to negotiate in terms of a package. I have 2 young kids (5 and 3 year olds) and my wife (does not work currently) who will be moving with me. From what I understand with secondment, my contract will still remain in the US and my company will continue to pay me in the US and then pay me for my expenses in Singapore.

My expectations are to have a 3 bedroom house (attached or detached). International Schools for my kids and take care of all local expenses (utilities, food, monthly expenses, maid, travel, etc). What are the norms these days and what can I expect going into negotiations.

What is a reasonable package I should consider countering when they come with an offer? We lead a very comfortable life in Atlanta, so my wife is going to expect something similar, since she and the kids are making the big adjustment, while it is a great career opportunity for me.

Taitaiwife
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Postby Taitaiwife » Tue, 12 Mar 2013 8:45 am

We live in a 3 bed house and have a 2.5 year old and a bump on the way. Have just been reviewing our budget in light of this:

International school fees: Starting at 20k+ pa for kindergarten/reception, working up to 30k pa for older kids. Depends on school though, so do check.
Pre-school fees (my 2.5yo attends one of these 4 days a week until she starts International School) $600-1,500 per month depending on the school and whether full day or half day.
Rent: $6000 pcm (this is very much on the cheaper end of the scale for a landed house as our house is in "original condition" i.e. nothing much changed since 1970. The sky is the limit for prices on landed houses. Most people live in condos anyway. I'd say aim for a budget of at least 10k per month based on your wife's expectations :) Ultimately rental cost is down to location, size, finish and what you're willing to sacrifice. Properties are available in all budget ranges (that is to say expensive, very expensive and holy moly!)
Maid: $900 per month (all in - includes salary, maid tax, insurance, home leave, documentation renewals etc.)
Utilities: $550 pcm - and we watch our bills and don't leave our air con on all the time!
Grocery spend: $2,200 per month - and this is not including fine wines or foie gras!
Travel: public transport is cheap, like $1 per ride. Ideally live close to an MRT station.
Car: hideously expensive to buy and the loan rules have just changed. As you're only here short term, I suggest renting or leasing a car - allow a budget of at least $2k per month.
Taxis: depending on distance and call out costs, e.g. $30 from downtown to airport. Before getting a car we spent $700 a month on taxis.
Everything is expensive here - alcohol: $30+ for a bottle of wine. Hair cut and colour for ladies $300+ Coming from the US you will be shocked at the price of most consumer goods.
I could go on but you get the picture.

On the flip side, income tax here is very low, although as a US citizen I guess you still get stung by Uncle Sam.

Taitaiwife
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Postby Taitaiwife » Tue, 12 Mar 2013 9:13 am

Oh, and make sure your employer takes out a decent family medical insurance policy for you. Might be better if they take out a US based policy as the local ones here don't always offer adequate coverage.

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zzm9980
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Postby zzm9980 » Tue, 12 Mar 2013 9:17 am

Coming from a good life in Atlanta to Singapore? "You're in for a price shock" is an understatement! I'd say taitai's numbers are good, but you'll probably need a larger house budget. If you can 'deal' with a nice 3 bedroom condo, those numbers are good. But for a nice newer house like I assume you have in Atlanta and what your wife will expect, I'd go with at least 15k. Keep in mind most everyone lives in condos/HDB here, not houses (detached or not).

Taitaiwife
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Postby Taitaiwife » Tue, 12 Mar 2013 9:19 am

Fair comment! Cannot disagree...

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Mi Amigo
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Postby Mi Amigo » Tue, 12 Mar 2013 10:50 am

stillwater, good luck with your negotiations and the eventual move if that comes to pass. I agree with the other posters regarding the costs involved in maintaining a similar lifestyle to what you currently enjoy. We lived in Atlanta in the 90s and loved our time there; it's obviously a different way of life in many ways.

Of course, as others have pointed out on this forum over the years, it's entirely possible to live on a much lower budget. My suggestion is to negotiate hard and insist on allowances (for housing, education, transport, etc.) and then you can decide whether you want to spend the entire amount on the relevant items, or 'downgrade' a little and save the balance left over. You'd be wise to ask for 1-2 months paid accommodation in a Serviced Apartment for when you first arrive, to give you time to find the right place to live. It is possible to find decent accommodation at (relatively) reasonable prices, but for landed houses that will require some work and a good agent who's really working for you could be helpful with that (you might want to use the search function above to find other discussions on this topic).

Here's a cost of living comparison that you may find helpful; obviously it doesn't cover everything but it's a good starting point (together with Taitaiwife's data above):

http://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/compare_cities.jsp?country1=United+States&country2=Singapore&city1=Atlanta%2C+GA&city2=Singapore

Note that the figures on the Numbeo site are in USD by default, whereas the figures in Taitaiwife's post are obviously in SGD.

I'd definitely recommend spending some time reading through other posts related to this subject, but don't hesitate to ask any specific questions that you can't find the answers to. We're a friendly bunch really. 8-)
Be careful what you wish for

bidisha06
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Postby bidisha06 » Tue, 12 Mar 2013 2:47 pm

We moved from Dallas, TX to Singapore on a 2 year expat assignment. Please send me your email address and I can share my experience with you. I can't say I am the expert but my recent experiences (good and bad) might be helpful for you.

And, yes, Singapore is expensive! The sticker shock is quite something to get adjusted to!!

bidisha06
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Postby bidisha06 » Tue, 12 Mar 2013 2:48 pm

Forgot to mention...we moved just 3 months ago...so I am still a newbie!!

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Mi Amigo
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Postby Mi Amigo » Tue, 12 Mar 2013 3:09 pm

bidisha06, why not share your information here, for the benefit of current and future readers?
Be careful what you wish for

bidisha06
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Postby bidisha06 » Tue, 12 Mar 2013 3:16 pm

Good point! I will post my reply here soon. Thanks

Taitaiwife
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Postby Taitaiwife » Tue, 12 Mar 2013 3:25 pm

Correct Mi Amigo, my figures are in SGD.

bidisha06
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Postby bidisha06 » Tue, 12 Mar 2013 4:58 pm

First off, congratulations on this great opportunity. If I were you, I would say definitely go for it. An experience in Asia Pacific region will do wonders to your career.

Whatever Taitaiwife has mentioned is all correct. I would add a few points-- if you are coming for 2 years, please do not have every little item shipped. I made that mistake and I now have so many unopened boxes. We lived in a fairly big house in Dallas and had to settle down for an apartment half it's size. Mind you, my apartment here (they are called condos here) is actually quite nice sized. But we pay rent over 7K SGD per month.

I also get paid in USD which is directly deposited in US bank so if that's the case with you, make sure you open up an account with one of the international banks such as Citibank so you don't spend money on wire transferring funds..

I can give more specific information later...got to catch a flight!

Good luck with the move!

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zzm9980
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Postby zzm9980 » Tue, 12 Mar 2013 7:10 pm

^- Yes, Citibank is a lifesaver in Singapore. For one, the local Citibank does not nickel and dime you with fees. It's the only bank that allows you to instantly and very cheap/free transfer money instantly between international accounts. (HSBC does also, but only for premier customers).

stillwater
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Moving from Atlanta, US to Singapore

Postby stillwater » Tue, 12 Mar 2013 9:04 pm

Thanks everyone for your valuable feedback. Yes, I have seen that the cost of living is definitely very high compared to Atlanta and I think I am prepared for that, though hard to do it till you are actually there.

My wife is prepared for downsizing on the house from a 5000 sq ft to a 1800-2000 sq ft house, but I dont think she realizes what she is getting into...

Taitaiwife, appreciate your candid inputs. I have had very preliminary discussions with our HR, but everyone is aware that this will only materialize if I am happy with the package offered. So this is not a end of the road for me (fingers crossed).

bidisha06, thanks for the offer, will send you a message with my email address, unless you plan to post the details on the forum for everyone's benefit

good point on the international bank account. Will need to work on that.

Looking forward to many more interesting and useful feedback

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maneo
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Re: Moving from Atlanta, US to Singapore

Postby maneo » Wed, 13 Mar 2013 12:46 am

stillwater wrote:We lead a very comfortable life in Atlanta, so my wife is going to expect something similar, since she and the kids are making the big adjustment, while it is a great career opportunity for me.


Hope that you both are looking forward to this as an adventure together.
If your wife feels she is making a sacrifice for your career, all the concerns about living costs may be misplaced.


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