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Expat Package Proposal for US Exec

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ivysmom
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Expat Package Proposal for US Exec

Postby ivysmom » Thu, 04 Apr 2013 11:36 am

Apologies in advance for the long post but people always say to give context so I'll try to. We are considering 2 years in Singapore. My husband runs the international business for a roughly $400M mid-size co in the US and seems to spend half his time getting back and forth to India, China, etc. So, relocating while he gets the international business situated, partnerships formed, etc. seems to make some sense. Hopefully by the end of year 2, he could hire a (local) GM for the region so the cost of the expat package should be a short-term cost to the co. For reference, he is a SVP, one of 6 most senior people at the co, 18 years experience, MBA from top school, etc. He is the only employee there who would consider going abroad.

While I'm sure they will (at some point) hire a firm to give us advice, it's not a traditional situation where we have a package in hand. They are looking to us to provide them with our expectations and, while we're not willing to go unless we have a good standard of living, we don't want to be greedy. I'm approaching it as my husband's salary would stay the same but most of our living expenses would be covered so hopefully we would come out ahead of where we are in the US. Based on my research, I'm looking for feedback on ballpark costs for this package, in part so we can anticipate cost to the company and see if their “sticker shockâ€Â

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Postby Hannieroo » Thu, 04 Apr 2013 12:37 pm

The schools seem to be in three price brackets, very cheap (although probably not English speaking), medium (Chatsworth, Nexus) and expensive (huge waiting list). We went with a medium for various reasons including philosophy, curriculum and wait list. I would hesitate to put a price limit on education because the schools here seem to hike their prices regularly and by a relatively high percentage. Add to that the education costs more as your children get older. Some companies do have a rule that if local education is suitable and accessible then you have to use it. From what I can gather local education here is great and english speaking. The problem is getting an actual place.

A lot of companies also include uniform, bus travel (we were quoted 650 per child, per term) and things like books and laptops, some of the schools here require a mac book for children over about 11. They do have a discount but it's still 2k a pop.

Housing.13k is more than enough. Your choices outside of Orchard for that amount and your spec will be huge. We had nowhere near that and had loads of choice.

Car. 3k is more than enough all in for a brand new Camry/Corolla or older SUV. Leasing here does include maintenance and insurance. We have a 2008 Fortuner for 2200. But most of the non-SuV cars we saw only had two 3 point seatbelts in the back with a lap belt in the middle, hence our choice.

Health insurance, dunno. Husband gets his through work then we are insured on top paid by ourselves. I don't know if we get a discount but it's about SGD 200 a month. 100% top cover by Cigna/Parkway. No co insurance, direct billing. Does teeth and eyes too.

Tickets home. We've always had one round trip economy ticket home a year at highest advertised price. Both of the companies my husband has worked for has had no restrictions on where we travel using that.

Tax here is capped at 20% ( I think) but being a US citizen you do need to talk to a tax person. I have a lot of friends who have gone home simply because the tax is just too high. There are schemes to help.

A co efficient is usual for cost of living. It's usually based on a basket of goods bought in NY. I think it's currently at 15%. Some companies do adjust downwards which is not good.

Relocation. I can't answer as to cost because we have never seen the numbers but we have unlimited by size or time storage at place of origin, a 40ft container and 700lbs of air freight. Air freight is very important. You cannot carry the things you need for a family in just 2 suitcases each. Air freight takes about 2 to 3 weeks whereas sea takes 6 to 8 weeks minimum. Our relocation people are Sirva who are based in the States with local agents globally. They're ok, no major problems.

Ikea seems to be the same ish price here as everywhere, there are two, they deliver quickly and will build it for you. I don't know how much it would cost because I don't know your taste or needs but their website is pretty good. But I have seen some very nicely furnished options too. For electricals, most places have them. Look for part furnished on .. It's normally a washing machine, AC, fridge (mainly US style ones) and water heaters. I have a dryer
but they are not standard and dishwashers are also not usual. Takashimaya dept store, Best Denki and Courts all have huge ranges, you can get everything. Slightly more expensive than the UK, maybe 10% so probably 25% more for you. All the plugs here are 3 point so none of your appliances will work here without an adapter for dual voltage or a transformer. We do have a transformer that we use for rarely used rechargeables like drills but they are too expensive to have more than one. Quite often a company will pay somewhere between 5 and 30k to cover stuff like lamps. It's usually paid in a lump sum and you don't need to share receipts. It's yours.

Bills. When overseas outside of the UK or US we do not pay bills other than phone, internet and TV. Sometimes we pay and get expensed, other times the company is billed direct. AC costs.

Not us but some companies pay entertainment allowances if you are expected to hold dinner parties etc as part of the business development. A few (with a big global presence) companies pay SGD20k a year to the trailing spouse as compensation. Not saying you should ask for it but it is leverage to show you are looking for a lot less than others.

Sorry. Huge post. The kids have just started school and I have time on my hands.

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Postby zzm9980 » Thu, 04 Apr 2013 2:53 pm

Your numbers/estimates seem reasonable. I wish all posters here did their homework first like you have! As the other poster mentioned, that housing budget is probably a bit higher than you'd "need" in areas outside of Orchard. The car is good too. $3k/month should get you a a decent SUV or BMW 3-Series.

Where in the US are you coming from? Expect groceries and common goods like that to cost at least twice as much, if you can even find the items you're used to. To give you an idea, my wife spends roughly twice as much when she shops (usually for a few days at a time) when she buys in Singapore compared with Whole Foods in California (Bay area). In Singapore this is always organic fruits and veggies, milk, cheese, eggs, etc, but she goes for the cheaper cuts of meat. The small Tide detergent (50 oz) is about $15 USD for one here; as you can see on Amazon, it's less than half that at home: http://www.amazon.com/Tide-Original-Liq ... 003XDNN00/
'Decent' Ice-cream (ben and jerrys or haagen daaz) is 3x-4x the price here.

There is *nothing* similar to Walmart, Costco, or Target anywhere in Singapore.

List could go on and on. Just don't expect anything to be cheaper unless you're shopping at outdoor markets. But there, the quality of most consumer items is equivalent to "dollar store" in the US. And it's still well above a dollar.

But then, at what I assume your husband's expected salary range is, with all other expenses covered, you should be OK. :)

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Postby Hannieroo » Thu, 04 Apr 2013 8:11 pm

Husband says that the Mercer basket for salary adjustment is at 38% and our medical is under written by his company.

He also said he's heard of a few people who get club membership at the American or Tanglin. That must be 25k to join and 200 a month, something to point out if you are looking to compare living costs of other expats.

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Postby offshoreoildude » Thu, 04 Apr 2013 8:28 pm

I'd second the club membership - it can really help people get settled in.

A few costs you might have missed;

Live in maid: SGD1500 a month approx.
Cable TV and internet : 100 to 50 per month
Recreation / sports costs: far more expensive here than back in the US - if you pick the right club that might help (i.e. cover swimming and tennis for example) but if you're interested in slightly more exotic sports the costs get high quickly.

Another option to consider: Bangkok or KL. I support India myself and frankly if it wasn't for having a son from a previous marriage in Singapore I'd base myself in Bkk - much, much cheaper than Singapore.

Edit: Rather than set a limit of the cost of housing; why not set the type of housing you want in the proposal (i.e. 4 bedroom landed property with swimming pool). I personally think $13k is a bit on the low side if you're looking for somewere good. I know of oil execs who pay $20k for houses we would not consider mansions back home.
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Postby ivysmom » Fri, 05 Apr 2013 1:26 pm

Wow, what great information you all have to share. And don't apologize for a lengthy post, Hannieroo, you are such a wealth of information I love it! Thank you a million. ZZZ -- we are coming from Portland, Oregon (although he works in Los Angeles where we used to live) which is pricier than much of the US but still very reasonable by west coast standards. We tend to spend a high percentage of our income on experiences for the family/kids -- piano lessons, gymnastics, rock climbing, family travel, etc. -- and I'm sure that all those things are infinitely more expensive in Singapore, so that's why I'm so focused on getting expenses covered off to have enough left over.

Offshoreoildude -- excellent point to spell out what we'd need for housing rather than setting a dollar amount, that might work well. And very interesting you bring up BKK and KL. We haven't really considered KL, don't know why, but have gone back and forth on BKK. We've spent a fair amount of time in Thailand and love it, even with the chaos and craziness. Every time I go down that road, though, I read about how nightmarish it is to do business there, how much extra time it takes to navigate the airport (my husband will be travelling a ton so that's an issue), how frustrating the language barrier is sometimes, and how challenging daily life can be. If it were just me and my husband, I'd do it anyway. But with 3 small kids in tow, i'm thinking Singapore for living and Thailand (and the rest of SE Asia) for travelling. Does KL pose similar issues? I haven't been there.

Two more questions for anyone willing to help:

Does anyone have any opinion as to whether we would get a richer/poorer package if we/they hired a firm to put together a package for us for someone his level?

What area would you suggest to stay for my look/see later this month? I will be visiting schools in various areas (not Woodlands but pretty much everywhere else) so need something central. I will be coming solo, though I can't imagine security is an issue anywhere in Singapore.

Many, many thanks everyone!

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Postby Hannieroo » Fri, 05 Apr 2013 1:47 pm

Our company put is in the Orchard on, funnily enough, Orchard. It was fine. Nowhere near the top end of hotels but nice enough. Clean, convenient. I feel very safe here.

We have always had a relocation company provided who put the package together and organise it all. I don't know if you've moved overseas before but it is stressful. They do everything, taxes, visas. All of it. You have so much on your plate physically, never mind emotionally and mentally, moving your home and children with a partner who if he is anything like mine sleeps on planes more than his own bed that the possibility of getting something wrong is huge. I think Singapore seems to be a reasonable and efficient country and it's certainly easier to move here than the States but they have laws that I have never come across before and I have learned that if you move without researching then you will come unstuck but it's really hard to research things that just would not occur to you.

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Postby zzm9980 » Fri, 05 Apr 2013 4:11 pm

If he's travelling a lot, strongly consider the East Coast area. Nothing like a 10 minute cab ride home after a long or late evening flight!

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Postby Hannieroo » Fri, 05 Apr 2013 5:30 pm

I'm sorry, I realised I didn't really answer the question. You would be better off with a company doing it rather than HR. They do it all the time and know the going rates. Somebody at home maybe won't grasp the sheer cost involved for schools, housing and cars here. But also we found HR here, whilst they did not query the allowances, did try to work as a middle man on all three of those and told the agent we wanted a 3 bed condo on Orchard, a 1.6 Camry and because our school was new (although greatly researched by me) thought that it wasn't good enough.

Sirva, who we use, has no opinions or agenda. It's pure facts and your company might accept the numbers more readily that way than if you present them because going by US pricing it sounds like dream living where really it's just comparable to what you have now.

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Postby ivysmom » Sat, 06 Apr 2013 12:19 am

Hannieroo -- So did they just opine on the school or take some action? Are you going to Nexus (will be looking there -- hoping for a small school environment like they have at home). It would be interesting to give a relo firm our "requirements" and see what they come back with. HR at my husband's company wouldn't have a clue.

zzz -- I think East Coast would be great, nice laid back vibe (right?) and room for my 2 yr old to run and play, and proximity to the airport is a huge bonus. Having trouble finding schools with available spots that way, however. Would it be crazy to have your kids at a school near Orchard and live in East Coast?

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Postby zzm9980 » Sat, 06 Apr 2013 9:06 am

ivysmom wrote:
zzz -- I think East Coast would be great, nice laid back vibe (right?) and room for my 2 yr old to run and play, and proximity to the airport is a huge bonus. Having trouble finding schools with available spots that way, however. Would it be crazy to have your kids at a school near Orchard and live in East Coast?


Yes to all of that. My daughter isn't old enough for schooling yet, so I'm not sure how hard or not it is to get in, or what commutes would be like. There are *lots* of expats around here though, so it can't be that bad.

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Postby Hannieroo » Sat, 06 Apr 2013 10:44 am

Just opinions. To be fair to them the site of the school has had a chequered history but Nexus itself whilst new here is a strong educational presence in the region and a lot of the teachers and management have been brought in from their other schools but HR did not know that and probably just wanted us to avoid a mistake.

I am very happy with our choice, it's early days to comment on exam results etc for our boys but they are really happy, hit the ground running and I've felt nothing but welcomed. It is a smaller school but even as it grows I think it will retain that feeling because of the way the buildings are separated out with a few classes in each pod.

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Postby movingtospore » Sat, 06 Apr 2013 1:05 pm

If you are US citizens, you would get priority at Singapore American School if they have available places. If you can, I would come and visit these schools before you make a decision. SAS is very large, but it is well run, well established, and an outstanding school, especially if you have children who are a bit older. A lot of the smaller and newer schools can be OK for younger children, but really don't have much to offer beyond the first few years. They are also privately-held, for profit schools. Ask them a lot of tough questions before you make a commitment, including how profitable they are, whether or not they reinvest profits back into the school, what percentage of teachers turn over every year, what percentage of students leave for other schools in Singapore, etc.

We started at a smaller school and after some bad experiences switched to SAS. I wish I had asked those questions of our former school.

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Postby offshoreoildude » Sat, 06 Apr 2013 1:18 pm

movingtospore wrote:If you are US citizens, you would get priority at Singapore American School if they have available places. If you can, I would come and visit these schools before you make a decision. SAS is very large, but it is well run, well established, and an outstanding school, especially if you have children who are a bit older. A lot of the smaller and newer schools can be OK for younger children, but really don't have much to offer beyond the first few years. They are also privately-held, for profit schools. Ask them a lot of tough questions before you make a commitment, including how profitable they are, whether or not they reinvest profits back into the school, what percentage of teachers turn over every year, what percentage of students leave for other schools in Singapore, etc.

We started at a smaller school and after some bad experiences switched to SAS. I wish I had asked those questions of our former school.


AFAIK only SAS and ICS are the only not for profit schools in Singapore that offer the AP curriculum. Any others are for profit and generally shite as a result. (Maximising profits = reducing student and teacher resources).
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Postby ivysmom » Sat, 06 Apr 2013 1:47 pm

Interesting, movingtospore, I had essentially dismissed SAS b/c it sounded like the wait lists were always so long. I will contact them and see what the story is for US citizens. I am a little nervous about a big school given how teeny of an environment they're coming from, but I've heard nothing but outstanding things about the school generally so I should explore. I'm booking a solo trip in a few weeks to look at schools and neighborhoods...hopefully everything will be clearer to me once I'm there. Incidentally, how long do these school tours tend to take...trying to figure out how much I'll have time for while I'm there!


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