It’s tempting. Indians newspapers are full of stories about these 1.5 crore rupees packages. You, used to seeing your mother and father dealing with hundreds. mother haggling for onion prices – rs 38 or rs 40. There crore rupees seem a lot – more than Ambani is worth. Maybe you can buy it. And insult him in front of others. “Ambu, bring me shoes, and polish them nicely.”
You start dreaming. Then I come in. To spoil it all.
I will give you a typical example of somebody working in California and getting pretty decent salary.
I left was in 2013. My last salary was $120K + 10% bonus. The fresh graduates got about $90K. All are in per annum basis.
About 8% was social security taxes. It was actually 15%, half paid by the employee, half paid by the employer.
Then came the state income tax. It was low – just a few percentage.
Finally, there was the Federal income tax. At my salary it was 33%, now may be lower.
Total came to slightly lower than 50% because of lower rates at lower salary.
So I got about 75k take it as $80K. Good?
I lived in one bedroom apartment in Oakland. About $1600 to $2000 a month. It was considerably cheaper than in San Francisco where it would have gone for $3,000 a month. Prices might have gone up quite a bit, but let’s fix it as $3,000 a month or $36K a year. At some place car parking was additional $100 to $200 a month. Let’s ignore that. That leaves you with $44K.
Medical was about $1500 a month for a single guy. Luckily companies a big portion of it. Say you paid $200 a month. Rest savings, right? Wait.
You need a car. It is possible to live without a car, as I did during my last 6-7 years, but for those needing a car it came out expensive.
Honda Civic costed $20,000 and it lost half of its value in about 4 years. Most Indians did lot of research and used to buy Toyota Camry. Costing about $25,00 + taxes, value halved in 4 years, normally needed to replace then.
Insurance on car was there. About $1,000 for six months. Then the petrol (gas it was called in the USA).
I calculated and the cost was $6,000-7,000 a year.
Now you are left with $44K – $7K = $36K. Good, if not Ambani, better than his brother, the big loser.
Are you going on permanent diet? I bought vegetables in Berkeley organic farmer’s markets or Oakland farmer’s market. Potatoes was the cheapest – about $2 a pound (that is $4 a kilo). Others were more expensive. Cauliflower $3 to $5 a pound. It was a typical vegetable price. Rupees 500 a kilo? What is the world coming to?
Luckily for Indians (and Chinese) there were markets where vegetables were cheaper. Fremont market had cauliflowers at $2 a head, bhindi at $3 a pond. Cheap but not that cheap. Last time I stayed at a family and they were happy to get from me gift of bhindi, It costed $3 a pound at local markets. Similar was the story with fruits. $6 a pound for peaches, at least $1 per mango for Phillipines grown ones, they did look like mangoes, flavor nil.
You can go on diet. Good for you?
I have not counted other expenses. That can reduce your savings to zero.
Not to deny Indians find a way to save there too. When I was a student, was getting $400 a month and was just enough to lead a comfortable life. Had three South Indian student (could be anybody), who lived together and ate the same food for 3-4 years. Rice, sambar, yogurt. Once a week chicken. Heard they were able to send $200 a month home out of that $400.
So Indians can save but not to the extent they imagine. They can save on haircuts when they come to India, can save on childcare by inviting parents to America. Met a disgruntled father who remarked, just childcare, no touring America. Touring costs money. His son is not that rich. Do your work.
There is a nice way out. Get your son or daughter married. If both work one’s salary will be saved. Other’s about 20-30%.
It getting them married is a problem, America provides girls. One of my students at UTM got married and got his green card immediately. He used to tease me why wait. Then one day the immigration caught the Sardarji who had arranged for his marriage. The girl who had married him had married about 90 others too. Over years one can understand, but in a few months? It came in the papers. For $1,000 or so for each. So don’t take the risk. Marry them in India. And get a court certificate as document. Traditional Indian marriages might be not valid. Your daughter leading a sinful life in American eyes. How exciting?
PS Also find out this package is for 1 year duration or 3 or 4 years. Late Santosh Keswani, from my class at IIT Bombay used to brag about $60,000 package he got at PennState. Later I found that included the tuition that was not paid but counted in the package by him, and covered 4 years of his PhD term.