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Old 10.09.2017, 14:53
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Is one poor if they don't earn CHF 120k?

Every few days we seem to have questions about salaries particularly about what is a good salary or whether x amount is enough to live etc. The responses have really got me thinking about what one needs to live comfortably in Zurich.

I truly believe that salaries and costs of living are very subjective but what if we were to establish a baseline that takes into account the fundamental human needs? In other words a baseline that takes into account "goods and services necessary for a socially integrated life”?

BSF study (2015) shows that this baseline would cost c27k for a single person and c48k for a family of 2 adults and 2 kids (Source: https://www.bfs.admin.ch/bfs/fr/home...l.2460200.html). A far cry from the EF poverty line of 120k.


Just to put things further into perspective, EF poverty line would place the earner in the top decile (top 10%)!! (Source: http://lenews.ch/2017/02/03/swiss-fa...-more-a-month/)

So, what if you were a single guy looking to move to Zurich and weren't earning 120k but rather half that? A salary of c60k would place you somewhere between the lower quartile and the 35th percentile? Will you starve or survive on just pasta? I think not! You will not live a life of a king in the land of milk and honey but you will certainly be ok.

Yes, Switzerland is expensive and particularly Zurich but a salary of 60k in Zurich is still manageable without becoming a hermit or living a student life. It will give you net of c4,100 and if you sensible you should even be able to save at least 10% of your gross salary. Here is a breakdown:

Travel: 330 (annual GA / 12)
Medical Insurance: 250 (premiums only)
Food: 350
Going out: 400
Hobbies and gym: 200
Other misc: 200
Mobile, TV, internet (inc Billag): 120
German lessons: 250
Housing costs: 1,500 (living in Winterthur in a 1.5 - 2 room apartment and includes insurance costs plus household costs)

Total: 3,600

When I first moved here I was comfortably living on a lot less and I certainly lived a "socially integrated life". Some people will ask very valid questions such as: what about additional healthcare costs if you need to visit the doctor regular? One would presume you would be sensible and build up a savings pot equal to your franchise as soon as possible and keep that aside. Also, as you can see there are one off costs that have been put down as recurring costs such as German lessons. Plus some costs are generous (e.g. hobbies and gym) so there are definite savings to be had.

Village Idiot has written excellent FAQs (A brief guide to salaries in Switzerland and Is CHF100'000 a good salary?) and I would definitely encourage all the newbies to read that.
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Old 10.09.2017, 15:05
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Re: Is one poor if they don't earn CHF 120k?

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Is one poor if they don't earn CHF 120k?
No. Simply because in that question wealth is not taken into consideration. Plenty of people don't even work yet they are not poor.
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Old 10.09.2017, 15:12
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Re: Is one poor if they don't earn CHF 120k?

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No. Simply because in that question wealth is not taken into consideration. Plenty of people don't even work yet they are not poor.
You are absolutely right. Maybe the title is a bit misleading...

It was more a case of highlighting the bubble some of us EF users (including myself) seem to be living in and highlighting that you could actually still live comfortably on a "more modest and reasonable" salary than 120k.
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Old 10.09.2017, 15:15
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Re: Is one poor if they don't earn CHF 120k?

chf 120K is way above poverty.

However if your calculation is correct, it leaves little to no space for extra expenses unless you cut going out and use that for savings. It's not unthinkable that in the same year you need a new computer, you might need to come up with 4500,- (3 months) before you are allowed in the house, and if you have a medical problem you might need to cough up an extra 2500,- Besides a couple of hundreds on clothing, and all the other shoppings you need for an household.

So when there are no savings and things go badly this income with these expenses might not be enough.
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Old 10.09.2017, 15:37
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Re: Is one poor if they don't earn CHF 120k?

The 120k thing is just a running joke. Think of it as EF's answer to the Flat Earth Theory.
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Old 10.09.2017, 15:41
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Re: Is one poor if they don't earn CHF 120k?

120k? I had always assumed that this was how many miles the car had done.
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Old 10.09.2017, 15:59
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Re: Is one poor if they don't earn CHF 120k?

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chf 120K is way above poverty.

However if your calculation is correct, it leaves little to no space for extra expenses unless you cut going out and use that for savings. It's not unthinkable that in the same year you need a new computer, you might need to come up with 4500,- (3 months) before you are allowed in the house, and if you have a medical problem you might need to cough up an extra 2500,- Besides a couple of hundreds on clothing, and all the other shoppings you need for an household.

So when there are no savings and things go badly this income with these expenses might not be enough.
My calculation is absolutely correct and in many instances generous. For example, housing costs can easily be brought down to 1,000 whilst still having your own place. If one is willing to consider WG, you could have total housing, mobile, tv and internet cost of less than 800pm that is an additional saving of 820pm.

I don't disagree at all that you need to be saving etc and that if you have an emergency or big one off items then you could be in deep trouble but I also think that for anyone who is sensible, they will be able to save significantly more than 500 without compromising too much. My approach to health insurance, rightly or wrongly, is to save your deductible up front and keep topping it up as you use it.

Upfront costs are just that, upfront costs. You will need your 3 months deposit regardless of what you earn or what your rent is so typically one would not consider that in a monthly calculation.

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The 120k thing is just a running joke. Think of it as EF's answer to the Flat Earth Theory.
I know but responses from certain members (a few spring to mind) seem to imply even 120k is not enough which is simply not true.
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Old 10.09.2017, 16:10
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Re: Is one poor if they don't earn CHF 120k?

No idea where 120k per year as a figure comes from (10k a month).
Try calculating things with 20k and see what you come up with!
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Old 10.09.2017, 16:14
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Re: Is one poor if they don't earn CHF 120k?

Yes, 120K is simply an EF joke.

However, the question is not only what does it take to lead a (whatever) sort of life in Switzerland, but for many of us, the question really is: What does it take to motivate us to leave what we have back home, what sort of compensation would be needed to balance the sacrifices a move to Switzerland means for the family? For instance:

What would it take to convince you to leave a good job, with the risk of interrupting one's career progression? Time spent in Switzerland is not necessarily a good thing in some fields.

What would it take to convince you to leave friends and family behind, keeping in mind the additonal costs of maintaining our responsibilities, especially to family, back home?

What sort of compensation for the job driving the move would it take to allow the family to maintain it's current lifestyle if one partner will likely not be able to find similar work once in Switzerland, keeping in mind the long term consequences - not only financial - to the spouse's loss of career?

What compensation level would it take to cover 'outside the Swiss system' schooling for children where a move would be seriously detrimental to their academic prospects?

What level of compensation would be needed to provide the kind of accomodation that the family is used to at home, if the Swiss norm of living in a small flat is not appropriate for the family?

What level of compensation is necessary to make up for the tax consequences of living overseas? This is mostly for my fellow blue book holders, but depending on your individual situation the additional tax burden can be significant.

These are only a few issues that might arise, each family will have to weigh up what a move to Switzerland might mean based on their individual needs and motivations for considering a job here.

For many the move does mean making sacrifices, especially for the family members who are 'tagging along'. On the other hand, for many what Switzerland offers, things you might not have back home, might go a long way to balancing those sacrifices.

In short, the question can only be individual. What are you willing to give up, what do you think you might gain - and what level of compensation is needed to make up the difference?

No two of us will have the same needs - or answers.
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Old 10.09.2017, 17:02
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Re: Is one poor if they don't earn CHF 120k?

Excellent post Meloncollie.

Like you said, financial aspect is one part of the equation and there are so many factors that one needs to take into consideration when deciding whether the compensation is adequate or not.

My motivation for the original post is to demonstrate that if one were to be sensible then the baseline isn't as high as one might initially think.

I have personally found the Swiss society to be a lot more egalitarian and the life here is a lot more enjoyable.
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Old 10.09.2017, 17:56
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Re: Is one poor if they don't earn CHF 120k?

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Upfront costs are just that, upfront costs. You will need your 3 months deposit regardless of what you earn or what your rent is so typically one would not consider that in a monthly calculation.
So despite the income you also suddenly grant the person a savings account of let's say 10.000,- before coming here.

Yeah sure, that changes things.
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Old 10.09.2017, 18:08
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Re: Is one poor if they don't earn CHF 120k?

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Yes, 120K is simply an EF joke.
120k is actually a kind of standard in Switzerland:
- it is the starting salary that requires a regular tax declaration for people taxed at source
- the defacto standard where "kader" jobs start

certainly not an EF invention but less than 120k is definitely not a poverty line.
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Old 10.09.2017, 18:09
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Re: Is one poor if they don't earn CHF 120k?

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So despite the income you also suddenly grant the person a savings account of let's say 10.000,- before coming here.

Yeah sure, that changes things.
IMHO deposits have nothing to do with day expenses. As I said earlier, these are upfront moving costs that one would have bear regardless of what one earns and typically these costs will be relative to your income.

It is a bit like a mortgage, a bank will expect you to put down a deposit and then assess your affordability based on what you are borrowing. If you haven't got that money, you haven't got it.
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Old 10.09.2017, 18:13
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Re: Is one poor if they don't earn CHF 120k?

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120k is actually a kind of standard in Switzerland:
- it is the starting salary that requires a regular tax declaration for people taxed at source
- the defacto standard where "kader" jobs start

certainly not an EF invention but less than 120k is definitely not a poverty line.
Not sure I understand what you mean by standard. As stated earlier, income of 120k would put you in the top 10% of income. That to me is not standard.
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Old 10.09.2017, 18:20
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Re: Is one poor if they don't earn CHF 120k?

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Not sure I understand what you mean by standard. As stated earlier, income of 120k would put you in the top 10% of income. That to me is not standard.
not standard but a standard.
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Old 10.09.2017, 19:04
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Re: Is one poor if they don't earn CHF 120k?

To me there are four measures which indicate if you are rich or poor.

1. Your income

2. Your fixed costs

3. Your lifestyle

4. Your attitude, and luck in life

Income and (real) costs are fairly hard to change - you can't magic up a better paying job, or change your family circumstances.

Lifestyle is what can make the biggest difference - I know people who are perfectly able to live spending very little, and people who have lots of disposable income and waste it.

Whether you are happy is the most important measure of richness; and once a basic level of income is reached, your attitude is probably the biggest controller of happiness, depending a bit on luck in your personal circumstances.

In Switzerland, there are probably very few people who don't have a decent basic income. There are also opportunities to change your situation.

On EF most of the people complaining about lack of money and/or happiness seem to be:

- those with too high expectations / impractical desires - they're the ones who end up starting troll threads about how they're hard done by and CH is crap / unfair / corrupt

- those who've been unlucky and are looking for genuine help
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Old 10.09.2017, 19:21
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Re: Is one poor if they don't earn CHF 120k?

I know someone who gets this on RAV. Her adviser long figured out that she is in no rush to get a 'real' job.
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Old 10.09.2017, 19:23
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Re: Is one poor if they don't earn CHF 120k?

Thanks, Newtoswitz. Another excellent post.

These IMHO are particularly important:

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Income and (real) costs are fairly hard to change - you can't magic up a better paying job, or change your family circumstances.

Lifestyle is what can make the biggest difference - I know people who are perfectly able to live spending very little, and people who have lots of disposable income and waste it.

Whether you are happy is the most important measure of richness; and once a basic level of income is reached, your attitude is probably the biggest controller of happiness, depending a bit on luck in your personal circumstances.

In Switzerland, there are probably very few people who don't have a decent basic income. There are also opportunities to change your situation.
I also believe that for a lot of people no sooner have their incomes gone up the expenses start going up as well and many times expenses (discretionary) rising faster than incomes.

I personally believe that there have been some very useful posts and hopefully newbies, particularly ones coming to CH on salaries below the official EF poverty line , will find these useful.
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Old 10.09.2017, 19:28
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Re: Is one poor if they don't earn CHF 120k?

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IMHO deposits have nothing to do with day expenses. As I said earlier, these are upfront moving costs that one would have bear regardless of what one earns and typically these costs will be relative to your income.

It is a bit like a mortgage, a bank will expect you to put down a deposit and then assess your affordability based on what you are borrowing. If you haven't got that money, you haven't got it.
Well, if you state that someone wants to come here on only an income of 3.6K and don't mention any savings the picture is completely different from giving him savings.
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Old 10.09.2017, 19:31
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Re: Is one poor if they don't earn CHF 120k?

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I also believe that for a lot of people no sooner have their incomes gone up the expenses start going up as well and many times expenses (discretionary) rising faster than incomes.
Exactly. A lot of people get through money here like water. Some then wonder how they are supposed to manage on less, despite the fact that before their income went up drastically, they did manage!
Certainly not the case for us. Whilst my income was higher I didn't spend very much more than what I spent when it was lower. Now it is lower again. But this simply means we are able to save less each month. We still spend about the same, possibly a little less.
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