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Old 31.07.2019, 09:24
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Re: Living in USA vs. Switzerland - pros & cons

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Shooters on one side, targets on the other, 1/2 mile from home.

I always wondered why my bike would backfire at that spot, then I discovered that those were bullets breaking the sound barrier flying overhead!

Tom
Well on Zuger lake they have a shooting range overlooking the bathing area. Any slugs that overshoot the targets land right in the lake where people are bathing. But then wha's a dead fish or two!

http://www.sportschuetzen-zug.ch/
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  #42  
Old 31.07.2019, 09:27
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Re: Living in USA vs. Switzerland - pros & cons

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... To replicate the life I had in Chicagoland on a 'merely comfortable' income ...
Let's say a family with teenage children lives in a Chicagoland. They would go/commute to a school, to their buddies etc - how safety-wise does it compare to Switzerland?
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Old 31.07.2019, 09:38
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Re: Living in USA vs. Switzerland - pros & cons

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Let's say a family with teenage children lives in a Chicagoland. They would go/commute to a school, to their buddies etc - how safety-wise does it compare to Switzerland?
99.9% safer here. But like everwhere there are crazies such as the Swiss football club fans-FCZ Grasshoppers etc or these hoodlums from god knows which land
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Old 31.07.2019, 09:40
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Re: Living in USA vs. Switzerland - pros & cons

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When you are old and grey...
Speaking of growing old and grey, there are differences in retirement planning in Switzerland vs the US, that you need to be aware of, especially as a non-working spouse. Differences between the two systems has left me, a non-working spouse, in a more vulnerable position than I had understood years ago when I gave up my career and signed on the dotted line.

Swiss retirement planning is done in three parts:

AHV (this is the German term, no idea what the Italian is.), Pillar 1, is more or less akin to US Social Security. One difference, though, is that there is no income cap for contributions, but a fairly low cap for retirement payments. I have no problem with that aspect, it's just taxation by another means.

If the working spouse pays more than twice the minimum AHV amount the non-working spouse does not need to make separate payments and will get a (tiny) AHV pension based on the minimum. However, if you had worked enough in the US to qualify for Soc Sec be aware that collecting from a foreign pension can reduce your US payments via the WEP. It may, or may not, be worthwhile to collect a Swiss (or US) pension, be sure you run the numbers.

The private parts of the pension are Pillars 2 and 3, set up through your employer. Pillar 2 is where most of the savings are accumulated (for most people.)

A major difference here is that, unlike an IRA or other US company retirement plan, this is not quite a personal account as we from the US might expect but rather a pension pot. So the money that goes in - a significant chunk of your compensation, by the way - isn't really yours yet. If you make it to retirement age it's not such a big deal, as you can take all the money out and put it into an account that you personally control.

The 'gotcha' is if you don't make it to retirement age. In OH's plan, the widow's and/or children's (combined) pension is only 42% of the account. The rest reverts to the pension plan pot. That could be a significant issue in your family financial planning.

In a US model, the designated heirs - usually spouse - inherit it all. Makes sense, as the one came from your direct compensation. Families where one spouse stays home function as a financial unit and plan for retirement as a unit. Don't assume that your OH's Swiss pension plan allows for that. Some do, many don't.

It was late in the day when we realised that more than half of what OH has in his pension is not 'ours', which as a non-working spouse made me seriously re-evaluate how I need to plan for my financial future. Don't make that mistake.

If you are planning on remaining a stay at home spouse, you and your OH need to do some serious financial planning for the unthinkable 'what ifs'.

Oh, and another gotcha, thanks to our every-loving' Uncle Sam:

A Swiss pension plan is not a qualified retirement plan in the eyes of the IRS. So you will pay income tax on that money to the US in the year it is earned, including the employer contribution. The difference in the tax treatments between countries also means that there is the possibility of double taxation when you take the money out after retirement and pay the Swiss tax on it, as you might not have US off-sets anymore.

You also need to be aware that if, doG forbid, tragedy were to strike and you end up inheriting only a portion of that pension, you will have already paid US tax on the full whack, money you never received. You can file for an adjustment, but it's complicated... so make sure you, the non-working spouse, fully understand your OH's pension planning and taxes around it.

Pillar 3 might, or might not, be problematic as well for a US citizen. OH's company invests their Pillar 3 in funds that do not allow Americans. So we were kicked out of the company's Pillar three. Not much of a loss, you can only put something like 6K per year into the account and the company's interest rate is abysmal - and more importantly, we do not benefit from the tax savings as anything we save in CH goes to Uncle Sam. But nonetheless, your OH should clarify whether his US status impacts his ability to participate in the company's various retirement options.

There are sizeable differences in how the two countries treat retirement planning. Yet other reason to seek qualified tax advice!
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Old 31.07.2019, 09:48
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Re: Living in USA vs. Switzerland - pros & cons

you can get that here behind the Zurich main station https://www.elmaiz.ch/
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Old 31.07.2019, 09:51
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Re: Living in USA vs. Switzerland - pros & cons

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Speaking of growing old and grey, there are differences in retirement planning in Switzerland vs the US, that you need to be aware of, especially as a non-working spouse. Differences between the two systems has left me, a non-working spouse, in a more vulnerable position than I had understood years ago when I gave up my career and signed on the dotted line.

Swiss retirement planning is done in three parts:

AHV (this is the German term, no idea what the Italian is.), Pillar 1, is more or less akin to US Social Security. One difference, though, is that there is no income cap for contributions, but a fairly low cap for retirement payments. I have no problem with that aspect, it's just taxation by another means.

If the working spouse pays more than twice the minimum AHV amount the non-working spouse does not need to make separate payments and will get a (tiny) AHV pension based on the minimum. However, if you had worked enough in the US to qualify for Soc Sec be aware that collecting from a foreign pension can reduce your US payments via the WEP. It may, or may not, be worthwhile to collect a Swiss (or US) pension, be sure you run the numbers.

The private parts of the pension are Pillars 2 and 3, set up through your employer. Pillar 2 is where most of the savings are accumulated (for most people.)

A major difference here is that, unlike an IRA or other US company retirement plan, this is not quite a personal account as we from the US might expect but rather a pension pot. So the money that goes in - a significant chunk of your compensation, by the way - isn't really yours yet. If you make it to retirement age it's not such a big deal, as you can take all the money out and put it into an account that you personally control.

The 'gotcha' is if you don't make it to retirement age. In OH's plan, the widow's and/or children's (combined) pension is only 42% of the account. The rest reverts to the pension plan pot. That could be a significant issue in your family financial planning.

In a US model, the designated heirs - usually spouse - inherit it all. Makes sense, as the one came from your direct compensation. Families where one spouse stays home function as a financial unit and plan for retirement as a unit. Don't assume that your OH's Swiss pension plan allows for that. Some do, many don't.

It was late in the day when we realised that more than half of what OH has in his pension is not 'ours', which as a non-working spouse made me seriously re-evaluate how I need to plan for my financial future. Don't make that mistake.

If you are planning on remaining a stay at home spouse, you and your OH need to do some serious financial planning for the unthinkable 'what ifs'.

Oh, and another gotcha, thanks to our every-loving' Uncle Sam:

A Swiss pension plan is not a qualified retirement plan in the eyes of the IRS. So you will pay income tax on that money to the US in the year it is earned, including the employer contribution. The difference in the tax treatments between countries also means that there is the possibility of double taxation when you take the money out after retirement and pay the Swiss tax on it, as you might not have US off-sets anymore.

You also need to be aware that if, doG forbid, tragedy were to strike and you end up inheriting only a portion of that pension, you will have already paid US tax on the full whack, money you never received. You can file for an adjustment, but it's complicated... so make sure you, the non-working spouse, fully understand your OH's pension planning and taxes around it.

Pillar 3 might, or might not, be problematic as well for a US citizen. OH's company invests their Pillar 3 in funds that do not allow Americans. So we were kicked out of the company's Pillar three. Not much of a loss, you can only put something like 6K per year into the account and the company's interest rate is abysmal - and more importantly, we do not benefit from the tax savings as anything we save in CH goes to Uncle Sam. But nonetheless, your OH should clarify whether his US status impacts his ability to participate in the company's various retirement options.

There are sizeable differences in how the two countries treat retirement planning. Yet other reason to seek qualified tax advice!

Easily solved. Renounce citizenship.
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Old 31.07.2019, 09:55
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Re: Living in USA vs. Switzerland - pros & cons

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you can get that here behind the Zurich main station https://www.elmaiz.ch/
They also ship.

Tom
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  #48  
Old 31.07.2019, 10:05
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Re: Living in USA vs. Switzerland - pros & cons

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Let's say a family with teenage children lives in a Chicagoland. They would go/commute to a school, to their buddies etc - how safety-wise does it compare to Switzerland?
Depends on where in Chicagoland you live. Schools, and school funding, is largely at the community level, with some level of state contribution. Sad to say, economic and social differences between communities does (or can) affect the quality and culture of local public schools.

I attended excellent public schools but of course that was back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and most local schools were quite good. A more recent comparison would be our family youngsters, now in their early 20s. They, too, each have received an excellent well-rounded education, which led to to success at top universities. So not much different from my day.

While I think everyone and every school today is aware of safety issues, while the schools our family attended address it directly, I have not seen any impact on the children's outlook, behaviour, or emotional/psychological well being.

The young'uns are thriving.

But what the family youngsters experienced 10, even 5 years ago may well be different from what school children are experiencing today.

A difference between the youngsters' and my care-free school days: Many schools now are closed campus. In my day people, mostly parents, could wander in and out of the school during the day. In many schools now that is not possible. Doors are locked when the bell rings, if a community member has a reason to be at the school an appointment is generally needed. But in my sleepy hometown schools (my mother is a retired teacher and until quite recently often returned for visits) that the campus is locked is pretty unobtrusive. None of the metal detectors, etc that one reads about.

It's not hard to guess, though, that schools in more challenged areas experience something completely different. Which is not right. Not at all.

Switzerland, too, funds schools locally. One glaring difference is that Switzerland does not have the concentrated poverty that the US does, hence not such vast differences in school funding.

---

The school problem we face in the US is the same problem we face in so many other aspects of life: inequality, especially inequality of opportunity. Our best is world best, unbeatable. Our worst is an absolute damned disgrace. Often whether you end up with the best or the worst is simply down to life's lottery. We must do better for all our children.

Last edited by meloncollie; 31.07.2019 at 15:32.
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Old 31.07.2019, 10:10
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Re: Living in USA vs. Switzerland - pros & cons

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If you live in Montana and you don't have a job you think nothing of hopping on a plane and going to Texas to find one.
I grew up in Montana and while I and others left to seek employment elsewhere, I know a lot of my high school class didn't and wouldn't, even if they were struggling to make ends meet. Leave here??? Why??? was a common attitude.

I've lived in many places and different cultures and I've seen pretty much the same dynamic everywhere I've lived. Some people seek out new pastures in which to fulfill their ambitions. Others fear the great unknown beyond 'here' and are perfectly happy to remain within the area, regardless of the struggles they face there.

In other words, people are people; you see the same broad spectrum in one place that you do in all environments. Culture adds a bit of seasoning to the mix, but the core stays more or less the same.
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Old 31.07.2019, 10:15
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Re: Living in USA vs. Switzerland - pros & cons

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Easily solved. Renounce citizenship.
Not reasonable, or possible, for everyone.

But even so, that doesn't address the primary issue: The OP needs to understand that assumptions she might reasonably make based on US retirement planning models might not work in the same way here. She has several times stated that being a stay-at-home parent is important to her family. She needs to understand the full financial implications of that choice in a different financial system, and plan accordingly.
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Old 31.07.2019, 10:24
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Re: Living in USA vs. Switzerland - pros & cons

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A Swiss pension plan is not a qualified retirement plan in the eyes of the IRS.
While this is currently true, this may change in the future. As the taxation treaties between the US and other nations are being slowly revised, 'foreign' retirement plans are habitually being mutually recognized as equivalent to 'home' plans. The new treaty between the US and Switzerland includes these terms, however, it has yet to be ratified by the US Senate (though it recently left committee).

Change is slow, but things do change, making planning for distant events difficult.
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Old 31.07.2019, 10:33
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Re: Living in USA vs. Switzerland - pros & cons

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While this is currently true, this may change in the future. As the taxation treaties between the US and other nations are being slowly revised, 'foreign' retirement plans are habitually being mutually recognized as equivalent to 'home' plans. The new treaty between the US and Switzerland includes these terms, however, it has yet to be ratified by the US Senate (though it recently left committee).

Change is slow, but things do change, making planning for distant events difficult.
O frabjous day!

That is good news indeed for all y'all youngsters.

(I assume those of us who have already paid twenty some years of US taxes on our CH pensions and face CH taxes on that same money are SOL, though? Any insights?)
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Old 31.07.2019, 11:53
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Re: Living in USA vs. Switzerland - pros & cons

Meloncollie makes a very valid point regarding work environment. My husband (swiss) works in an American multinational and its definitely not the same thing as the smaller swiss companies
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Old 31.07.2019, 14:27
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Re: Living in USA vs. Switzerland - pros & cons

Just a few anecdotal comments: a decade ago I was offered the Library Director position at the infamous American College of Switzerland in Vaud. We took it. The pay was lousy, the school was silently run into the ground by its US owners, and the work was chaos as a result of nonstop external factors. That being said, we'd return to CH without reservation. It was an incredibly positive experience for all of us, especially the kids. It's not just the $$, but the quality of life: a very different, less hectic pace, great road trips that could fill every available weekend, and just the absence of noise. Go for it, send the kids to local schools, immerse yourselves and enjoy the experience away from the current mess that is the USA.
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Old 31.07.2019, 14:52
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Re: Living in USA vs. Switzerland - pros & cons

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O frabjous day!

That is good news indeed for all y'all youngsters.

(I assume those of us who have already paid twenty some years of US taxes on our CH pensions and face CH taxes on that same money are SOL, though? Any insights?)
Meloncollie, do you plan to retire and remain in Switzerland or are you planning to retire in the US? I see that you reside in SZ - which is one of the cantons with the lowest tax rate. Is your Swiss Pension/Pillar 2 domiciled in SZ too?

I imagine that after 20 years of Pillar 2 savings, the tax you will pay on that asset to Switzerland will be much greater than the tax you owe Uncle Sam for that given retirement year. In that case, I would make sure you move the Pillar 2 asset to the lowest tax canton possible (from what I have read, in m most scenarios, Zug is the lowest) before you take the lump sum payment (if retiring back to the US).

I found an interesting blog on Swiss retirement:

https://retireinprogress.com/kapitalauszahlungssteuer/
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Old 31.07.2019, 15:34
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Re: Living in USA vs. Switzerland - pros & cons

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In other words, people are people; you see the same broad spectrum in one place that you do in all environments. Culture adds a bit of seasoning to the mix, but the core stays more or less the same.
There are some negative stereotypes, though, that are not just cute "seasoning", in my personal experience directly go against the Swiss reality of life: one cannot live in CH on debt as it is possible elsewhere without having a solid plan to repay, one cannot live without a health insurance here, one cannot live pretending one's retirement is something the offspring will take care of. Core is the same, but personal responsibility seems to be indispensible in CH.
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Old 31.07.2019, 16:47
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Re: Living in USA vs. Switzerland - pros & cons

Well if you are elderly and retired and you or your partner have to go into a nursing hospital ( state ) then you will be hit for a minimum 10,000 a month. If you cant pay it then your relatives have to . The government wants to bleed you dry!

They basically view the elderly as having alot of surplus money and they want this money. By any means
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Old 31.07.2019, 17:20
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Re: Living in USA vs. Switzerland - pros & cons

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Well if you are elderly and retired and you or your partner have to go into a nursing hospital ( state ) then you will be hit for a minimum 10,000 a month. If you cant pay it then your relatives have to . The government wants to bleed you dry!

They basically view the elderly as having alot of surplus money and they want this money. By any means
Id imagine that amount is similar in the US..... Full time care is expensive anywhere
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Old 31.07.2019, 17:29
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Re: Living in USA vs. Switzerland - pros & cons

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Thank you. We also live in the San Francisco Bay Area & would be moving to Ticino. All the positives mentioned are very appealing to us and the high cost of living is something we’re already used to living in the bay. What would you say is the necessary income in Switzerland for a one-income family of four to live a comfortable life?
I moved from Oakland to Basel a few years ago. In my experience, the higher Bay Area rents alone made it more expensive than the cost of living in Switzerland. Keep in mind you have to pay healthcare out of pocket (estimate it here) and eating out is exceptionally expensive (service workers get paid a living wage). In my opinoin, a salary similar to what you're receiving in the bay would suffice. Take a look at user-generated cost estimates with Numbeo. You can estimate Ticino taxes here.

I have no insight into the culture in Ticino. The bigger cities (e.g. Zurich, Basel, Geneva, Bern) are all used to foreigners and relatively accepting of them (or at least not outwardly hostile). It might be a little different in smaller cities. They might expect you to quickly pick up the local language. On the aggregate, it's more culturally conservative than the US and certainly the Bay (for context). But similarly, there are strong urban-rural and young-old divides.

For me, Switzerland has been relaxing compared to the US. Work-life balance is expected rather than scoffed at. Fewer people define themselves by their careers. It's nice. A major bonus is how well-positioned it is to explore the rest of Europe.

PS By far, what I miss most about the Bay Area is the variety of restaurants and its craft beer scene. What I wouldn't give for one decent Tex-Mex burrito place...

Last edited by taduncombe; 31.07.2019 at 17:44.
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Old 31.07.2019, 17:32
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Re: Living in USA vs. Switzerland - pros & cons

I don't have any insight about retirement, but I have lived in Bern as a graduate student and now Lausanne as a job-seeker with a working husband. We had a bunch of options for places to move for our next step, and we love Switzerland. If the job opportunities were better long-term, we would definitely stay.

One big difference is definitely what your US salary will buy you in the US vs. here (spoiler alert: much less when it comes to real estate and day-to-day items, which are both very expensive). We came from Boulder, CO--definitely an expensive place to live and pretty bubble-like from most issues in the US. Great weather, fair amount of public transportation, infrastructure for bike commuting, lots of outdoor access. We owned property in Boulder (!!) and commuted to work (him) and graduate school (me). We loved living there, but moving to Switzerland really puts a lot of things in comparison.

First, the difference between public transportation and bike infrastructure even a "bike friendly" place like Boulder is staggering--Switzerland has just done the work to make it work, and it is a breath of fresh air. And it's safe. I bike commuted for a year in Bern, and despite the not-so-pleasant weather sometimes, I never felt unsafe aside from the occasional jerk driving a little too close. I was harassed almost every day on my bike in Boulder, and that's with following all traffic signals and mostly sticking to the bike paths instead of the road.

Here, we live in an apartment (renting at the moment), and have not been bothered at all by the downsizing because there are so many great outdoor opportunities in our neighborhood. We rarely saw our American neighbors, here people really take the ability to be outside seriously. Food is about the same price as in Boulder, but everything else is more expensive--which is fine, we don't need much.

I do miss some of the food variety from the US, but not much. We love the dog owner culture here, our well-behaved dog fits right in and can join us far more than in the US. We have put in the work to get to know our neighbors and are working on our French skills and find it very welcoming here, so long as you observe local culture (quiet hours, polite greetings, etc).

We will probably have to move back to the US in the not-so-distant future, but for now we are really loving our Swiss live and I wish I could raise children here, it is so much more low-key, less hustle-bustle and "we are always busy".
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