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Old 16.10.2019, 20:49
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Senior Software Engineer salary vs cost of living for Zurich

Hello everyone,

I am a Senior Software Engineer developing Java back-end applications for the Financial Markets. I have over 10 years of work experience as a developer.

In the latest months I have been contacted by several recruiters who offered me Java development permanent positions in Zurich area for the Financial industry and other industries as well. The salary for most of these positions was in the range of 110k - 120k CHF gross per year. This week a recruiter told me that 130k CHF would be the absolute top end salary that I could get in Zurich.

I started thinking about relocating to Zurich with my family, as I have a family with two primary school aged children. I knew from before that Zurich is the most expensive city in Europe. I started to do some calculations of the net monthly salary vs. total net cost of living.

A gross salary of 120k gives a monthly net salary of 7633 CHF, according to this online calculator.

I made a total cost of living calculation for Zurich using Numbeo website. For a family of 4 it gives a cost of 7242 CHF, for what I consider to be an economical life style (it includes rent in a 3 room apartment outside of city center). You can see here the calculation.

On top of this I would have to pay the medical insurance for all my family, which, according to a Swiss website, would be around 1000 CHF per month in total. So my total costs of living in Zurich for a family would be 8242 CHF per month, while the salary that I could get as a Senior Java Engineer would be 7633 CHF, 609 CHF less. My wife will most probably not be able to work in the first 1 - 2 years as she does not speak German language.

So either Numbeo is completely wrong with its estimations, which I doubt it, or a family of 4 persons cannot live decently in Zurich from a single Senior Software Engineer salary due to the very high cost of living.

Or would it be possible that seeing that I'm from Eastern Europe, recruiters try to make me accept a lower salary than what is the market level for Zurich? Is a salary in the range of 110k - 120k a good one for a Senior Software Developer in Zurich ?
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Old 16.10.2019, 21:55
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Re: Senior Software Engineer salary vs cost of living for Zurich

To gain an understanding of average and median incomes in Switzerland, see these links (German):

http://www.estv2.admin.ch/d/dokument...sse/moyen.html

http://www.estv2.admin.ch/d/dokument...se/median.html

Also see this Excel workbook Excel-Tabelle mit aggregierten Daten pro Kanton/Gemeinde

Good luck with your decision!


Edit:
According to this NZZ article, a family with two children under 14 is considered to be middle class if the family has a gross monthly income of between Sfr 8'253 und 17'685. A gross monthly income of Sfr 10'000 would put your family in the middle class:

https://www.nzz.ch/meinung/der-mitte...ekt-ld.1475898

Last edited by Mullhollander; 16.10.2019 at 22:47. Reason: Addition
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Old 16.10.2019, 22:01
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Re: Senior Software Engineer salary vs cost of living for Zurich

The Numbeo site calculations are strange to me. Will you seriously be using 35 kilos of apples per month (for example)?
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Old 16.10.2019, 22:06
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Re: Senior Software Engineer salary vs cost of living for Zurich

I think it probably depends on the employer and the employment grade allocated to you. My husband is a Senior Software Developer with a bank in Basel and he's on about 140k for being at Associate Director level. He also has a vast amount of experience in developing open source software, has senior managerial skills (he was production director of a metal finishing company in London for 10 years) and was a partner in a software development company he started himself for another 10 years before coming here. In that role he worked remotely on all sorts of diverse projects for global companies.

A couple of years ago he was offered a job with a software development company in Zurich and he turned it down because they were only offering 90k.
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Old 16.10.2019, 22:07
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Re: Senior Software Engineer salary vs cost of living for Zurich

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You can see here the calculation.
Thanks for posting this. I had a good laugh when looking at your expenses.
50 CHF on McDonalds
900 CHF on beef per month
edit: and 500 CHF on chicken
1 pair of jeans per month

It just doesn't make sense at all.
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Old 16.10.2019, 22:41
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Re: Senior Software Engineer salary vs cost of living for Zurich

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The Numbeo site calculations are strange to me. Will you seriously be using 35 kilos of apples per month (for example)?
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Thanks for posting this. I had a good laugh when looking at your expenses.
50 CHF on McDonalds
900 CHF on beef per month
edit: and 500 CHF on chicken
1 pair of jeans per month

It just doesn't make sense at all.
Thank you all for your replies.

Well, of course a family does not use 35 kilos of apples per month . But I think in its calculation, Numbeo takes just some typical products to average out the food budget for example, because a family uses more products than those listed by Numbeo. Same for the clothing and shoes budget.

At least for my city in Romania, Numbeo's estimates for a family of 4 are quite close to what we are spending in a month, using the same inputs for the calculation. That's why I tend to believe the estimates for Zurich could be close to reality as well.

Do you know other websites to use for an estimate of the cost of living in Zurich ?
Do you think a family of 4 could live decently in Zurich with much less than the budget that I calculated, around 8300 CHF per month, including rent and medical insurance ?
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Old 16.10.2019, 22:51
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Re: Senior Software Engineer salary vs cost of living for Zurich

If you want info on cost of living, there's loads of info here. We don't have much inflation, so even if the numbers are from a few years ago they're probably not far off.

Here are two threads that I think cover the topic nicely. Although they're a bit old I think they are fairly comprehensive and worth a look:

Cost of living - help needed to get it right

Cost of living in Switzerland-with examples

There are more than 100 threads that talk about cost of living. Some might be relevant to you and others not, but do have a look at several to get ideas. There's a LOT of good advice in there, you just have to do a little of the leg (well, reading) work yourself:

http://www.englishforum.ch/search2.php?q=cost+of+living

Hopefully instead of comparing 35 kilos of apples you can find some better examples to compare to your own consumption.
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Old 16.10.2019, 23:50
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Re: Senior Software Engineer salary vs cost of living for Zurich

In my view a family of 4 with average expenditures can easily live in that amount per month.
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Old 16.10.2019, 23:59
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Re: Senior Software Engineer salary vs cost of living for Zurich

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A gross salary of 120k gives a monthly net salary of 7633 CHF, according to this online calculator.

I made a total cost of living calculation for Zurich using Numbeo website. For a family of 4 it gives a cost of 7242 CHF, for what I consider to be an economical life style (it includes rent in a 3 room apartment outside of city center). You can see here the calculation.
?

I think 2700 CHF on food at home is on the high side. You should manage fine on 1500 CHF if you shop around and plan well. I doubt you would need 18 kilos of beef and 18 kilos of chicken a month. You also seem to have calculated an enormous amount of eggs, cheese, rice, potatoes, onions etc per month.

1000 CHF on health insurance is on the high side as well. If you choose basic insurance for everyone and keep the deductable at around 1500 CHF (if both adults are healthy) you can get by with 600-700 CHF for everyone.

You will get child support of about 200 CHF X 2 = 400 CHF per month. Add that on top of your salary.

I see you factored in your leisure, travel, clothing and electronics expenses into the numbeo calculation.

If you cut down on groceries and heath insurance premiums as indicated above, you can get by for about 1200-1500 CHF less than the numbeo numbers.

I think 130K would be about the upper limit for a newcomer Sr Software Engineer and I know quite a few people who are Sr engineers and single earners with 2 children. Although I do not know their salaries, they seem to manage and go on foreign holidays etc.

Last edited by Kedi; 17.10.2019 at 00:10. Reason: Removed comment about gasoline
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Old 17.10.2019, 00:40
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Re: Senior Software Engineer salary vs cost of living for Zurich

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they seem to manage and go on foreign holidays etc.
Isn't that a way to save money, hah? 😇
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Old 17.10.2019, 07:09
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Re: Senior Software Engineer salary vs cost of living for Zurich

Hi

120k CHF in Zürich is maybe the same as 2000-2500 EUR in Romania. You will live quite well.
YES it is a little bit less what a local earns. A local may earn 130-135k for the same. It is always so for newcomers.
YES it is a very good salary for Switzerland
YES it will be easier if your wife would also work

More important are the answers to some questions:
-how does your wife feel about the relocation?
-does your wife know the German language? How are the chances of her integrating in the work market?
-what happens if your wife is not satisfied with the relocation?
-is your recruiter able to find you an apartment?

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Hello everyone,

I am a Senior Software Engineer developing Java back-end applications for the Financial Markets. I have over 10 years of work experience as a developer.

In the latest months I have been contacted by several recruiters who offered me Java development permanent positions in Zurich area for the Financial industry and other industries as well. The salary for most of these positions was in the range of 110k - 120k CHF gross per year. This week a recruiter told me that 130k CHF would be the absolute top end salary that I could get in Zurich.

I started thinking about relocating to Zurich with my family, as I have a family with two primary school aged children. I knew from before that Zurich is the most expensive city in Europe. I started to do some calculations of the net monthly salary vs. total net cost of living.

A gross salary of 120k gives a monthly net salary of 7633 CHF, according to this online calculator.

I made a total cost of living calculation for Zurich using Numbeo website. For a family of 4 it gives a cost of 7242 CHF, for what I consider to be an economical life style (it includes rent in a 3 room apartment outside of city center). You can see here the calculation.

On top of this I would have to pay the medical insurance for all my family, which, according to a Swiss website, would be around 1000 CHF per month in total. So my total costs of living in Zurich for a family would be 8242 CHF per month, while the salary that I could get as a Senior Java Engineer would be 7633 CHF, 609 CHF less. My wife will most probably not be able to work in the first 1 - 2 years as she does not speak German language.

So either Numbeo is completely wrong with its estimations, which I doubt it, or a family of 4 persons cannot live decently in Zurich from a single Senior Software Engineer salary due to the very high cost of living.

Or would it be possible that seeing that I'm from Eastern Europe, recruiters try to make me accept a lower salary than what is the market level for Zurich? Is a salary in the range of 110k - 120k a good one for a Senior Software Developer in Zurich ?
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Old 17.10.2019, 07:54
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Re: Senior Software Engineer salary vs cost of living for Zurich

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Hello everyone,

I am a Senior Software Engineer developing Java back-end applications for the Financial Markets. I have over 10 years of work experience as a developer.

In the latest months I have been contacted by several recruiters who offered me Java development permanent positions in Zurich area for the Financial industry and other industries as well. The salary for most of these positions was in the range of 110k - 120k CHF gross per year. This week a recruiter told me that 130k CHF would be the absolute top end salary that I could get in Zurich.
With 10 years experience, I would say 140 k is the minimum. Don't sell yourself short, they all try to get you at the lowest cost. Don't start from the assumption that you will get a lower salary because you are foreigner. My OH didn't, ever. And good for him. Negotiate.

For a family of 4 it's OK(ish) but factor in health insurance which is gonna dig a deep hole in your budget (for a decent type of insurance at least 1 200 per month for your family), same as rent - I'd put there 2500 chf per month, seriously, and yes - outside Zurich.

Food - more like 1 500 - 2 000 per month with some trips to McD. (for instance, it's much more expensive here even there lol)
You do the math.

Oh, and what Mmihai said. The good thing is she'll have lots of time to find herself a job after you're more settled, provided her work experience/skills are transferable. Have two friends from Romania who came here one year ago and their wives found work in their field (financial services one of them and marketing the other) after 3-4 months, which they considered a loooong time lol (it is NOT). There's hope. But don't count on that, think of the worst case scenario.

Last edited by greenmount; 17.10.2019 at 08:08.
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Old 17.10.2019, 08:38
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Re: Senior Software Engineer salary vs cost of living for Zurich

According to the Zurich tax authority, if you are married with 2 kids and wife doesn’t work you’ll pay about CHF 500 a month tax. On top of that you will have max 700 social contributions and will have to pay a company pension contribution of 500-1000.

https://www.steueramt.zh.ch/dam/fina...rif_2014_b.pdf

You are looking for Tarif B2
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Old 17.10.2019, 08:59
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Re: Senior Software Engineer salary vs cost of living for Zurich

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With 10 years experience, I would say 140 k is the minimum.
Not everything is purely about the purchasing power. Even if it's the same, living in Switzerland instead of Romania (says the Hungarian, trust me on this) is a huge plus. Just need to accept the fact you are not in the top 10% with IT salary anymore. In return your kids will be bi-lingual, can let them walk home alone from school without thinking, etc.
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Old 17.10.2019, 09:20
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Re: Senior Software Engineer salary vs cost of living for Zurich

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Not everything is purely about the purchasing power. Even if it's the same, living in Switzerland instead of Romania (says the Hungarian, trust me on this) is a huge plus. Just need to accept the fact you are not in the top 10% with IT salary anymore.
Agree, the IT jobs does not pay high above national average which is a good thing I guess, everyone's rich in Switzerland (relatively to....).

However there's a huge downside of being in IT here. It's my fourth job in the range 100-120k. The first one was for 110k, increasing +5k every year but then after the second increase I was soon replaced by three newbies for 80-90k like some of my colleagues. In the next job, 108k, I got fired as soon as they have found a local guy. The next job, in a startup, was soon moved away from Switzerland. The current job, 103k, will soon be eliminated as more and more is beeing moved out of Switzerland.

140k is the minimum? I guess so, but I have not had a chance to get such yet. Everywhere I mentioned anything above 120k shut the door and trust me I have very good career in my cv. Perhaps I suck at selling myself, I suck having anti-talent for learning languages, I suck by doing what is necessary rather than what pleases my boss, a sales guy and whomever... so yes, think about it before making the decision.
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Old 17.10.2019, 09:40
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Re: Senior Software Engineer salary vs cost of living for Zurich

if he asks for 140k he won't get the job...
they are looking for cheap seniors with 110-120k...

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With 10 years experience, I would say 140 k is the minimum. Don't sell yourself short, they all try to get you at the lowest cost. Don't start from the assumption that you will get a lower salary because you are foreigner. My OH didn't, ever. And good for him. Negotiate.

For a family of 4 it's OK(ish) but factor in health insurance which is gonna dig a deep hole in your budget (for a decent type of insurance at least 1 200 per month for your family), same as rent - I'd put there 2500 chf per month, seriously, and yes - outside Zurich.

Food - more like 1 500 - 2 000 per month with some trips to McD. (for instance, it's much more expensive here even there lol)
You do the math.

Oh, and what Mmihai said. The good thing is she'll have lots of time to find herself a job after you're more settled, provided her work experience/skills are transferable. Have two friends from Romania who came here one year ago and their wives found work in their field (financial services one of them and marketing the other) after 3-4 months, which they considered a loooong time lol (it is NOT). There's hope. But don't count on that, think of the worst case scenario.
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Old 17.10.2019, 09:47
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Re: Senior Software Engineer salary vs cost of living for Zurich

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if he asks for 140k he won't get the job...
they are looking for cheap seniors with 110-120k...
It depends on the company, no? He doesn't have to move at any cost.
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Old 17.10.2019, 09:59
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Re: Senior Software Engineer salary vs cost of living for Zurich

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It depends on the company, no? He doesn't have to move at any cost.
Getting a foot in the door and getting yourself established in an amazing and top-tier country like Switzerland for 120k is worth far more than not moving here for the sake of not getting an extra 15%. Once he is established here then he can start looking around at other companies and really selling himself. Better to always think long-term rather than short-term gains.

120k still allows a good and comfortable lifestyle for a family if you are frugal.
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Old 17.10.2019, 10:22
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Re: Senior Software Engineer salary vs cost of living for Zurich

I think it also depends your education background and age.
My Swiss female colleague with master degree from eth, age 36 with around 10 years experience, work for measuring company with salary 110k.
A German male colleague with eth doctor degree + post doc experience, age 43, with around 8 years experience, work for bank as senior programmer+leader function has salary around 150k, if I remember well...
I also know a Chinese colleague with master degree age 40, with C++ programming experiences in bank with expectation of 125k. not sure if he gets the job or not yet.
I would say you should try 120k at least, but should also be flexible on that. You will have better chance, when you get permanent residence permit + experience in switzerland.

Last edited by gongyj; 17.10.2019 at 10:35.
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Old 17.10.2019, 11:39
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Re: Senior Software Engineer salary vs cost of living for Zurich

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140k is the minimum? I guess so, but I have not had a chance to get such yet. Everywhere I mentioned anything above 120k shut the door and trust me I have very good career in my cv. Perhaps I suck at selling myself, I suck having anti-talent for learning languages, I suck by doing what is necessary rather than what pleases my boss, a sales guy and whomever... so yes, think about it before making the decision.
I have to agree. 140K offers probably exist but will be few and far between these days for the bog standard jobs. 130K tops will be more realistic and I would say 140K minimum is a bit optimistic.
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