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Old 29.08.2008, 09:52
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What's a reasonable salary adjustment?

Hello! I came accross this forum as I was searching for some salary information on google. So far this forum has provided me tons of useful information and I did look through quite a few older threads on questions about swiss salaries. Here is my situation and I would appreciate your help. Thank you in advance.

I live and work in the great lake region in the states (not Chicago). The cost of living here is slightly below the US national average. A typical 2-bedroom apartment runs no more than $800-900 a month + utilities. My current salary is about 90k a year. In addition, I also get a 6% 401k match, very generous health/dental insurance benefit (the company pays 90% of my insurance costs), and some annual bonus ~10%. I just got the opportunity to be transferred to our office in Switzerland. I have to know if I want to pursue this option pretty soon. However, I have no idea about what my potential new salary would be, and I won't be able to discuss this with my employer until the very last step. I certainly don't want to line everything out and only to later turn down the transfer because of the salary. Could someone tell me what a reasonable person may expect for salary adjustment in a case like this?

A friend of mine recently moved to Zurich and from my understanding from her, it seems like it would require at least a 50% increase from my current salary to match the cost of living difference alone. I really don't think this is something I would be able to acheive. So, what is reasonable? What's a likely adjustment? Has anyone gone through internal transfer and if so, what was your case like?

and I will be paying that US taxes as well, so not much tax benefit either.
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Old 29.08.2008, 10:26
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Re: What's a reasonable salary adjustment?

Honestly, US girl, I made the transition from NY (not exactly rated the cheapest place to live in the US ) I found everything to be about double the cost as in the US.

For example, a 2 Br apartment here will cost between 2,000 and 2,500 per month. Having a shirt laundered (not dry cleaned) costs 3.50 - 4.00, Boneless chicken breast is about $14 per pound. I would arrange a recon trip over here to see for yourself. My guess is that if you can negotiate 160k - 170k, you should be about even.
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Old 29.08.2008, 10:36
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Re: What's a reasonable salary adjustment?

160k is a ridiculous figure to ask for unless you are an uber specialist or a manager.
If you earned 160k a year in Switzerland you would be living extremely well and probably in the top 5% (?) of salary earners.

Edit: I would think of it like this, the average salary in Switzerland is (no idea lets say) 80k chf if you are above that you are doing well...compare that to the average salery in the States and then see how far above that you are...that will help you understand what a reasonable salary is.
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Old 29.08.2008, 10:38
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Re: What's a reasonable salary adjustment?

you can do well in Zurich on a lot less than that!
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Old 29.08.2008, 10:43
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Re: What's a reasonable salary adjustment?

Bulls**t...for 2000 - 2500 you can get a lot more than a 2 bedroom apt.
You don't HAVE TO live in the center of Zürich or on Züriberg. We are renting
6 bedrooms in a modern farmhouse for that sort of price. 2 bedrooms just outside
Zürich will cost you a lot less than 2000. Try www.homegate.ch to get an idea

160K is a middle to upper management salary. The average salary of us Swiss is between 5 and 6K a month. Anyway we can't tell you how much you can expect unless you tell us what you do
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Old 29.08.2008, 10:44
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Re: What's a reasonable salary adjustment?

If you think you can not ask for an increase of at least %50 of what you earn now, do not make the move. it is very nice to live here in Switzerland but not with 90k USD.
By the way, do you have family? Kids? The cost of living is different if you are single or have dependents.
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Old 29.08.2008, 11:01
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Re: What's a reasonable salary adjustment?

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If you think you can not ask for an increase of at least %50 of what you earn now, do not make the move. it is very nice to live here in Switzerland but not with 90k USD.
Thats total tosh. I'm middle management and I would be totally buggered if I were to move to the US and have to live on a piddly 90K. I started here on less than 100k CHF and two kids and it is perfectly doable.

If she is working for a global company then they should automatically make adjustments to the salary to compensate, its standard procedure - maybe she'll make it up to 110k. She should be asking for a salary rise on the basis of a promotion or added duties not on the move alone.
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Old 29.08.2008, 11:02
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Re: What's a reasonable salary adjustment?

Your salary may depend on your job and seniority. Without knowing these details, it's a bit tricky to guess what your salary might be.

That said, CHF 90K is an ok salary - not great but you can certainly get by if you are not frivolous with money. On the other hand, CHF 160-170K is a bit unrealistic unless you are a top executive (again, depending on which industry you work in).
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Old 29.08.2008, 11:05
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Re: What's a reasonable salary adjustment?

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I would arrange a recon trip over here to see for yourself.
I am in Zurich at the moment with my friend. I think I like this place a lot, but of course, one would need to earn enough money to enjoy the lifestyle here. The cost of living is much higher here as I've seen already, but I am alright at the moment. However, I realize that perspectives may be different as a temp visitor in Switzerland vs. as a resident working and living here.
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Old 29.08.2008, 11:09
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Re: What's a reasonable salary adjustment?

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Your salary may depend on your job and seniority. Without knowing these details, it's a bit tricky to guess what your salary might be.
That I understand, but I am asking what a normal or reasonable salary adjustment is, not a salary itself. For example, I have a pretty good idea about what a salary adjustment would be for someone moving from a small city to NYC or Chicago or California. I am looking for that similar information for a move to Switzerland.
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Old 29.08.2008, 11:17
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Re: What's a reasonable salary adjustment?

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That I understand, but I am asking what a normal or reasonable salary adjustment is, not a salary itself. For example, I have a pretty good idea about what a salary adjustment would be for someone moving from a small city to NYC or Chicago or California. I am looking for that similar information for a move to Switzerland.
EVERYTHING is different here, it is not easy to make a one for one comparison like you can between areas in the same country.

If you want me to guess a reasonably salary adjustment with no info on what you do I'll guess between 0 and +10%. If you are highly specialised and are addressing a specific skill shortage in Switzerland then it could be a lot more.
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Old 29.08.2008, 11:19
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Re: What's a reasonable salary adjustment?

Another suggestion, if your company doesn't possess adjustment scales, which it should:

Try using the BigMac index - I did.
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Old 29.08.2008, 11:50
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Re: What's a reasonable salary adjustment?

At the risk of sounding like a ****...ignore the money thing..if that is your primary motivation for moving then I would stay put.
As long as you earn 100k more or less you will be able to afford the lifestyle in Switzerland.
One thing I am very aware of here, is that for a tourist Switzerland is expensive, when you live here you get a lot of good deals...transport being the outstanding one.
Also food is expensive, if you eat out all the time at home, that will change in Switzerland.
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Old 29.08.2008, 12:49
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Re: What's a reasonable salary adjustment?

I agree with Planthead. It is an adventure that you will not forget!
However,I would ask for at least 100k. 160K is probably a bit high
unless you are very specialised in some kind of technology field.

For your US taxes, you can either
1. Exclude $84700 of your salary from US taxes
or 2. Take credits for the taxes you pay here

The retirement in Switzerland, you can take it with you
when you leave. Most companies are pretty generous
with retirement schemes.


You did not mention whether you own a house or flat back
in the US. That is something to think of.

Good luck!!
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Old 29.08.2008, 13:17
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Re: What's a reasonable salary adjustment?

125k is already more than enough to live on. I lived very comfortably on this, while sending back ca. 1000CHF/month back to uk to pay a mortgage there too.

If I understand it correctly, the US taxes you will have to pay will be based on your income after all the local taxes are deducted and some other cool deductions, and even then it's realtively generaous the level at which you begin to pay. I have to say though, I totally disagree with the principle......

Last edited by smbuzby; 29.08.2008 at 13:18. Reason: lived, not loved.....
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Old 29.08.2008, 13:42
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Re: What's a reasonable salary adjustment?

You are normally required to pay for your own health and dental insurance here. Thats something you should take into your calculations.

Apart from that, if you fancy a european adventure, then the rest of the advice given is solid enough. You can survive on a lot less than the minimum quoted here, you can enjoy life well with the equiv of your US salary.
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Old 30.08.2008, 18:05
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Re: What's a reasonable salary adjustment?

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Honestly, US girl, I made the transition from NY (not exactly rated the cheapest place to live in the US ) I found everything to be about double the cost as in the US.

For example, a 2 Br apartment here will cost between 2,000 and 2,500 per month. Having a shirt laundered (not dry cleaned) costs 3.50 - 4.00, Boneless chicken breast is about $14 per pound. I would arrange a recon trip over here to see for yourself. My guess is that if you can negotiate 160k - 170k, you should be about even.
Ehh?? 170K?? are you discussing a director-level position? if so, ok you're right, 170k is the right figure to ask for...otherwise, forget it. (unless you're really really outstanding person...).

2500 CHF for a 2-rooms flat?? where? addressed at banhofstrasse ?? you can find nice 2 rooms flats for 1300-1700 nicely located (immoscout24.ch, homegate.ch).

Cheers
Nick
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Old 30.08.2008, 20:01
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Re: What's a reasonable salary adjustment?

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A friend of mine recently moved to Zurich and from my understanding from her, it seems like it would require at least a 50% increase from my current salary to match the cost of living difference alone. I really don't think this is something I would be able to acheive.
This is probably about right in pure numbers terms (possibly even a touch low), but you need to allow for the fact that the cost of living in the US is one of the cheapest in the ("civilised") world, whereas the cost of living in Switzerland at the more expensive end of the scale.

If you can hit ca. 100 - 120k/yr, you'll be living well, especially if you're single (truth be told you won't live badly on 90k, but I can certainly understand the desire to make as much money off your employer as possible).

My wife and I live quite comfortably on my 120k-ish salary. We live in Zollikon (north side of the lake, ~5 minute train ride from the middle of Zurich) in a nice, largish (for Zurich - I'd say 90m^2, although I haven't measured it) 2-bedroom ground-floor apartment with a bit of a lake view (<5 minute walk to the water) and pay about CHF2500/mo. At the time (back in April) it was easily the best place we looked at for the $$$. We make no special attempts to save money (eg: only buying groceries on special), although we don't eat out a lot (been way too spoiled in Sydney and find it very poor value here). We take weekend trips in Europe (London, Paris, Rome, etc) about every 6 weeks and are just about to drop 25-30k on a RTW trip.


Ultimately, it depends on your objectives, and how you live. You can get by comfortably in Zurich on the equivalent of US$90k/yr. However, if you're currently spending all of that "just living" where you are now, you will not be able to maintain the same lifestyle here, without something like a 50% higher salary.
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Old 30.08.2008, 20:43
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Re: What's a reasonable salary adjustment?

Zurich is expensive, and Switzerland is expensive... 2-2500 for a two bedroom apartment ( a 3 piece apt.) in the center of Zurich sounds pretty cheap compared to this (homegate.ch):

Example:


zentrale Lage Leonhardstrasse 11
8001
Zürich 3.0
Appartement
75 m2
3. Etage

3'490.−

Not all rents are this high, but if you want to live in the center of town, it isn't cheap...

I moved to CH from NYC, and I agree, expenses (not including rent) are roughly double (depending on the strength of the dollar, which at the moment, is not so impressive). Zurich rents are about what Manhattan rents are, more or less (I am not sure I have not lived there in years).

I would guess you could have a roughly equivalent lifestyle (to 90k in Chicago) for about 125-140k.

My opinion of course
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Old 30.08.2008, 22:29
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Re: What's a reasonable salary adjustment?

Single person on 90k should have little or no problem living... I am supporting a family (wife & three kids) on only a little more than that, in Zürich... as others have said, look for public transport deals, cut back on eating out (a weekly grovery budget can be spent on a week's groceries, or one meal out...), and be smart with choosing your apartment - public transport is really good, and if you want to check travel times from different areas to your office, try www.sbb.ch for a few tips... Unless you are moving large items (eg, furniture) around, you will probably not need a car.
Of course, I don't know the US tax rates - but if you pay those, will you also need to pay Swiss taxes? And medical insurance - will your current medical cover continue while you're over here, or will you need local health insurance? Will your company cover 90% of that cost, if required? Also, will you receive assistance with relocation costs? If not, that will chew up a fair bit of your money...
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