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Old 18.12.2009, 15:54
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Salary needed for family of 4 to live comfortably in Basel

My family (myself, husband, 2 daughters ages 4 and 8) are likely moving to Basel in April for a minimum of 2 years, possibly longer. We currently live in Colorado and have a very nice lifestyle. I am very curious to know what salary is needed for us to live comfortably in Basel. We would like to rent a 3 bedroom place, have decent health care coverage, travel within Europe 6 or more times a year, travel to the U.S. every other year, eat out a few times per month. We are not planning on having a car, at least not initially. Can anyone offer advice on what this type of standard of living would cost in Basel? Any thoughts/advice would be very welcome!
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Old 18.12.2009, 16:07
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Re: Salary needed for family of 4 to live comfortably in Basel

I would say that you would need a very high income to have the life style you describe on your post. A very rough estimate would be a minimum of 120 000 a year.
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Old 18.12.2009, 16:14
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Re: Salary needed for family of 4 to live comfortably in Basel

Based on the amount of travel you plan to do, I would say more like CHF180k (especially if you factor in private schooling for the kids).
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Old 18.12.2009, 16:19
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Re: Salary needed for family of 4 to live comfortably in Basel

I think you'd be living pay-check to pay-check at 120k.

Remember that housing is not cheap here. Sounds like you might be getting an expat job? In this case, maybe your employer is able to get you cheap accomodation, or even pay for it in its entirety. Schooling is free, but private schooling is even better if paid by the employer (big $$$'s by the way). You'll find that houses here might not be anything of the size you know in the US, and those 3 bedrooms may be somewhat small...

Travelling in Europe doesn't have to be expensive. Easyjet or similar can take the whole family to quite a few placed for 500chf a pop, and the same would be had in gas costs on a car. Hotels may set you back a certain amount, you need to choose carefully. Flying Europe to the US rather than vice-versa (when buying tickets) is usually a little more expensive. You'll really need to do some carefully ticket shopping there.

Dinner for 4 may set you back 200-300chf if you're having a nice wine in a decent restaurant. So that's about 500chf in restaurant bills every month (very average... pizzerias at lunch time may have a whole menu for 16chf per head, it's the dinners which creep up to 30chf or so per person not counting drinks).

You may need to be "humble" when it comes to the car. Unfortunately if it's just one person earning the moneys in this case, you're above the minimum wage requirements for an HLM type housing and thus, it'll all cost you more (taxes too).

Good luck. You might be able to ask more if this is an expat offer. Maybe both wife AND husband can work? This could bring an extra 50k or more to the household which can alleviate things massively.
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Old 18.12.2009, 16:23
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Re: Salary needed for family of 4 to live comfortably in Basel

You'll need to look for a 4.5-6 room appartment (they count all rooms except kitchen and bathroom in the "room count"). Have a look at http://www.alle-immobilien.ch/home?Lang=en This is the English link and covers all the major suppliers of rented accommodation.

We live in the middle of town in a 5.5 room place and it costs us around 2100 CHF/month.

Healthcare you pay for yourself through mandatory insurers. They are partially sponsored by the state, but you still have to cough up. Like car insurance there is an excess that you have to pay first then the insurers cover it. We have an excess of 1500 CHF which gives a quarterly bill of around 1000 CHF per adult (rounded up).

For the children it is different (we have 3): 300 CHF per child per quarter (also rounded up). Note for children there is no excess, but you have to pay for 10% of all fees. This is for sickness. Accidents will usually be covered by your company (for the whole family). To get personal: if you are planning another baby or are "thinking about it" get additional insurance for this as soon as you hit the ground, as getting cover after that light turns blue is much more expensive...

You'll be taxed at source which, for argument's sake, is in the region of 25%. It varies of course where you live and what your set-up is. High by US standards (from what I have been told), but much lower than most EU countries. VAT/taxes are included in prices, so you don't need to think about that.

Eating out is, relatively speaking, expensive. Generally anything with labour involved costs tonnes. Count on minimum of 50 CHF per person eating out at a moderate to cheap (but not bad) place. That doesn't include alcohol!

For a US person, you might want to know that tipping is not obligatory. 10-15% is generous enough if you have had good service.
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Old 18.12.2009, 16:36
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Re: Salary needed for family of 4 to live comfortably in Basel

I personally think you will need to earn closer to 200,000 CHF a year if you want to travel with 4 people 6 or more times a year. Life here is A LOT more expensive then life in America. It cost 60 CHF for my husband and I to eat out at lunch and over 100 CHF at dinner. Add alcohol on top of that and your bill is skyrocking fast! I am not sure how rent is compared to Colorado, but I know for me that we pay double for what my parents pay for their mortgage on a large house in Texas and our apartment only has 2 bedrooms. Sure you could live on less and a lot of people do, but you would have to be compromising from your high standard life style in Colorado. Heath insurance is expensive too if you want semi private or private health insurance. My husband and I pay 600 CHF a month for health insurance. If you want to see how much you would pay for your family you can check out www.comparis.ch It has an English option. You can also check out www.homegate.ch to check out rental rates of apartments.

I definitely think you should move to Switzerland and experience a new culture with your family. Switzerland is in the perfect location for traveling to other European countries. You just can't come over here with the expectations that everything is going to be like America because you will be greatly disappointed. You might have to scale down your standard of living and try a new way of life. I know I did, but I learned that I can live in a tiny apartment and still be just as happy as I was living in a big house back in the states.

Hope this helps!

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Old 18.12.2009, 16:39
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Re: Salary needed for family of 4 to live comfortably in Basel

CHF180 (gross) sounds about right to me. The big hit for us was schooling. While I'm told the public system is very good we didn't feel able to put kids in German speaking school (they are 4 and 2 and already speaking/learning Italian and English). My wife did most of the searching but I think private schools were all around the CHF1,500-CHF2,500 per month per child (yes even for 2 year old's nursary). That hurts when coming out of your net salary.

Many of the big companies will have schemes in place to cover these costs in which case you are ok. In our case the company's scheme only covered from 5+ years old so we had some negotiating to do....

Thus while I would clasify most things in Basel as expensive (even compared to London in many cases) this was the one cost that was on a different scale all together.

As a footnote we moved in July and we are absolutely loving it. Place, people, work/life balance all great. And the school we chose has so far turned out to be exactly what we wanted both in quality and approach.

Hope this helps and good luck with the move
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Old 18.12.2009, 17:04
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Re: Salary needed for family of 4 to live comfortably in Basel

I would have to say 180-200 K would be a good salary 120 will not even begin to cover all the expenses you are mentioning. We are a family of 2 plus 2 cats and while I was the only one working we were a bit tight, rent is high (at least 3000 CHF a month if you want something nice 4-5 bedrooms and close to the city, might be less outside Basel Stadt) groceries are high (we spent around 150-200 a week more if we buy alcohol), and you have schools to think about, a car?...
Eating out is pretty expensive too, we do it 2-3 times a month (this does not include our kebap shop escapades though ).

Good luck!

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Old 18.12.2009, 17:16
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Re: Salary needed for family of 4 to live comfortably in Basel

Thanks to everyone - this is very helpful information! I thought more information from me might be useful.

We are planning on changing our lifestyle, drastically, I know it will be different than in Colorado. However, one of the main reasons we are so excited about the move is the prospect of traveling around Europe - this is an expense we want to make sure is covered.

My husband would not be hired as an expat, but they are "working on" a relocation package for us. Supposedly that will include 3 months in a furnished apartment, payment for our move over, help finding myself employment (although I have even more questions about that!), help finding a permanent residence, help getting set-up (bank account, etc.). We were told that schooling for our kids is not typically covered, but they are working on providing something (???).

I have a doctorate in statistics and a masters in mathematics and was hoping I would be able to find employment at one of the international schools and hopefully defray some of the costs - any advice on this?

Back to the salary question. If we leave schooling out of it, it sounds like most of you think around 150,000 would be sufficient, correct?

Again - thanks for all of your responses, I can't express how helpful it is!
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Old 18.12.2009, 17:21
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Re: Salary needed for family of 4 to live comfortably in Basel

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Thanks to everyone - this is very helpful information! I thought more information from me might be useful.

We are planning on changing our lifestyle, drastically, I know it will be different than in Colorado. However, one of the main reasons we are so excited about the move is the prospect of traveling around Europe - this is an expense we want to make sure is covered.

My husband would not be hired as an expat, but they are "working on" a relocation package for us. Supposedly that will include 3 months in a furnished apartment, payment for our move over, help finding myself employment (although I have even more questions about that!), help finding a permanent residence, help getting set-up (bank account, etc.). We were told that schooling for our kids is not typically covered, but they are working on providing something (???).

I have a doctorate in statistics and a masters in mathematics and was hoping I would be able to find employment at one of the international schools and hopefully defray some of the costs - any advice on this?

Back to the salary question. If we leave schooling out of it, it sounds like most of you think around 150,000 would be sufficient, correct?

Again - thanks for all of your responses, I can't express how helpful it is!
Well I think it is a good salary and if you leave school out it sounds good. When I moved the company where I am working offered me the same package and I have to say that they are very helpful. Except for the furnished apparment for three months everything was great...(the appartmenet had cockroaches ). But that is another topic...
Good luck!
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Old 18.12.2009, 17:31
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Re: Salary needed for family of 4 to live comfortably in Basel

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Healthcare you pay for yourself.... Note for children there is no excess, but you have to pay for 10% of all fees. This is for sickness[
For a few years, it's been possible to have an excess for the kids. It's not very high though, and usually not worth it as kids' cover is pretty cheap. You only have to pay 10% on the first 6000CHF of treatment (after excess) - after that it is all covered.

The further out from Basel City you live the lower your rent will be. Canton Basel Land has lower taxes, considerably, than Basel City. Public transport is regular, reliable and, if you buy for the year, cheap.

Forget about eating out regularly. There are far better places to spend your money. Ordering pizzas to be delivered (and buying your booze from Denner) will save you a fortune. As will cross-border shopping. ( Actually, if you eat out in Germany or France, you don't have to far for it to be very cheap compared to Switzerland... and better quality too! Colmar has quite a few Michelin starred restaurants that do a lunch menu for what you'll pay eating texmex at Papa Joes! ).

IFyou are planning on staying then put your kids into local school. If you're not, then go for private. The Swiss school system, while it has its challenges, is excellent. So long as the teachers know you're staying, they'll put the effort to get your kids up to speed. We had extra German lessons for our kids, paid for by the community, for 5 years.

I was a local hire as well (now I work for myself - much better), and had pretty much the same package that you did. And moving here we've had plenty of cheap holidays driving to various places within Europe. Much more than we would have done if we'd stayed in the UK.
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Old 18.12.2009, 17:37
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Re: Salary needed for family of 4 to live comfortably in Basel

150,000 CHF seems good, but for rental costs check out the web-pages given.

As Shinigami said, travelling around Europe can be cheap, as you can fly on no-frills airlines. Basel has a relatively good selection of destinations with easyjet.com, albeit "touristy" ones. There are also often specials to go by rail to major cities if you book early enough and even Swiss International Airlines offer "deals" if you are not fixed on a destination. Flying from Zurich (~1 hr train ride) is also a possibility.

I would agree with others that private schools cost a lot, so we will be sending all ours to Swiss schools (the oldest is only at kindergarten and we're here for the longhaul). While that may be OK for your 4 year old (kindergarten lasts 'til 7), your 8-year old may have difficulty adjusting... So if you are only planning for a short stay, then you may have/want to reconsider the private school option in your budgets for easier re-integration into the US system.

There's also something else you should know about. There is a car-sharing scheme available called: mobility.ch. You pay an annual retainer and then hire a car on a small per km fee. I've not used it, but have been told that for short/day trips it is good, but for longer trips (i.e. a week) you're better off hiring from a main company (i.e. Herz, Avis, Europecar Sixt).

Depending on where you will live you won't need a car day-to-day. We (I) crashed ours and we were carless (I was careless in the accident - my bad) for 2 months and it really reinforced the beauty of public transport in CH. Although trips took a little longer, it just made it more of an adventure for our children to get anywhere.
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Old 18.12.2009, 19:51
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Re: Salary needed for family of 4 to live comfortably in Basel

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Based on the amount of travel you plan to do, I would say more like CHF180k (especially if you factor in private schooling for the kids).

Castro... you obviously don't have school going kids...

international school for 2 kids is easily 45k.
so that 180k most certainly does not factor in private schooling.
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Old 18.12.2009, 20:09
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Re: Salary needed for family of 4 to live comfortably in Basel

120K...not do-able.

150K...tight, requires major budgeting.

180K...OK

200K...this is what you want, but at the level your husband will be swimming with the sharks.
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Old 18.12.2009, 20:54
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Re: Salary needed for family of 4 to live comfortably in Basel

Just for comparison, our family of three will be living on 90k/year. Obviously, it will be a different standard of living than what you're accustomed to (3 room apartment, not eating out much at all, not much travel). And no international school, obviously.
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Old 18.12.2009, 22:15
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Re: Salary needed for family of 4 to live comfortably in Basel

Basel is significantly cheaper than Zurich, no? I am not including private school in my question because if the company does not end up covering it, we will likely go with local schools. From other posts, it seems like 150,000 would be fine, but it seems as if some think this amount would be quite a blow to our standard of living. As far as employment for myself, is there any part-time work available, preferably teaching? Again, all of the advice is much appreciated!
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Old 18.12.2009, 22:28
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Re: Salary needed for family of 4 to live comfortably in Basel

See here for important information about Swiss schooling.
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Old 19.12.2009, 00:44
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Re: Salary needed for family of 4 to live comfortably in Basel

I cannot complain or discuss anything child-related as we are "Dinks" with two full incomes. But is was not always like that, I started out as an intern and later we lived on two starters salaries and therefore: the average family income in Switzerland is 65k per year.

While 120k would surely limit you, I believe you can have a decent live in Switzerland on 150k (plus whatever work you will find). Saving is easy, the cost drivers are maybe different than in other countries:
- Housing will be your number one spending. There are huge price differences depending on the area. Really worth to shop around and possibly go a bit out of the city. Public transport is excellent and you can really save four digit numbers a month if you are not in the city centre.
- Eating out is expensive. Since you will move to a city that borders to two other countries: Eating out in Germany will cost you approximately half...
- Same goes for groceries: Most people with larger families will go shopping in France or Germany and lower their bills significantly.

Some words on traveling: We did it extensively over the past years and to all the expats and business travelers out there: You can actually do it in an affordable way! There are plenty of budget airlines, the regular airlines have plenty of sales for city trips on weekends and you can compare hotels easily online. My favourite: booking.com.

If you are open for the change of lifestyle (and it seems you are): Go for it! You will be doing alright.

P.S: With your education you might check out the jobs in the research/pharma sector which is very strong in Basel. With a background in math you might find some chances.
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Old 19.12.2009, 04:35
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Re: Salary needed for family of 4 to live comfortably in Basel

Has anyone transfered with their company to Basel from the U.S.? If so, how did your salary change as a result? Additionally, how did your standard of living change? Did you suddenly find yourself struggling to get by, was it comfortable but different, ...?

By the way, I'd like to thank you guys for your posts, but as yet (and yes I do feel stupid), I can't figure out how to do this!
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Old 19.12.2009, 07:09
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