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Moving to San Francisco from UK - after some general advice

Moving to San Francisco from UK - after some general advice

Old Dec 13th 2014, 2:14 pm
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Default Moving to San Francisco from UK - after some general advice

Hi!

So, I'm new here, and am part way through delving through all the various threads and wikis on the site. There's stacks of great information, but I was looking for a bit more tailored advice on some questions if possible?

Firstly, my situation...

I'm early 30's, and have been offered, and accepted a new job within my company (that I've been with for 10 years) that is based in fairly central SF (not far from the Giants stadium). I'll be moving over there (on my own) from the UK in mid-March. It's a permanent position but I want to avoid completely cutting ties with the UK until I've settled in a little and found my feet.

So, I'm working on planning the process, and these are the main areas I was after some advice on

Visa's etc - My company will be managing all the arrangements on this side, so I have little to worry about right now hopefully. What questions should I be asking them though? Anything I need to chase? What should I be looking at re Green Card Process?

UK Situation - I own a house in the UK which I am planning on letting out. Has anyone had any joy shifting a mortgage to an agreed-let so that I do not need to get a new Buy-to-Let mortgage? Any recommendations on the letting process in terms of getting an agent to manage part or all of the process?
Financially, I was going to retain my Pension here, but just stop contributing to it, and keep at least one UK bank account open. Also planning on continuing to make NI contributions (Class III or something I think?). Does that sound sensible?

Moving process - As I am letting my place out (hopefully), I have the option of leaving most of my furniture here and letting it out furnished. This will cut down on shipping costs, does that make sense too? I will receive an allowance for relocation from my company ($8k), how much of that should I set aside for shipping my stuff over, and how much for buying new stuff? I'm thinking I'll be shipping things like Golf clubs/clothes/books/other personal stuff/some electronics etc (how much stuff will work on 110V? Are modern TV's etc multi-voltage in general? Any issues on PAL/NTSC anymore?). Or would you recommend just selling a lot of stuff here and buying new stuff in the US? Also, what sort of timing have you generally gone for around the actual moving date itself? How early do you pack up your home and send stuff to the shippers? How much stuff did you end up taking on the actual flight out there? Right now, I'm going to be working up to the Friday in the UK and then starting on the Monday in the SF office, which obviously leaves things fairly tight, but I have some holiday to take, so I might add a week in between to give me some time to at least get over jetlag!

Where to live...? Obviously I know SF is anything but cheap, but will the wage I'll be getting ($115k + up to 20% bonus) be enough to live relatively comfortably? What is the likely monthly take-home after tax on that? How much should I be allocating for rent/utilities etc? I hear about the 30% rule regularly, does that still hold true, or could/should I extend that a bit? Ideally, I'd like to live in my own place somewhere in central-ish SF, but that may not be feasible. Any areas I should look at/avoid (I gather Tenderloin is the main no-go?). Or should I look to flatshare? Is it similar to London in that it is fairly normal to move in with strangers? Has anyone any experience of moving in with a flatmate? Would that be a sensible option? I will have accommodation provided for the first month I'm there, but will also be out there for a few weeks in early January which seems like a good time to start doing some on the ground research, but... where to start?? I could look at places the other side of the bay etc as I know they are more affordable, but one of the main motivators in making the move is to be back in the middle of things a bit rather than in a quiet suburb, so that would be a last resort I think?

US finances - in terms of building up a credit rating asap, I've had it mentioned to me that getting a store card with Bloomingdales or someone else is a good place to start? Is that something I can do prior to moving? Is it worth it? Are there any things I could start setting up before I move in terms of things like bank accounts, mobile phone, internet etc

Medical - I have a few different options on medical insurance through my company, each appears to have certain strengths and weaknesses - what are the key things to be on the lookout for when deciding between them? (2 of them seem very similar on the face of it in terms of all the co-pays/coverage etc, but one is $15/month the other is $115/month after the contribution from my company - does that make any sense??)

Another key part of moving is the opportunity to explore the area, so I'm thinking I'd like to get a car out there, how easy a process is that in the short term, or should I wait until I'm settled a bit before making that plunge?

Are there any other glaring omissions that I should be considering sooner rather than later?

Thanks in advance for your help!
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Old Dec 13th 2014, 2:27 pm
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Default Re: Moving to San Francisco from UK - after some general advice

Originally Posted by grubbstar View Post
Hi!

So, I'm new here, and am part way through delving through all the various threads and wikis on the site. There's stacks of great information, but I was looking for a bit more tailored advice on some questions if possible?

Firstly, my situation...

I'm early 30's, and have been offered, and accepted a new job within my company (that I've been with for 10 years) that is based in fairly central SF (not far from the Giants stadium). I'll be moving over there (on my own) from the UK in mid-March. It's a permanent position but I want to avoid completely cutting ties with the UK until I've settled in a little and found my feet.

So, I'm working on planning the process, and these are the main areas I was after some advice on

Visa's etc - My company will be managing all the arrangements on this side, so I have little to worry about right now hopefully. What questions should I be asking them though? Anything I need to chase? What should I be looking at re Green Card Process?

UK Situation - I own a house in the UK which I am planning on letting out. Has anyone had any joy shifting a mortgage to an agreed-let so that I do not need to get a new Buy-to-Let mortgage? Any recommendations on the letting process in terms of getting an agent to manage part or all of the process?
Financially, I was going to retain my Pension here, but just stop contributing to it, and keep at least one UK bank account open. Also planning on continuing to make NI contributions (Class III or something I think?). Does that sound sensible?

Moving process - As I am letting my place out (hopefully), I have the option of leaving most of my furniture here and letting it out furnished. This will cut down on shipping costs, does that make sense too? I will receive an allowance for relocation from my company ($8k), how much of that should I set aside for shipping my stuff over, and how much for buying new stuff? I'm thinking I'll be shipping things like Golf clubs/clothes/books/other personal stuff/some electronics etc (how much stuff will work on 110V? Are modern TV's etc multi-voltage in general? Any issues on PAL/NTSC anymore?). Or would you recommend just selling a lot of stuff here and buying new stuff in the US? Also, what sort of timing have you generally gone for around the actual moving date itself? How early do you pack up your home and send stuff to the shippers? How much stuff did you end up taking on the actual flight out there? Right now, I'm going to be working up to the Friday in the UK and then starting on the Monday in the SF office, which obviously leaves things fairly tight, but I have some holiday to take, so I might add a week in between to give me some time to at least get over jetlag!

Where to live...? Obviously I know SF is anything but cheap, but will the wage I'll be getting ($115k + up to 20% bonus) be enough to live relatively comfortably? What is the likely monthly take-home after tax on that? How much should I be allocating for rent/utilities etc? I hear about the 30% rule regularly, does that still hold true, or could/should I extend that a bit? Ideally, I'd like to live in my own place somewhere in central-ish SF, but that may not be feasible. Any areas I should look at/avoid (I gather Tenderloin is the main no-go?). Or should I look to flatshare? Is it similar to London in that it is fairly normal to move in with strangers? Has anyone any experience of moving in with a flatmate? Would that be a sensible option? I will have accommodation provided for the first month I'm there, but will also be out there for a few weeks in early January which seems like a good time to start doing some on the ground research, but... where to start?? I could look at places the other side of the bay etc as I know they are more affordable, but one of the main motivators in making the move is to be back in the middle of things a bit rather than in a quiet suburb, so that would be a last resort I think?

US finances - in terms of building up a credit rating asap, I've had it mentioned to me that getting a store card with Bloomingdales or someone else is a good place to start? Is that something I can do prior to moving? Is it worth it? Are there any things I could start setting up before I move in terms of things like bank accounts, mobile phone, internet etc

Medical - I have a few different options on medical insurance through my company, each appears to have certain strengths and weaknesses - what are the key things to be on the lookout for when deciding between them? (2 of them seem very similar on the face of it in terms of all the co-pays/coverage etc, but one is $15/month the other is $115/month after the contribution from my company - does that make any sense??)

Another key part of moving is the opportunity to explore the area, so I'm thinking I'd like to get a car out there, how easy a process is that in the short term, or should I wait until I'm settled a bit before making that plunge?

Are there any other glaring omissions that I should be considering sooner rather than later?

Thanks in advance for your help!
Hi

Relocation money - if this is just given to you it will be taxable as income. Certain costs can be reclaimed, such as shipping, but not buying new things.

Medical - the main difference is between HMO and PPO. HMO is more like our system, you go to a GP before seeing a specialist.

I don't know about SF specifically, but as a single person I would think you'd be OK on that money, especially if you share accommodation.

Definitely keep your UK bank account open.
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Old Dec 13th 2014, 2:37 pm
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Default Re: Moving to San Francisco from UK - after some general advice

Originally Posted by Sally Redux View Post
Hi

Relocation money - if this is just given to you it will be taxable as income. Certain costs can be reclaimed, such as shipping, but not buying new things.

Medical - the main difference is between HMO and PPO. HMO is more like our system, you go to a GP before seeing a specialist.

I don't know about SF specifically, but as a single person I would think you'd be OK on that money, especially if you share accommodation.

Definitely keep your UK bank account open.
Thanks for the reply! On the relocation money, I was given the option of a taxable lump sum, or reimbursement (which I went for) which I believe is non-taxable? However, are there likely to be limitations on what constitutes a justifiable relocation expense?

Cheers for the advice on the bank account, and on the medical too. There were PPO and HMO options, and the two I was considering were a Blue Shield HMO or a Kaiser HMO. Would you recommend HMO over PPO?

Thanks!
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Old Dec 13th 2014, 3:49 pm
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Default Re: Moving to San Francisco from UK - after some general advice

To answer two of your many questions: get started on building credit AND get a car by buying through International Autosource. I, and many others have bought though IA, and it gets you started with a car ahead of your arrival (you are required to sign the contract and pay a deposit before you arrive in the US), and building credit immediately with a healthy car payment every month. IA is a well established business that has the sale of vehicles to US military personnel as its primary business, so it is completely reputable and trustworthy. I found then to be very cost competitive, but the convenience of having the car already taken care of ahead of your arrival cannot be underestimated.

Otherwise, do you have an Amex card? Amex will issue a US card based on your Amex history outside the US.

If you are healthy and only need occasional use of medical services (vaccinations and preventative treatments), then take a serious look at the "high deductible" health insurance plan if one is offered. You will get a linked opportunity to save pre-tax cash into a "health savings account" (similar to a 401k/ private pension account), and for healthy individuals it is a much lower cost option than conventional insurance. I have been on such a plan with my family for several years, and several of my colleagues have moved over since then as the word has got out that for many people there is a significant saving to be made by switching to high deductible insurance. My wife and I each have health savings accounts which have each accumulated five-figure balances over just five years.

Last edited by Pulaski; Dec 13th 2014 at 4:23 pm.
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Old Dec 13th 2014, 4:12 pm
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Default Re: Moving to San Francisco from UK - after some general advice

Originally Posted by grubbstar View Post
Thanks for the reply! On the relocation money, I was given the option of a taxable lump sum, or reimbursement (which I went for) which I believe is non-taxable? However, are there likely to be limitations on what constitutes a justifiable relocation expense?

Cheers for the advice on the bank account, and on the medical too. There were PPO and HMO options, and the two I was considering were a Blue Shield HMO or a Kaiser HMO. Would you recommend HMO over PPO?

Thanks!
There are restrictions on what you can claim as reimbursement but you can include travel costs and shipping, just make sure you maximise that side of it.

This gives some info on moving: http://www.irs.gov/publications/p521...link1000203491

Kaiser has a mixed reputation. Personally I went for HMO as I was fine with seeing a GP in the first instance and you are less likely to get a nasty shock with out-of-network charges. You could try that for the first year; you have to re-enrol every year anyway.

Last edited by Sally Redux; Dec 13th 2014 at 4:15 pm.
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Old Dec 13th 2014, 4:26 pm
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Default Re: Moving to San Francisco from UK - after some general advice

great, thanks both, all really useful information.

@Pulaski - Unfortunately, I don't have an Amex account (is it worth setting one up now, or will I need to have had it for a minimum term to get any benefit?)

Thanks for the info on IA too, had not come across them at all, will look into them in more detail

@Sally - what are the downsides with Kaiser? Are there some horror stories?
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Old Dec 13th 2014, 4:29 pm
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Default Re: Moving to San Francisco from UK - after some general advice

Originally Posted by grubbstar View Post
@Sally - what are the downsides with Kaiser? Are there some horror stories?
There are horror stories with all providers.

Kaiser is more about being restricted to their network. I believe the care is all right but maybe check first how much of a presence they have in your area.
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Old Dec 13th 2014, 5:08 pm
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Default Re: Moving to San Francisco from UK - after some general advice

In your contract you need to specify what would happen IF your job in the US were terminated. Hopefully nothing like this would happen but you never know.

You should have a clause which says the company would, at the least, provide a ticket back home for you and reimburse shipping costs etc.
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Old Dec 13th 2014, 5:29 pm
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Default Re: Moving to San Francisco from UK - after some general advice

Originally Posted by grubbstar View Post
Thanks for the reply! On the relocation money, I was given the option of a taxable lump sum, or reimbursement (which I went for) which I believe is non-taxable? However, are there likely to be limitations on what constitutes a justifiable relocation expense?
It doesn't really make any difference whether you get a lump sum or reimbursement for expenses.

Only certain types of relocation expenses are deductible for tax purposes
(see IRS Pub 519 which someone else already provided a link to).

If you pay for those expenses out of a (taxable) lump sum that you received then you can deduct those expenses when calculating your taxes.

If you are reimbursed for something that the IRS regards as being a legitimate business (or relocation) expense then that reimbursement isn't taxable, but otherwise it is taxable. (Depending on how your employer processes that reimbursment it may, however, be up to you whether or not you actually pay for it).

Getting your employer to pay for your plane tickets is probably a good idea - that could be considered a business expense.
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Old Dec 13th 2014, 5:45 pm
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Default Re: Moving to San Francisco from UK - after some general advice

San Francisco is a very expensive city, property wise. A one bed flat in a decent part of town will be >$3600, easily. If you rent, there are no other fees or taxes associated with the flat, except gas/electric etc (there's no council tax for renters). The salary should be okay if you're not extravagant and don't have a hugely expensive car but you won't be rolling in it. I have a car lease on a Corolla, not exciting but fine for me, which is $200 a month. Insurance is $100 a month. Parking at work is $180 a month but you might have free parking at your job! A garage spot might cost around $300-400 as parking is really difficult in the city. A parking permit is around $150 for the year for street parking.

We have a PPO for medical, Anthem Blue Cross,which is cheap as my partner's company pay a lot and I've never had any problems with it. Our monthly fees for medical are <$100 but my partner's employer pays a lot. UCSF is everywhere and a decent healthcare provider.

Tenderloin is not great. Avoid. Pac Heights, Nob Hill, Russian Hill are nice. I live in the Castro, which is lovely. The Mission is good, in places, and might be a good compromise for cheaper rents.

Good luck!

Last edited by IlAlfie; Dec 13th 2014 at 5:48 pm.
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Old Dec 13th 2014, 8:02 pm
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Default Re: Moving to San Francisco from UK - after some general advice

If the OP ends up living in San Francisco itself then car ownership is probably optional. Car rentals are comparatively inexpensive if you decline all of the additional insurances that they offer (which may or may not be a good idea depending on what other insurance cover you end up having), and the OP may find that it is practical to rely on public transport for getting around within the city supplemented by occasional use of things like ZipCar and/or a few short term car rentals.
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Old Dec 13th 2014, 8:43 pm
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Default Re: Moving to San Francisco from UK - after some general advice

As far as visas go I imagine you'll be on an L or H1 to start....definitely as them about Green Cards.

You NI needs to be worked out with your company....if your are in the US for less than 5 years you can avoid paying US payroll taxes and keep paying NI, or you might just pay US FICA and voluntary NI, Class 2 would be best if you can qualify.

Make sure you understand the US tax implications of your UK finances. pensions should not be a problem, but ISAs, UK rentals, UK unit trusts will all cause varying degrees of complications.

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Old Dec 13th 2014, 8:44 pm
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Default Re: Moving to San Francisco from UK - after some general advice

We survived 18 months without a car but after my office moved, the commute became tricky. And the buses are pretty grim. It's totally possible to do without a car in San Francisco but I did end up spending a lot on Zipcar and decided to succumb. I haven't regret it. Yet.
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Old Dec 13th 2014, 8:45 pm
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Default Re: Moving to San Francisco from UK - after some general advice

I'd find out exactly what visa the company is planning to get for you. If it's an L1-A will they agree to sponsor your for a Greencard down the road (including the associated costs). You want to make sure you have your own future in mind.
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Old Dec 13th 2014, 11:54 pm
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Default Re: Moving to San Francisco from UK - after some general advice

Welcome to BE and good luck with the move!

One thing to consider would be implications of capital gains tax if you decide to flog your UK gaff. There's a couple of recentish threads on the subject as it's all down to the timing between not having to pay any tax or getting utterly slammed.

Worth having a read of the credit info in the wiki up top, same for the info on relocation packages to see what you might not have considered.
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