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Moving from UK to LA - should we go for it?

Moving from UK to LA - should we go for it?

Old May 15th 2022, 2:55 pm
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Default Moving from UK to LA - should we go for it?

Hey folks. Hope you're all well!

So I've been offered my dream job in LA. So exciting! But - I currently live in the UK with my partner, and I promised to them that if we were to make the move across the pond, it'd need to increase the quality of life for both of us.
Unfortunately, the visa I would get would only allow me to work, so they'd have to put their career on hold. They're willing to do so, but I want to make sure I can afford the best time for both of us whilst we're over there!

I'm trying to run the numbers on how much I can afford to provide for the both of us so that we're happy and healthy over there and enjoy everything the city (and the country!) has to offer us.

So, my salary would be $90k. And this would have to be it for both of us. Currently, we collectively earn roughly £75k together in the UK, which is a little over $90k, and our cost of living in the UK is definitely lower right now. But still, this would be an awesome life and work experience for *me*, so we're willing to take a bit of a hit to the salary if we know we can afford to have a great time in LA.

I've budgeted, on an estimated $2.5k bi-monthly paycheque (is that even close to right at the sole earner of a $90k salary??), total monthly outgoing costs of:

Rent - $2,200 Looking at palms or Culver city as a nice, safe, central location. and good connections to the Metro E link
Utilities - $200 for electricity, gas, and anything else? in the UK, we pay council tax, but that doesn't seem to be the case here? hopefully also internet in this!
Health insurance - $400 for both of us. looking like it's about $180 bi-weekly - it's a bit of an unknown paying this as a Brit, so no idea if this is good or not
Transport - $200 - I'm looking just at using public transport in LA. I know, I've heard it's crap. But it seems to be the only feasible way to save money for spending on activies and stuff, as cars seem really, really expensive on a monthly budget
Groceries - $500 this is just for supermarket bought items, we eat generally cheap + are both vegan so shouldn't worry about costs for meats which are typically a bit more expensive?
Phones - $60 just looking for sim only plans here. our current phones should work just fine with a new US sim in, so hopefully can keep this cheap! I've found something called 'mint mobile' which seems cheap and cheerful for the both of us.
TOTAL - $3,560

Monthly income - TOTAL = $1,440

So that's basically the gist of it. Do all these numbers seem feasible, have I missed anything, and does the remaining monthly dollars give us enough 'fun money' to go out for drinks and eat out once a week or so, with some saving money for holidays and such? If I've made a mistake and grossly under or overestimated anything, please let me know! To be completely honest, with us both being able to work in the UK we collectively have about £2.2k-ish left over after each calendar month for 'fun money' + savings, so this US job is definitely a decrease on that. But the combination of me working my dream job + we both get to have fun in the US for a few years means that the trade-off may well be worth it! Also, I currently mortgate my flat here in the UK, which I could probably rent for £1000 per month. I know this'll get taxed in the US, but hopefully there'd be some remaining money left over to supplement my US income and help us have a better quality of life? I'm not too fussed about saving much for the time we're there, we just want to maximise having fun out there.

I'd also be looking at renting a car occasionally on the weekends, to drive out to Vegas or somewhere fun.

Oh yeah, crap, and we'd have to get married soon to make this all happen. Fun fun!

Although we plan to do this for a bit, it definitely isn't our long term plan. My partner not being able to work or progress her career are serious drawbacks, so we've agreed it would be a short term thing - 18 months to 24 months max before we call it quits and head back home, so she can work again

Thanks for taking the time to check this out! I hope I haven't spoken out of line anywhere, I appreciate some of my figures or statements may be eye-roll worthy, but I really am a complete beginner when it comes to this stuff. I hope you all have a great week, and thanks in advance for any replies!
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Old May 15th 2022, 3:27 pm
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Default Re: Moving from UK to LA - should we go for it?

Without going into the details (I will try to come back and look into that), but $90k for a couple in LA is going to be extremely tight. My wife and I tried something very similar over 20 years ago in New York, and decided it was unsustainable even if she did find employment (she's a USC, so it was only the practicality if her finding work that was an issue). So I think your plan only makes sense if it works as a 2-3 year "investment in your career", with a significant increase in your pay to look forward to in the coming years.

The $500 for groceries is probably the one number you have most nearly right as you're not buying meat. And my guess, never having lived in CA, is that your rent number is optimistic. So far as surviving without a car goes, is also going to be a challenge, as LA was built around the automobile, and is going to limit your choice of home in relation to work - you'll really need to try to find somewhere acceptable within walking distance of work, Anand renting a car is going to be relatively expensive (BTW once you have moved here you need a CA driver's license ASAP, technically only 12 days) because US car rentals piggy back off your own car insurance, and if you don't have that you'll have to pay for supplemental insurance, which will roughly double the cost.

Last edited by Pulaski; May 15th 2022 at 3:33 pm.
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Old May 15th 2022, 4:06 pm
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Default Re: Moving from UK to LA - should we go for it?

I'm sure people have pointed out that 90k for 2 is not that comfortable in LA. California has some of the worst housing prices, and LA has some of the worst air quality and traffic.
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Old May 15th 2022, 4:36 pm
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Default Re: Moving from UK to LA - should we go for it?

I took a look at rentals in Culver City and came up with only 2 around the 2K mark - most are high 2k's and above (up to 4K per month)
No car in LA? Even going to the grocery store for weekly goods might be a push.... Where are you travelling to if living in Culver city.
Health insurance sound a good deal $400 per bi weekly for 2 of you - there will be co-pays and deductibles though I guess. You should make further enquiries about this.

If you are young and prepared to be frugal with your money, 90K might suffice ....

Sounds like you are moving on an H-1 visa. Based on current timescales you won't be moving this year? Does your potential employer know you are only looking for an 18 month -2 year assignment.?
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Old May 15th 2022, 5:16 pm
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Default Re: Moving from UK to LA - should we go for it?

Without getting into the details, the bottom line is you will struggle to do much more than survive in LA if your salary of $90K needs to support both of you. Relying on public transport will be a miserable experience for both of you. You cannot fulfill a promise to to improve the quality of life for both of you and/or have an awesome time on that salary.

I would also check into your vacation allowance, it is typically a lot less than what you are used to in the UK, and day to day working hours tend to be longer. That may also factor into your decision,

With what you both earn in the UK, compared to what you would earn in LA I think you would be taking a substantial hit on your standard of living. Why not take the extra vacation time and money you have in the UK and vacation over here?
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Old May 15th 2022, 5:58 pm
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Default Re: Moving from UK to LA - should we go for it?

A partner won’t get a derivative visa, only a husband or wife will. So you can either try for a cohabiting B or a wedding is in the stars…

The salary you mention won’t get you very far in a big US Metro.

That aside I think the biggest issue is a partner who can’t work. Aside from the fact they won’t be earning, what are they going to do all day,? You also need to compound the loss of salary for them, 2 years out of work now is not only 2 years lost income it can also impact their career for years. We got a nanny 3 months after our first son was born so my wife could go back to work. That costs us more than her returning to work, but worked out better in the long term.

I did something similar 3 times in my 20’s, UK to NZ, then Dublin and then NYC, if you were single and had no property I would say go for it, but in your situation and on the salary you mention I don’t think you will have the experience you expect…
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Old May 15th 2022, 6:06 pm
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Default Re: Moving from UK to LA - should we go for it?

Originally Posted by Flaxe View Post
Unfortunately, the visa I would get would only allow me to work, so they'd have to put their career on hold. They're willing to do so, but I want to make sure I can afford the best time for both of us whilst we're over there!
Which visa are they intending to apply for? H-1B, O-1?

The rule of thumb is to take your UK salary, double it and stick a $ in front. So you'd want to be look at around $150k at least to have a similar lifestyle. Also, health insurance is a huge extra cost you need to account for.

Also, you will need to be married to get a derivative visa even if they can't work so they can live with you.
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Old May 15th 2022, 6:09 pm
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Default Re: Moving from UK to LA - should we go for it?

On another note are you getting a relocation package; flights, sum of money to cover initial costs such as deposits for apartment, maybe rental car for couple of months etc
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Old May 15th 2022, 6:42 pm
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Default Re: Moving from UK to LA - should we go for it?

Hey all,

I'd like to start off by saying thanks so much for the wealth of responses already - I really appreciate the time people have put into helping me out here.

To go through some questions and extra info:

Where I'd be working
Near enough to Alsace, or near-ish Playa Vista.

Working conditions
It looks like I wouldn't have to work in the office every day - hopefully a max of 2 or 3 times a week, which would make the public transport commute times from Palms to Alsace (estimated at about 1.25h each way) not toooo painful.

And renting a car is going to be relatively expensive (BTW once you have moved here you need a CA driver's license ASAP, technically only 12 days) because US car rentals piggy back off your own car insurance, and if you don't have that you'll have to pay for supplemental insurance, which will roughly double the cost.
Ouch, didn't know that. If we do have to bite the bullet and get a car, I was seeing cheapest offers around $450pm for a 18 month lease, $200pm insurance, and $150 in petrol. That's an $800 monthly expense I just can not afford, if my remaining salary really will be $1,440.

I took a look at rentals in Culver City and came up with only 2 around the 2K mark - most are high 2k's and above (up to 4K per month)
Sorry, that's my mistake - I was actually looking more like Palms which is juuust north of Culver City, which I can see is on the 'Metro E line', which I would rely on to get to Santa Monica and stuff at the weekends. There are 1 bed flats for about $2,200 which seem decent size enough, but they're nothing special.

No car in LA? Even going to the grocery store for weekly goods might be a push.... Where are you travelling to if living in Culver city.
Grocery shopping sounds painful. I was kinda hoping there would be a home delivery service like we're used to here in the UK, but at worst a walk to the shop and then an Uber back was kind of the idea. I would need to travel to and from Palms to Alsace-ish, about 3 days a week.

Sounds like you are moving on an H-1 visa. Does your potential employer know you are only looking for an 18 month -2 year assignment.?
Which visa are they intending to apply for? H-1B, O-1?
They want to take me on an O1 visa.

I was pushing to see if I could work for their UK branch for a year, and then transfer over on an L1 visa - which would magically allow my (would be) spouse to get a visa that allowed her to work. Magical visa shenanigans, right?! But apparently, they looked into it and can't do it. Bummer

I would also check into your vacation allowance, it is typically a lot less than what you are used to in the UK, and day to day working hours tend to be longer. That may also factor into your decision,
This was actually something I was concerned about - but apparently I would get 22 days + bank holidays + office closure. So - not so painful, and quite similar to what we expect here in the UK really! Regarding working hours - my industry is a bit notorious for longer working hours, so I was prepared for it. Even though, I'm at a place in the UK right now which has a 4 day work week. I would have to give that cushty lifestyle up

Aside from the fact they won’t be earning, what are they going to do all day,?
This was the main sticking point for me, that I've spoken to her about a lot. She would look into volunterring, more time on gym stuff etc but really it's all just temporary padding, and wouldn't work long term. We're aware of this, and it's why we set a limit on how long we could do it for. 18 months seems an upper limit where we're willing to give this a go.

but in your situation and on the salary you mention I don’t think you will have the experience you expect…
This is what keeps me up at night thinking about it. Realistically - we're not planning on saving much from the year, we would just want to enjoy it and get the most out of living there. If the $90k salary wouldn't even let us leave the house more than once a week or go fly somewhere else in the US every 3 months or so, it may not be worth it. I do have quite a bit of savings, but obviously they are finite - it can't be a long term thing if I have to use a chunk of savings every month to stay happy.

On another note are you getting a relocation package; flights, sum of money to cover initial costs such as deposits for apartment, maybe rental car for couple of months etc
Yep, it's about $11,500 max I can reclaim for relocation. I can spend like $7000 on new furniture, $2000 flights for the both of us and luggage, and then a few extra bits and bobs like an extra $1000 for unseen expenses. No rental car deals or apartment deposit deals unfortunately, although they will pay for me and my partner to stay in an apartment for the first month whilst we house search.

I think the general consensus is that it's a bad idea. I thought this too, which is why I've reached out for help. I wish this decision was easier - if it were any less than a dream job, I'd have given up already. But this is the kind of once in a lifetime, life defining dream jobs for me. I'm just trying to do the maths on whether my partner and I can stay happy during it.
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Old May 15th 2022, 6:53 pm
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Default Re: Moving from UK to LA - should we go for it?

I actually live in the fair city of the angels. Other than military service and a law school sojourn in San Francisco, I have lived my entire life here. So, some comments.

Public transit in L.A. gets a bad rap in my opinion. In my lifetime it has improved a lot. Pre-pandemic, we used it a lot. And we own two cars (both paid for, but next time the 2004 BMW needs a repair, it’s history). Your plan of being close to the E (former Expo) line is a good one. This will be even more so when the Regional Connector comes on line later this year. Also, traffic is a bitch on the west side. I know several people who use public transit for just that purpose.

On utilities, Palms is within L.A. City and is therefore within L.A. Department of Water & Power. Culver City is within the service area of Southern California Edison. I understand that water is operated by Golden State Water which gets its supply from Metropolitan Water District and the State Water Project. I know that my LADWP bill includes a pretty hefty sewer charge tagged on to the water bill. No idea how Culver City assesses sewer fees. Also, LADWP collects for refuse disposal. Again no idea how Culver City handles that.

The LA basin has microclimates which will influence your air conditioning use. Palms and Culver City are both in the cooler parts of the basin so the summertime hit on A/C should not be all that severe.

Natural Gas is within the purview of Southern California Gas. Your heating and hot water will most likely require gas’s. Cooking can be electric, gas or a combination. (Our gas is for cooktop, hot water heater, clothes drier and hot air furnaces. Our oven is electric).

As a homeowner we pay all utilities. This is true for renters of single family residences. On multiple unit structures, it is customary for the landlord to pay water while tenant pays electricity and gas.

Internet can be all over the place. It depends on the provider and the connections. Spectrum is the cable provider. We don’t have cable but use AT&T fiber-optic. T-Mobile is now pushing 5G over the air purportedly for $50 per month ( no idea what tax’s are added). Also, some large complexes come prewired or cabled. We don’t use cable for TV (we never connected the cord, much less cut it). However, when it comes to over the air TV, you will probably have to use an interior antenna - that said, both Palms and Culver City have pretty good line of sight to the transmitters on Mount Wilson.

BTW, when budgeting look at NET pay. There is tax withholding (both California and Federal), Social Security (aka FICA) and Medicare (neither of which you will ever collect) and California State Disability and Unemployment Insurance.

Yes, there s no council tax. Local government is funded by sharing in property and sales taxes. (So payment is indirect in a way in that the rent payment goes to the landlord).

im sorry not to give dollar figures, but I hope this helps to focus your inquiries.

Last edited by S Folinsky; May 15th 2022 at 7:04 pm. Reason: Correct typo. Damn autocorrect!
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Old May 15th 2022, 7:02 pm
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Default Re: Moving from UK to LA - should we go for it?

I wouldn’t give up life in the UK for $90k for 2 anywhere in the US, least of all the west coast. Are there people here on that kind of money? Absolutely. Some are on even less. A couple making minimum wage each would be on less than that and they survive. But! They didn’t move 5000 miles for it, leaving everything and everyone behind, they likely have a solid support network of friends and family to help them out with things (grandma invites them round for a meal once a week, dad lends them use of the car, that kind of thing) to help with expenses and they are USCs so able to draw help from the government if needed (food stamps, etc). You will have zero of those options.

We are on a combined income of $180k, so double that, not in LA but not far from it and we are comfortable but we also have a 4-year-old and are all USCs. I would not want to be on much less than this. Hypothetically speaking if we were told we had to move to LA and live on $90k a year we would look for another job.

I understand people think it’s a nice experience to move to another country for a while, and the US is particularly attractive to many, but this is not an easy place to be poor. Especially with no entitlement to assistance programs.
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Old May 15th 2022, 7:10 pm
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Default Re: Moving from UK to LA - should we go for it?

Reasons to go forward despite the challenges may be to improve your resume? One step back in salary but two forward in future potential? Also, when you get older you rarely regret what you did in life but do regret what you did not. Sometimes you just have to go for it. Life has a way of surprising us, it rarely pans out how you foresee it.


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Old May 15th 2022, 7:19 pm
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Default Re: Moving from UK to LA - should we go for it?

I didn’t see any money being put away into a retirement account. With compound growth that could be a big deal in the future. At a minimum you could fund national insurance contributions.

IMO you’re right there on the poverty line, but could make for a good life experience.
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Old May 15th 2022, 7:27 pm
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Default Re: Moving from UK to LA - should we go for it?

A couple of further comments.

I’ve been reliably informed that www.westsiderentals.com is the best on-line source on availability. It is free to landlords but prospective tenants have to pay for full access (free to get an idea). Landlords like it because it prescreens flaky inquiries. I understand that there is some financial benefit to a new tenant for obtaining a rental via the service - several months free cable or some such.

On grocery shopping, a side effect of the pandemic is that “Amazon Fresh” home delivery got its act together. Amazon also now owns the Whole Foods Chain. So the infrastructure is in place and works.
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Old May 15th 2022, 8:06 pm
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Default Re: Moving from UK to LA - should we go for it?

Unless your LA means Louisiana, you're going to struggle.
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