Maybe moving to US (Cali) from Taiwan. Any big cost of life topics I missed?

I am checking a job offer that would involve moving to the US (30km or so east of Sacramento) from Taipei Nangang/Neihu. Basically wondering how to compare the salary. What do I have to take into consideration to compare cost of living, and maybe standard of living or at least health care? That could help me decide what kind of salary offer would seem expected or acceptable.

Maybe the opposite of this question and very helpful answers

I only lived in the US for a few weeks so far, so basically I know almost nothing about long-term life there. What I learned so far from the above thread and many others, please help me find if I missed any big cost of living topics:

  • Salary
  • Minus tax (online calculator to get a rough idea?)
  • Minus health insurance (employer health benefits seems to have huge impact?)
  • Minus pension insurance (I know too little… need to read more, but probably also employer related?)
  • Minus housing related expenses (Lots to read here still, not sure if better close to work or not)
  • Minus car (or cars, I guess one per adult is kinda necessary in that area?)
  • Green card or other visa related cost (for spouse and me)

Basically, if I use an online tax calculator and enter the base salary that I expect will be offered (over 125K USD), I end up with over 200K NTD per month after tax. That sounds very good. For Taiwan standard, at least. So I would guess I can save at least as much as I do here in TW per year, and would seriously consider moving. But I’m not so sure if I maybe miss something important…


I lived in USA for about 5 years. For me the expenses that really surprised me were

  • Car insurance. Can be very expensive (young new driver, nice car)
  • Phone and internet will cost you probably 5 to 10 times what you pay here in Taiwan and even then suck
  • Health care and the surprises around it. I thought I had good coverage but ended up with a 5k usd dental bill for pretty minor issue
  • Rental housing. You will certainly get a lot more space for your dollar but overall I ended up spending more than I thought I would

$125k a year is a good salary if you live alone or if you are family and you spouse has an income as well. For the whole family its certainly ok but you will have to count where you spend money. I lived in USA as a single guy so I didn’t include school or day care above which I have no knowledge of. If you are moving in with an H1B visa at least when I did it you will essentially be a slave to the employer meaning you cannot change jobs without loosing residency. Something to keep in mind.


Health insurance and private pension needs to be discussed with your prospective employer - it’ll vary from $0 to hyyuuuge dollars (there probably won’t be a private pension).

Public pension (social security), I would expect to be accounted for in a tax estimator.

Yea, you’ll probably want a car per adult.

That tax rate is pretty high for that income - that’d be a single person with no exemptions whatsoever type of rate.


Thanks a lot, super important points. Especially about the spouse. Will need to look very carefully into how she could join and work.

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There are probably ways around high taxes, such as donation and stuff. If you make a lot you should be getting a tax attorney.

Healthcare will be extremely expensive. America only cares about profit. Even good coverage in the US is crap compared to NHI, and you will pay dearly for that coverage. The price of freedom I guess. I suggest letters to Congress and all that but that likely won’t go anywhere. So I suggests letters to Elon Musk as billionaires have a bigger voice in the US, but you’re welcome to try that if you think that will help.

A car is required. there’s no way around it, especially Sacramento.

I suggest buying a house as soon as you can. You get better deal and I think mortgage interests can be tax deducted. Because renting sucks and landlords have far more power in the US than in Taiwan, and they can get away with being assholes. Besides rent will raise yearly… Unlike the US housing price isn’t so excessive. America is a land that loves rich people.

Expect to spend no less than 5000 dollars in green card related fees. USCIS is fully funded by user fees.

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In CA you’re paying both federal and state taxes.


I’m no tax accountant, but not that I’m aware of. You’d have to donate quite a bit for it to exceed the standard deduction. That’s feasible for really rich people, but it would be a significant chunk for someone making $125k.

If you’re already donating a ton to nonprofits just to be charitable, then of course you want to take the tax write-off, but donating just to get the write-off wouldn’t make sense financially.


And they’re high…


If you want to move to the US, you need about twice your Taiwan salary for the same standard of living in my experience. YMMV

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Ahhh, California… during the summer months, weather can get quite hot. And with that, the vast amount of dry plants can catch fire. And if it does, can get pretty bad with wind blowing. It does not happen every year, but when it does, it can get bad.

Also, if you like earthquakes, you’ll love California.

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If it’s California, double that again.

I wouldn’t doubt it.

Everything at Costco will be cheaper than the Costco here.


I think the only real strategy to avoid the excessive taxes is to use the buy, borrow, die strategy that billionaires use.

Basically get your company to pay you in stock options, and borrow money with those and live on those money, so that you look like you have no real income.

That could backfire massively if the company you work for isn’t massive. Plus this hurts immigration applications, and if you are on H1B that option isn’t even open.

Think long and hard about immigrating to the US, as there are downsides, and if you have children, if you couldn’t stay there permanently (for whatever reason), your children will become pariahs in Taiwan. Being treated worse than even OFW’s.


Everything will be more expensive. Period.

Where’s @tommy525 at?


If you have good health insurance in the US (and, uh, don’t just end up screwed), it’s MUCH better than NHI, in my experience. Shoot, I’ve never even once had to consider paying for supplementary help in the hospital for someone in the US! Crazy!

It’s Sacramento he’s talking about, not San Francisco.

For a normal middle class person, married with a 401k will bring that tax rate down a tremendous amount. If he’s married and that’s household income, if he puts away decent savings in a 401k, I’d expect his estimated 30+% tax rate to be actually in the teens.


Yea, but would you rather pay 600+ a month for that good coverage?

Most Americans would have financial trouble with a 400 dollar unexpected one time expense, let alone 600 dollars a month.

Consumer electronics, cars, many grocery items, and over the counter meds will be cheaper in the US. Or just about anything you buy at places like Target, Walmart, or Costco. But most things that really matter will be more expensive, yes.


What is an OFW?

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I think the children point is a good one.

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