HomeWorkWhen in doubt, go overseas

When in doubt, go overseas

My first international business trip has taught me some valuable life lessons. For example, don’t drink the water. Maybe I’m naive, but I only thought this was true for Mexico and Kazakhstan, didn’t know it was a virtually universal rule. Jet lag exists. I always thought it was some excuse people made for being cranky and/or lame. I did experience my first taste of jet lag on this trip, but I still think the term is overused. Jet lag for a flight from New York to China…maybe. From New York to New Jersey….I don’t think so. Lastly, and the most important lesson, people make bank when working abroad.

There are a couple different private companies, where I currently am, that work on various government contracts. I have spoken with quite a few of the employees and am quickly realizing, they have the sweet life. Their incomes are average, but the benefits are second to none. I make $50K a year, but someone here can make $35K and walk away with more in their pocket. Here are a couple of the benefits all local defense contractor employees receive….

No federal income tax. Talk about a freakin’ sweet deal. That right there automatically saves them 15%-30% of their income. They do pay a 5% tax to the local government, but I’d rather pay 5% than 25% any day.

No housing costs. It’s all 100% paid for by the company. If you’re single you live in “dorm style” housing. If you’re married or have kids you get a small little two bedroom house. Sure, the living arrangements aren’t the most “contemporary”, but I’d live in a cardboard box in San Diego if it were free.

No food costs. When I learned the employee’s here don’t pay for food, I just about pooped myself. There is a buffet style dining hall, that everyone has access to at no cost to them. Granted eating in the same dining hall could get old, but they can go spend their money at the grocery store or the food court if they want.

No automobile, cell phone, internet, TV, water/electric bill related costs. Thats’ right all the bills that nickel and dime us, don’t exist out here. Since it is a military base, internet and tv are provided to everyone. There isn’t a cell phone tower for 1000’s of miles, so no cost there, and the island I’m on is so small, it’s a bike only island. Imagine no car payments, no insurance, and no gas.

I’m sure there are even more benefits to working for a US company in a different country, but this is what I’ve heard about so far. To depress me further, I did some quick number crunching to figure out exactly how much I’m paying to live in California. I make $50K, but calculating in all the costs I mentioned above, it’s more like $30K. I really had no clue someone can have a lower income, but make more money than me. I guess the $20K I’m paying each year to live in the states must be worth it…right?



  1. There are some clear benefits to living in an area with a low cost of living, be it a foreign country or another state. Where I live, there's no state income tax (but still a federal) low property and sales tax, and I pay less than $400 per month to live in a house within walking distance of the downtown and the capitol building. The nice part about these low cost of living areas is that if you get the sweet job with the great benefits, you can make bank. However, if you dont, then you're going to struggle.

  2. I was paid $65k in my first corporate job, and I travelled all the time so I saved everything and spent very little.. all of which also went to debt.

    free hotel, free pool, free internet, free cellphone, free cabs, free trips, free food

    Was pretty sweet, but you get lonely without friends and family. 🙁

  3. I'm a Canadian girl so I couldn't say if it's worth it to live in the states – but I'd say it's worth it to live in Canada!

  4. Are you sure about this one: "No federal income tax"? If it is a short term residency, they will owe tax – you have to earn money outside the US for like 11.5 mos of the year to not owe FICA on it. Plus if they aren't paying SS, then they'll lose those quarters they are stationed there.

  5. @ Anonymous- Yeah I'm sure on the federal tax thing. I don't know about the stipulations of how long you have to work. You're probably right you have to be around for a minimum of 11 months. Everyone here though is on a two year contract so they all qualify. I should mention that if you make over $89K a year then you do have to pay some income tax. They do pay SS and medicare.

  6. Overseas is sweet! Not having to pay income tax on 80K is awesome.

    I'd rather make $500,000 here in the states though.


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