UK vs US comp/quality of life

Aug 27 40 Comments

I'm curious to understand how your guy's quality of life is in the US. I work in London, UK as a VP of Engineering, a mortgage on a 3 bed semi-detached in Zone 5 (about 1 hour outside of London) but my work is actually in another borough also in Zone 5, so my commute is 30m by cycle.

Therefore, with a short commute and a "big" house (for UK standards), our situation is not bad. But with low wages and high cost of living, I'm wondering if we'd be better off in the US.

For comparison, we live very frugally, no car, no eating out, no nothing. Monthly breakdown:

Base: £98k (10 yoe)
Shares: £500k, 4 years vesting period, but value is uncertain, could be more like £250k
Wife: £29k
Monthly expenses (combined, no kids, incl. mortgage): £3.5k
Monthly savings: £3.5k

While we're sitting pretty compared to others in London, childcare/schooling would eat up our savings if we would have kids, not to mention that our house is still small for US standards and we'll never be able to buy a fully detached one, as they're in the region of at least £1m around here - on the outskirts and low quality. £2m for a decent one within 45m of central.

Do you think we'd be better off in the US, say SF? Comp would be better no doubt, but then what about healthcare costs? As you might know, NHS healthcare is free once you paid a shit ton of taxes (I make £4,900 net from £98,000 gross per month).

Looking forward to your thoughts!

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TOP 40 Comments
  • New / Eng
    area51-

    New Eng

    BIO
    TC or GTFO
    area51-more
    And £29k a year? Does she work at McDonald’s?
    Aug 27 12
    • New fImp02
      Also in this market there are a lot of people who work in different industries. Not everyone wants to work as a Software Developer in tech or in IB. There are people who are interested to work in different industries.
      Aug 27
    • Microsoft wartortle
      @flmp02 it's not true when it comes to new grads at Bloomberg, where do you have this data from? Joining as a new grad (no PhD) and the initial offer was more than 65k...
      Aug 27
    • New Mykola
      @flmp02 I don't know where you're getting these numbers from, but since this is blind the numbers I gave are swe. Sure there are people working 10k, 20k jobs in London but I dont think people go on blind to find out about those. I know the bloomberg numbers are accurate, also JPMC and GS are IB and pay Bachelor grads 50k + 6k signing bonus and masters grads 55k + signing bonus for swe positions. The average salary for ICL computing graduate after 6 months is 55k.
      Aug 27
    • New fImp02
      From friends and personal experience. My partner also joined the graduate scheme in Bloomberg then left to work in banking. Graduate scheme was £36K. This was 4 years ago with no phd and in the ESG group. A friend with a phd in Bloomberg was earning £60K as a software dev. Then left for banking 1.5 years ago.
      Aug 27
    • Kaspersky Lab / HR
      mayfair

      Kaspersky Lab HR

      PRE
      Heineken
      mayfairmore
      The London problem is that GDP is huge because many companies have financial HQs there, so their revenues accumulate in London, but they do not place large teams there, and don’t create many jobs.
      Aug 27
  • New / Eng
    area51-

    New Eng

    BIO
    TC or GTFO
    area51-more
    Leetcode Daniel, Leetcode! & move from London, it’s dogshit
    Aug 27 2
    • Salesforce gsov71
      London is an amazing city.
      Aug 27
    • Imperial College London / Strategy
      Struggler

      Imperial College London Strategy

      PRE
      Google
      Strugglermore
      I beg to differ...
      Aug 29
  • Nutanix benstoke
    Aren't savings in Bangalore better than in London as cost of living in London is very high and because salaries for Software Engineers in UK/Europe aren't as high as those being given in US/India?
    Aug 27 3
    • Microsoft whatchado
      He is an European guy. I doubt he can get a job in Bangalore easily. Also, most of people from developed world wouldn’t want to live in India for variety of reasons. Heck, even Indians try to get out.
      Aug 27
    • Nutanix benstoke
      Yeah, just saying.
      Aug 27
    • Microsoft whatchado
      I agree that saving in Bangalore would be bigger
      Aug 27
  • Vistaprint / Eng
    proj ill

    Vistaprint Eng

    PRE
    Cimpress
    proj illmore
    Like others have said, of you have a job in the us health care is fine. Many companies contribute to HSAs as well so if you don't actually get sick much you can start building tax free savings for late in life.

    I would maybe add in Boston and DC to your destination list, coming from Europe they might be more similar and they have pretty decent tech scenes (Boston for instance has large Google, Amazon and Facebook offices, and from what I hear at least Facebook pays the same as they do in the bay), not to mention they're only a 6-hour flight from Europe instead of 10 from the West coast. They're also very diverse cities with a lot more going on than tech and they're kind of melting pots for cultures from all over the world.

    I think no matter what you're looking for there's something in the US that would be worth the move. You just got to decide what you want to optimize for.

    There's also always the option of moving here, being a rockstar on a team, then moving back to wherever you want as a remote employee and keep the same pay.
    Aug 27 3
    • BCG / Consultant kYHM05
      How about places like Austin, Dallas, Atlanta? What are the Tech scenes and comp like?
      Aug 27
    • Vistaprint / Eng
      proj ill

      Vistaprint Eng

      PRE
      Cimpress
      proj illmore
      I've heard Austin is good, I think I've seen in a few places it's ranked the highest when you combine salary and cost of living. No idea really about the other two other than how hot they are in the summer.
      Aug 27
    • Microsoft whatchado
      Their tech scenes are order of magnitude smaller than Seattle and NY. They have a few but barely any options. My colleague moved to Dallas and got an offer from all of the major tech there and the number of companies and their offer number were far smaller than Seattle. Probably not as bad for hardware.
      Aug 27
  • This comment was deleted by original commenter.

    • Qualcomm NqAf57
      If you're not a US citizen (with an automatic right to work in the USA) or a spouse of a US citizen, you might be much better off to join a big US tech firm in one of their London offices and work there for a year in a senior position where you're a manager of lots of people, projects and budgets, and then come to the USA on an L1A multinational manager visa. Your employer will be able to get you (and your spouse) a visa relatively quickly, and when you're here, you'll qualify for a faster (EB1C) green card process if you and your spouse decide to stay and your employer offers to support a green card application.

      As others have said, visit some places in the USA first. You won't simulate real life here but it'll be a lot more realistic than just thinking about it from your vantage point in the UK.
      Aug 27
  • Microsoft / Eng
    prac

    Microsoft Eng

    PRE
    Microsoft
    pracmore
    Move to Seattle. Employer covers healthcare and homes are still way cheaper than the Bay.
    Aug 27 1
    • Nutanix benstoke
      How much difference in savings per month would it bring for someone who gets 130k base in bay area?
      Aug 27
  • Microsoft whatchado
    As someone who has a family riddled with health problems including myself, I can assure you US provides the best medical care if you have a good insurance (which you will have if you work for a tech company). So many options to choose depending on the urgency. Best medical education (debatable but at least super greater than my fairly developed home country). There is a out of pocket maximum - meaning you don’t pay a dime after paying certain amount. The max out of pocket is usually less than $6000 for a family. So thats the max you will pay for medical. Seattle has no state income tax but the pay is similar to bay area. It means you get 10% more than folks in Bay. Weather is worse than Bay but better than UK.
    Aug 27 4
    • OP
      Wow, 6k per year max? That's nothing compared to the taxes and NIC I have to pay in the UK, only to receive somewhat decent healthcare at some point (still waiting for an MRI - have been waiting for 4 months now).
      Aug 27
    • Microsoft whatchado
      4.5k at Microsoft and the company gives 2.5k to you for medical expense so you really pay up to 2k. You wouldn’t wait that much either. You wait only if you want to see a popular doctor.
      Aug 27
    • Microsoft whatchado
      Expect similar benefits from Google, Facebook, Amazon and the likes. Even many small companies provide such benefits. Some companies pays 100% for you (Microsoft used to do that).
      Aug 27
    • Kaspersky Lab / HR
      mayfair

      Kaspersky Lab HR

      PRE
      Heineken
      mayfairmore
      Not much companies cover 100% now, because of Obama’s idea to introduce Cadillac tax. But some smaller companies can provide even better healthcare plans, because of a size.

      We cover 90% cost of PPO plans, so I pay 2400 a year for family plan, my copay is $15 and ER copay is $100.
      Aug 27
  • Microsoft whatchado
    There are very few countries that pay much more to software engineers in the world - US, Eastern Europe, India and perhaps China (smaller degree). It means you are valued more at these places. US is the only developed nation. No brainer.
    Aug 27 2
    • New Mykola
      I dont know about India and China (those have other issues) but Eastern Europe definitely doesn't pay more than London, and if OP is British they will have a hard time adjusting to -25°c winters and +35c summers
      Aug 27
    • Microsoft whatchado
      Oh yeah of course. I meant relatively more (compared to other professions in the same area).
      Aug 27
  • New fImp02
    What about holidays in US? People say they dont have holidays. Consider also the fact you will be away from Europe, where are you from? Your family? Also moving to US is good but where? You live in London, you can travel in central London very easy, big city and a lot of opportunities. Not all the cities and locations in US are actual cities! Can you change everything just to be in the middle of nowhere for a bigger house? I think you should consider the quality of life you want to have..
    Aug 27 1
    • OP
      TBH, I don't use more than 10 days per year anyway. The rest I dot around, have long weekends to get rid of annual leave.

      My mom lives in mainland Europe but I never visit as it takes 10 hours door to door, due to shit ass infra where she lives.

      What makes you think you can travel in central London very easily? That's actually my biggest problem with London - it's so huge, getting anywhere takes 1-2 hours. Visiting friends is impossible as everyone lives 10 miles from each other.

      I do agree on opportunities, as 9 out of 10 great employers will be in London.

      I certainly wouldn't move to NYC, as I found it a massive pile of shit compared to London. But Seattle, SF or Austin could be nice.

      Good challenge though, appreciate it.
      Aug 27
  • Kaspersky Lab / HR
    mayfair

    Kaspersky Lab HR

    PRE
    Heineken
    mayfairmore
    Your quality of life would be worse in SF, your wife will lose an opportunity for a 1Y maternity leave, you’ll lose free healthcare, and your work life balance would be worse, as people in the States have much less respect to 40h workweek and mandatory vacation time.

    SF housing is no better than London’s one.

    But there are many other places in the States you might like.
    In Bay Area you’ll have a better climate and you an your wife can make more money.
    LA has perfect climate, Boston is the closest US city to British culture (if Irish culture counts as British), Seattle is very techie, vegan and biking to work kinda place with no state tax, Florida/Carolinas are inexpensive, you can easily buy a house with a pool, no state tax in Florida, but tech scene is not that advanced.
    Aug 27 0
  • Google m6r4
    You would definitely have a much more comfortable life in the US. That said, it's a much different lifestyle than London. I'd use some of that European PTO to visit a few different places and imagine life here.
    Aug 27 0
  • D. E. Shaw & Co. WXia81
    Low wages and high cost of living describes UK alright. I remember finding London to be somewhat more expensive than NYC in the two years that I worked there, while pay was around a third worse across the board.

    For what it's worth, if you have a decent job in the US, healthcare ends up being good and free or nearly free. (The situation without a job is much much worse.)
    Aug 27 0