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Hi,

We are currently waiting on a offer for a new role for my husband in Hartford, Connecticut. At this stage we have no real idea of what the salary and/or benefits would be like, so trying to gather us much information as possible - that way we can make a decision relatively quickly.

We currently live in Canberra, Australia and on a single wage of $90,000 + super. I am a stay at home mum with 3 kids (one school aged).

Does anyone know what a reasonable salary to live in Connecticut would be? We don't live an extravagant lifestyle - but like to travel a bit and do the usual family activities?

Do most organisations include superannuation and health insurance in their packages?

Mortgages seem much better than rental properties in Hartford. How easy is it for foreigners to purchase property there?

I think these questions will be a starting point. Thanks in advance.
 

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Most salary packages will include health coverage and US Social Security (i.e. US national pension) plus usually some form of defined contribution (i.e. tax deferred) pension plan (like a 401K plan). These benefits are considerably different from what you are used to in Australia for health insurance and superannuation.

Health insurance generally requires "co-payments" for services rendered and for prescribed medications obtained at the pharmacy. Be sure to get a plan description and ask as many questions as you have to to get a thorough understanding of what you do and don't have to pay for.

The US Social Security program is obligatory. You pay in half the premiums and the employer pays the other half (roughly). But you qualify for a pension in only 10 years - and generally speaking, you'll be entitled to claim that pension even if you are no longer living in the US at retirement. (There is also an additional half-pension for the worker's spouse.)

The 401K or other defined contribution retirement plan works a bit like what I've heard tell of the Aussie Superannuation plan, but is actually more of a savings account than a "pension" as such. Again, get a full plan description and ask whatever questions you need to in order to understand how the plan works.

It can be tricky to get a mortgage within the first year or two of your arrival, since everything depends on your "credit rating" and it takes time to build that up. It's probably best to plan on renting for the first year or two. That allows you to get a feel for the area and the differences in the legalities of mortgages and home ownership.
Cheers,
Bev
 

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The US Social Security program is obligatory.
Not quite. It depends on the terms of the employment. For example, if this is an Australian employer sending an employee to work in the U.S. for 5 years or less, then the employee continues making contributions to the Australian system.

In this case the U.S. and Australia have a social security treaty that governs.

There are also a few odd cases of employment categories not subject to U.S. Social Security (and instead subject to a different system, e.g. railroad employees), but that's a footnote.

But you qualify for a pension in only 10 years - and generally speaking, you'll be entitled to claim that pension even if you are no longer living in the US at retirement. (There is also an additional half-pension for the worker's spouse.)
Not in this case. If the employee does end up contributing to the U.S. Social Security system, non-trivial contributions within any two calendar years (not for two calendar years -- within any two calendar years) should be enough to qualify for a modest U.S. Social Security retirement benefit assuming there's an Australian contribution history (and/or contribution history in other treaty countries). That's thanks to the treaty provision again.

It would be prudent to understand the U.S. tax implications of having an Australian superannuation fund and (hopefully) to get some employer help there.
 

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Which raises another valid point: you might want to ask the employer (or employer-to-be) for tax assistance for the first couple of years. Once you're past the transition phase and have a couple years' filings to go by, you can either do it yourself or with more limited assistance from a tax software or a tax advisor of your choosing. But the first year or two you have enough adjustments to make in your personal life, that having your US taxes done for you can be well worthwhile (for you and for your employer).
Cheers,
Bev
 

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Mortgage versus rent

Considering closing costs at purchase and sale plus taxes, maintenance, insurance and maybe sitting on the market - it depends on your individual situation.

We are currently looking at 10-12% of sales price in fees (annual taxes run over 3% and have gone up every year), 5-6% fees as purchaser. SO's employer included 10 and 5% in the initial proposal but it will be part of the decision factors once the final is on the table.
 

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Mortgage rates in the US aren't too bad, but depend very much on your credit score - which, as mentioned, will initially be low. What will surprise you though is the 'closing costs' which run into thousands of dollars. Coming from Australia, you'd be used to just a few hundred dollars.
 

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Buying a home (with or without financing) is not something you ought to be doing on Day 1 (or Month 1, or even probably Year 1) until you've explored the area, found neighborhoods you like, have decided you want to stay in the U.S. (not yet a given), etc. Set that issue aside -- it's moot, for now, for a while.

Moreover, that's not how you look at housing costs anyway. You also have to look at property taxes, often some or all of the utilities (water, sewer, heating, etc.), snow plowing, yard maintenance (mowing, etc.), home maintenance, homeowners insurance, title insurance, closing costs, points/fees, etc., etc. Some or all of those costs may be different than what you're used to in Australia when trying to make financial comparisons. You won't start to get a feel for that until you're "on the ground," and perhaps not even then.
 

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I would definitely not live in Hartford. There are some very nice towns with a pretty good commute into Hartford though. West Hartford is good, so is Farmington and Avon. If you want to go into Central CT, Cheshire and Wallingford are good too. Taxes are pretty high in CT so take that into consideration as well.
 

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Taxes are pretty high in CT so take that into consideration as well.
I'd push back on that a bit -- or at least add some "color" here. If you look at many of the "tax rankings" among U.S. states, Connecticut ranks higher than most other states (or in some rankings even at #1). Most such rankings look at average total per capita state and local taxes. So if each individual pays on average, say, $7000 in state and local taxes in State A and $6000 in State B, State A will be ranked higher. Fair enough.

However, Connecticut also ranks at or near the top among U.S. states in terms of per capita income. It's an extremely prosperous state at least in those terms. So we would naturally expect absolute average per capita tax payments to be higher in Connecticut just because of that state's higher average incomes, assuming constant tax rates. Eight percent of a larger number is a larger number, for example.

Anyway, most people tend to think of tax rates as being high or low relative to other places, and they also assume that taxes owed will rise (more or less) with income and/or wealth. So are taxes "pretty high" in Connecticut? Well...yes, but so are incomes (and wealth).

Alaska, to pick another example, has a very high average per capital income but a very low average per capital total tax payment. Oil might have something to do with that. ;) So why isn't everybody rushing to Alaska? There might be a few reasons -- yes, there's more to life than taxes -- but one major reason is that Alaska also has a high cost of living relative to other states.
 

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I'd push back on that a bit -- or at least add some "color" here. If you look at many of the "tax rankings" among U.S. states, Connecticut ranks higher than most other states (or in some rankings even at #1). Most such rankings look at average total per capita state and local taxes. So if each individual pays on average, say, $7000 in state and local taxes in State A and $6000 in State B, State A will be ranked higher. Fair enough.

However, Connecticut also ranks at or near the top among U.S. states in terms of per capita income. It's an extremely prosperous state at least in those terms. So we would naturally expect absolute average per capita tax payments to be higher in Connecticut just because of that state's higher average incomes, assuming constant tax rates. Eight percent of a larger number is a larger number, for example.

Anyway, most people tend to think of tax rates as being high or low relative to other places, and they also assume that taxes owed will rise (more or less) with income and/or wealth. So are taxes "pretty high" in Connecticut? Well...yes, but so are incomes (and wealth).

Alaska, to pick another example, has a very high average per capital income but a very low average per capital total tax payment. Oil might have something to do with that. ;) So why isn't everybody rushing to Alaska? There might be a few reasons -- yes, there's more to life than taxes -- but one major reason is that Alaska also has a high cost of living relative to other states.
When we are not in Italy, we live in Connecticut. Whether you want to believe it or not, Connecticut has a very high personal income tax. We also have very high real estate AND "personal property" (which includes automobiles at Kelley Blue Book value) taxes in nearly any community which you might want to live in (developed, in other words) and even more so in many communities that you would NOT want to live in. To give you an example, we pay over $6,000 per year real estate taxes on a house which was purchased 11 years ago at $190,000 and is currently valued somewhere around $130,000 - $150,000 (Zillow puts it at $122,000 but I don't think it is THAT bad).

We also have the 2nd (or is it 3rd?) highest electric rates in the United States and are high on the list for many other costs as well.

PS: The mill rate in my city is among the higher ones at more than $40 per $1000 of valuation. That means a newer automobile with a Kelley Blue Book value of $20,000 would cost me $800 PER YEAR in personal property tax; a very nice car at $40,000 would cost $1,600 PER YEAR. Is it any wonder that my wife and I both drive older cars?

The current mill rate in Hartford is over $70 per $1,000 valuation. See Property Taxes in CT by Town | Windsor CT Homes for Sale Windsor CT Homes For Sale

BBCWATCHER, I appreciate your breadth of knowledge and research abilities but, please, do not presume to know things that you have no personal experience with. I have lived in Connecticut for more than 20 years and in Florida for 20 years before that. I know high costs when I see them.
 

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Whether you want to believe it or not, Connecticut has a very high personal income tax.
It's not a question of what you or I believe. It's a question of the facts.

So you've made an assertion, now let's look at the facts. The fact is the top marginal personal income tax rate in Connecticut is 6.7%. Contrast that with California's top marginal personal income tax rate: 13.3%.

OK, let's look at sales tax. Connecticut: 6.35%. Tennessee goes up to 9.45%. Some municipalities in California are as high as 10% sales tax.

We also have very high real estate....
Property tax rates in Connecticut vary by municipality (cities and towns). There are high rates in many other places in the United States. (Though Connecticut has many exceptionally excellent public school districts, so you do get what you pay for.) New Hampshire is a good example in the region.

I'm just passing along the facts here. You're welcome to check them for yourself, but I am correct. :)
 

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It's not a question of what you or I believe. It's a question of the facts.

So you've made an assertion, now let's look at the facts. The fact is the top marginal personal income tax rate in Connecticut is 6.7%. Contrast that with California's top marginal personal income tax rate: 13.3%.

OK, let's look at sales tax. Connecticut: 6.35%. Tennessee goes up to 9.45%. Some municipalities in California are as high as 10% sales tax.


Property tax rates in Connecticut vary by municipality (cities and towns). There are high rates in many other places in the United States. (Though Connecticut has many exceptionally excellent public school districts, so you do get what you pay for.) New Hampshire is a good example in the region.

I'm just passing along the facts here. You're welcome to check them for yourself, but I am correct. :)
Tennessee has NO state income tax and much lower (insanely lower) property taxes statewide. There is no comparison.

You like to point to gross statistics, but you refuse to contemplate the daily impact on average people of average (let's say "middle class") means. No one who lives and works in Connecticut thinks it is a low or even average tax/cost state.

And, by the way, Connecticut's public schools aren't doing all that well lately either. Yes, there are a few excellent districts (Avon comes to mind) but they are the rare exception. Connecticut's failures in public education have much to do with the totally decentralized nature of the system; in Florida, school boards of education operate at the county level and every area with the county gets the same level of school construction, funding, teachers, etc. Here in Connecticut school boards operate mostly at the individual town level with some very small towns joining together into school districts. This results in huge differentials in schools and quality of education even in neighboring towns.

Hartford's schools are horrible by any measure.

And that's a fact.

I will say it again: You don't live here. Do not presume to tell me or other Connecticut residents that "it's not so bad."
 

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OP did not ask about New Hamphire, income tax in Tennessee or how to statistically compare factors of cost of living in various US states without having real life experience there.

We have several close friends out of the area. All left as soon as they could - cost of living, weather. 90k for a family of 4 or 5 does not leave much room for vacations or savings. I do not know about Op's lifestyle and her family' s needs and wants but groceries alone will be a surprise.
 

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Well after living in CT for 37 years (now in the UK), taxes were and are a big issue for residents. A lot of people are re-locating due to the high cost of living. On the positive side, it is a pretty state with lots of activities, from boating to hiking.
 

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Well after living in CT for 37 years (now in the UK), taxes were and are a big issue for residents. A lot of people are re-locating due to the high cost of living. On the positive side, it is a pretty state with lots of activities, from boating to hiking.
The company I worked at in Florida was purchased by a Connecticut company with similar product line twenty-one years ago. The new owner closed the Florida facility (a 100,000 sq ft manufacturing plant) while adding over 100,000 sq ft to his existing Connecticut facility and then combined all operations under the one roof. About 25 of the 130 employees moved to Connecticut, myself included.

Most of us thought that it would have made far more sense for him to do it the other way around but he told us he would never leave Connecticut because, in his words, "Connecticut is God's country."
 

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The company I worked at in Florida was purchased by a Connecticut company with similar product line twenty-one years ago. The new owner closed the Florida facility (a 100,000 sq ft manufacturing plant) while adding over 100,000 sq ft to his existing Connecticut facility and then combined all operations under the one roof. About 25 of the 130 employees moved to Connecticut, myself included.

Most of us thought that it would have made far more sense for him to do it the other way around but he told us he would never leave Connecticut because, in his words, "Connecticut is God's country."
That does seem like it was done backwards. That's a rarity to move a company north instead of south.
 

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That does seem like it was done backwards. That's a rarity to move a company north instead of south.
Yeah, well, 16 years later the company was in bankruptcy and was sold. The new owner... well, that's a story best shared over some hard liquor in a dingy bar.
 

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OP did not ask about New Hamphire, income tax in Tennessee or how to statistically compare factors of cost of living in various US states without having real life experience there.
You are assuming facts not in evidence, Twostep.

Connecticut does not have the lowest state and local tax levels in the United States. It also does not have the highest. It's somewhere in between, in rate terms. (In per capital terms Connecticut will show "high.") You can check those facts easily (personal anecdotes notwithstanding), though if you want a personal anecdote too, who said I couldn't provide an excellent one? ;)
 
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