Advice about salary/expenses and moving to Zurich

I currently live in Belgium and I’m thinking about moving to Zurich in 2021 because of a few reasons:

  1. My wife and recently born baby are Swiss
  2. We would like to raise our child in Switzerland
  3. We really like the country (nature, mountains, etc)
  4. And I think it’ll be easier to reach my FIRE goal working there!!

Because of this last reason, I come to you to get a better idea since I’m still not fully convinced about it. I still don’t know exactly how much I should expect for two things: salary and anual expenses.

One may ask: why Zurich? My wife is from Winterthur and thus it would be nice to be closer to the grandparents and friends. It can be anywhere around or neighbouring cantons. We don’t really mind living a bit outside. Not Zurich City.

One may argue: your FIRE goal will be the same if you plan to live in CH afterwards. I guess I agree but if I save money in CH, I’ll be able to choose where I can live afterwards (CH or somewhere else). However, if I save money in, for instance Belgium, I won’t be able to move to CH after reaching FIRE here. Expenses are higher in CH. So in CH I have more choices. I like keeping doors open :slight_smile:

SALARY

First about myself: I’m an Electronics Engineer, to be more specific Analog IC Designer. I have a master from KUL, the best university in Belgium and very good in my field worldwide. Next year I’ll have 5 and a half years of experience and 32 years old.

I already did a lot of research about how much I could get but the numbers vary really a lot. The most trustful I think it’s the government calculator Salarium https://www.gate.bfs.admin.ch/salarium/public/index.html#/start
The data is from 2016 but I’ll assume it’s the same. The median would be 92k and 25% gets more than 104k. “Engineering” and a bunch of other things are all classified equally so some jobs might be skewed by others. It seems to be really difficult to find people in this area of Engineering so I’ll assume that we are in the upper range (maybe not).

Other sources, such as Glassdoor, I find a bit doubtful since they don’t have a lot of numbers to be able to do trustful statistics and usually experience is not mentioned. There are also some recruitment websites very specific on my field and I see some open positions mentioning anything between 80k and 120k. However, I have the impression that recruiting companies often put very high numbers to attract people. On top of that, it doesn’t say in which part of CH, neither the experience. So it’s not that helpful.

My wife is Swiss but not in the same field. So it’s not a big help on that but she thinks that 90k is too less. She says I should ask 120k but that feels too much for me.

Question 1: How much would you ask in my place? Do you think 120k is too much? More? Less?

EXPENSES

That’s probably a more difficult one because we don’t know where we would live and you don’t know how is our life style.

Question 2: I can say that I spend 34k EUR in Belgium for both of us (everything included, even holiday trips). Maybe someone has already made a comparison between CH and other European countries, such as Belgium? Some say it’s 2x but I have the feeling it’s not. Someone has lived in Belgium or other EU country and now in CH?

Question 3: If not, maybe you can give me an idea somehow. Maybe by telling about yourself (place, lifestyle and number of people)? Of course, if it’s too personal for you, just ignore my post. We’re quite economic in my opinion. We’re ok to have a frugal life to save some extra. We’re also ok to live a bit outside.

Considering that you’re probably paying >50% tax in Belgium, this is a really no brainer move. You’ll have much lower taxes and much higher salaries. Tax savings alone will probably amount to more than 34k.

Living costs of course are higher, but it doesn’t matter. The golden truth: increasing revenue/earnings is much more important than cutting costs. Don’t listen to ramen-eating crowd you could encounter here or elsewhere on fire forums, they’re wrong. If your earnings are higher by X% and costs are higher by X% you will still save X% more.

For software engineering, 120k is a reasonable salary for an experienced person with several yoe. But EE and HW jobs I’m sure pay worse, as well as fewer positions. My impression all this stuff is moving to Shenzhen, no?

Location-wise, most engineering jobs are in or near Zurich.

Thanks for the feedback.

Taxes don’t really get to be 50% because of lots of benefits that the employers give to avoid taxes. But I get your point. Taxes are higher anyway. And even if you save X%, it’s more than here.

How much worse? Any idea?
Maybe something like 110k or 100k for 5y experience?

Fabrication of IC a lot has moved to Asia. But design of IC is still a lot done in USA and Europe, for now. I know a few companies in CH. It’s for sure fewer than in other places.

I don’t have any data except for my own. If you want to look at some more, have a look over
here in the introduction thread.

Now to what you can expect for expenses:
I’m a student and I consider myself to be very frugal, even for being a student on a limited budget. I live with my girlfriend in Zurich Oerlikon in a small flat. My expenses for one person (!) are:

  • 650.-/month for rent, water and power
  • 100.-/month for public transport (no car, but i have halbtax, the local year-round ticket and travel to family quite often)
  • around 350.-/month for insurances
  • about 250.-/month for (vegetarian) food + household expenses (if you eat everything home-made you should be able to go to 200/month quite easily. It’s probably not too hard to go even lower.

And that’s the big ones (at least for me). Here’s what you also should consider:

  • Taxes. depends heavily on where exactly you live.
  • Just for fun expenses. We have a monthly budget of 50.-/month/person and are happy with that. Are you?
  • Car. Do you need/want one? I have no clue how expensive that is.
  • Serafe/Billag. Mandatory 365.-/year/household bill.
  • Childcare. Is very expensive.
  • Pillar 3a. Do you want that?
  • Move to switzerland expenses. Over the long term not that important, but make sure you have no cashflow problems.

That’s most I think. Good luck!

I have no idea about salaries for HW-related jobs. You said you know some companies in Switzerland.
Do you want to apply directly or are you planning to use a headhunter? HH could give you a better estimation, even though most headhunters are focusing on SW engineers (from my experience)

34k won’t definitely not be enough in Switzerland. Personally, I calculated with 50k for myself (single person). My flat is not too expensive, but I still have a motorbike and a car. My fixcosts are roughly 2.5k per month (flat, health insurance, internet).

Depending on where you want to live in canton Zurich, the prices for flats are different. I would at least calculate with CHF 2.5k/month for a decent flat for three people (which is 30k annual for rent alone).
Regarding taxes, it also depends heavily which Gemeinde you are choosing. In Zurich-City, you pay a heavy uplift in taxes. You can check yourself here
Please note that you need to fill in the NET salary, not the gross one.

In general: living of one 100k salary for three people, I don’t think there is much room for saving lots of money. But that’s just my personal opinion. Childcare and going out are things which are really expensive in Switzerland.

You can check the website from @MrRIP (retireinprogress.com) for a more detailed overview. He also has one child and is married.

The swiss model is that the woman looks after the kids while the man works. It’s only expensive if you don’t follow it, but then you should probably have the second income to afford it.

Hi

I (30years old, living in Winterthur) can provide you my expenses - total and some seperate categories from 2019, because I think they differ a lot from the average.

total : ~50’000*
public transport: ~2’500 (high in my opinion)
rent: ~15’000 (low in my opinion)
vacation: ~8’000 (high in my opinion)
3rd pillar: ~6’800

(*) no tax included, because it’s depending on your income. You can calculate your future tax with the tax calculator from the canton of Zurich (here). But keep in mind to make all deductions when entering the salary.

Hope that helps.

120k with your age and experience should be doable in Zurich and Zug. Outside of these “high paying” cantons I’d say around 100k is realistic.

Regarding expenses, depends in your lifestyle but I’d say 60-80k for a family is realistic. My expenses for same setup but owned instead of rented apartment was 100k for 3 heads last year, but we were splurging quite a bit (see my blog).

Two things that I can’t emphasize enough for people moving to Switzerland:

  • don’t pay more than 30% of your net salary for an apartment
  • if you don’t have a chronic or pre-history illness go for the highest health insurance deductible

that’s right but you should also balance how much the SO earns and see if it make sense to you that someone else raises your child/children. it’s pretty easy to actually fall in the trap where the SO spends their entire income only for the childcare and the extra expenses (getting to work, eating lunch, etc) are above their income level.

Maybe I can give some sense of comparison between Belgium and Switzerland, as I’ve lived both in “that belgian student city” and Zürich for at least half a year.

I can’t talk about taxes, real estate prices, health care, child care, or hiring professionals (tax advisor, handyman, woodworker etc.).
I’ll talk a bit about everyday expenses, the list is incomplete.

I’d say nothing, that I encountered in Belgium, was more than twice as expensive in Zürich, except drinks in bars and french fries.

Stuff that approaches “twice as expensive” in Zürich:

  • trains (swiss trains have much higher value though, so a bit unfair to compare)
  • prices for meat products
  • canteen prices (but worse quality and I can only talk about university canteens).

Stuff that is around 1.5 times more expensive:

  • bakeries, pharmacies, artisan food kind of stuff
  • restaurants (but as a poor student, I didn’t get to compare)
  • haircuts

Stuff that is somewhat more expensive in Zürich:

  • most goods in a supermarket (except for the ones I’ll mention later)
  • HEMA-type of stuff
  • prices for city transport

Stuff that is about the same price:

  • fresh produce and nuts in a supermarket
  • cheap clothes, except you have these uber-discounters that don’t exist in Switzerland
  • electronics (but with a lot of variance)

Stuff that is less expensive in Zürich:

  • cops seem less keen on fining you for small stuff
  • easily available boosts for quality of life, imo (e.g. swimmable lakes and rivers)
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This is quite ok actually. I spend around the same price here in Belgium, 200-250 per month per person and I’m not even vegeterian, only my wife is. I don’t eat a lot of meat though.

Childcare I don’t really think it’s a big problem. Ok, it’s expensive but I’m planning to move in one year or so. I guess in CH is like here, childcare until 2.5 years old. So I would still pay for 1.5 years only. That’s still ok for me.

I don’t really like to apply through a headhunter. I have bad experience with them. I would rather prefer to apply directly unless I really don’t find anything else than I can start looking into headhunters.

Indeed, so I guess I should expect roughly 2x in expenses then. On the other hand, things don’t seem to be really 2x more expensive. So I guess, it’s mostly dominated by the rent. I guess that’s the first thing I should look into.

Do you say that also based on experience? I mean, do you know about the specific field I mention or just in general a “Engineering salary with 5-6 years experience”?

General Engineering salary. In general you should aim higher than you can accept, they can always say no our budget is XYZ but if you’re selling yourself too cheap nobody will give you a raise just because you’re doing a good job.

With this price of meat here you’re going to be become one and discover intermittent fasting. Else 250/month/person is definitely not going to be enough.

This is not an expense.

Bad experiences with headhunters?
Can you elaborate a bit more on this?

I assume you got contacted by a HH from the UK. They are a pain in the a$$
I can only talk for IT headhunters: the first job I got in Switzerland was through a HH, and I was really happy about them. Professional, shared some good knowledge, nice atmosphere. He was from Switzerland though.

Yes, biggest expense is rent. Healthcare costs and costs for childcare come in 2nd, I guess. For a family of 3, I think healthcare costs can also easily be 6-8k per year. After that, it’s groceries, then car, then eating/going out. Just my personal list though.

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kids start mandatory pre-school year(s) with 4. then depending when your kid was born you might have to wait another year. up to this time (basically 4-5 yo) a rough estimate is 120.-/day/child for childcare. maybe less if your employer has some offer on it.

I live in zurich.

Home:
Rent for 2 adults 1 child per month: 1500chf (low standard), 2000chf (average), have a look at https://en.comparis.ch/immobilien/default
You must usually pay 3 months rent up front (depot)
Ad about 75chf/mo for water / electricity
Ad 30chf /mo for mandatory media tax
Internet / phone: about 100chf /mo for 2 adults

Mandatory healthcare:
per month per adult 230chf (with highest deductible though!), per child 90chf = 6600chf/y for your family at least, but you should have a plan if you have extra costs (deductible, retention fee).
Have a look at https://www.ch.ch/en/basic-health-insurance-services/

Childcare:
I agree with lv24. Do not underestimate it!

Transport:
Public: have a look at https://www.zvv.ch/zvv/en/travelcards-and-tickets/travelcards/networkpass.html or https://www.sbb.ch/en/travelcards-and-tickets/railpasses/ga/adults.html
Private car: mandatory tax about 50chf/mo, parking spot outside about 50chf/mo or inside about 150chf/mo

Groceries:
That is the hardest to summarize; for 2 adults and 1 child i would say 1000chf/mo if you are average careful, or have a look at coop.ch migros.ch lidl.ch aldi.ch

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