Cost of living.
I have few questions for the people that moved from Texas to the VI. More specifically St Thomas. In Texas we have no income an I was wondering if you factored that into the cost of living difference? I'm having a hard time finding solid numbers between Texas and the VI. All the cost of living calculators do not include the VI as an option. On this site I read that the cost of living is on average 33% higher than the states. And more conserving that the Vi has the 3rd lowest wage offering.
I have a home in Texas and in the Caribbean and can tell you that generally speaking you'll find the cost of living anywhere in the Caribbean will be to be between 15% to 25% higher than in most Texas cities and that wages for comparable jobs are much, much lower than they are "back home". That's the Catch-22 about living in the Caribbean.
Use the links at the top of this page and read through the material you find there. There's lots of information about cost f living on all three major islands in the USVI's.
We have NO personal income tax, only the equivalent to the federal tax and very low property tax. One way to find out the difference is to go to the US government COLA web site and that will give you the extra (if any) amount paid to the federal government employees that live here.
Same as military with dependents living overseas. Their COLA is reviewed every month against the local cost of living and adjusted accordingly.
No state income tax in St Thomas either. One of the big differences coming from Texas, a Right To Work state, is that almost all private and public sector employees in the VI are unionized. That is one of the main reasons for the high cost of living.
Whatever the differences are in COLA, taxes, etc., you may find that a lifestyle change makes a big difference in your expenses. Here, we socialize much more than we did in the states, so we spend more on the social scene (bars, restaurants, entertainment), and that scene can be expensive vs. staying home, but it can also be managed. Eg: You can go to a beach and bring a cooler.
When we were deciding to move here, we "factored in" no local income tax. Figured we saved about 5%.
However, that was quickly eaten up by things we DIDN'T "factor in" as much as we should have, such as, wanting to eat out more often, cost of getting things shipped here, longevity of car tires, increased car insurance, etc etc etc.
We handled it by cutting back other expenses and reducing debt. But if you are already "cut back" ...then you may not have enough cushion to trim when you discover your own "factors."
Thank you all for the replies. So St Thomas has no income tax. That's encouraging.
If the wage offering is the 3rd lowest but the cost of living is 33% higher then what would you say a ballpark expectation for a job that pays $50000 in the states pay in St Thomas. I know there is a lot of factors but a ballpark would be appreciated. I'm just wondering if wages cover any of the cost of living difference or is it in the negative.
We live on St. Croix, but I think I can make a fairly educated "guesstimate" (coming from someone who grew up in Oklahoma and is very familiar with Midwest pricing). A job paying $50K in the states would probably pay somewhere between $35-$40K in the VI. A house that costs you $150K in TX would cost you around $500K in the VI. Where you're used to paying $2.87 for a gallon of milk and $14.99 for a pair of shorts at your local Wal-mart, it will cost you $7 and $40 for the same milk and shorts here at your local grocery market and Kmart. The sticker shock is astounding when looked at through "midwestern eyes". Trust me. And, though you haven't mentioned whether or not you have children, you may need to figure in the cost of private schooling. Where my kids went to free public school in the states, they now go to very expensive private school here (more than $11K per child per year). Hopefully this will give you a ballpark glimpse of the differences that you may encounter. Good luck in whatever you decide!
Zigmo: It all depends on what sort of job it is. There are people here making $60,000 or more for jobs that might pay $30,000 or so. Lots of these are "administrative assistant" jobs in the territorial government. On the other hand, there are teachers here who would surely be making more than $50,000 in the states earning $35,000 here.
Just to be clear about income tax: we do pay an income tax based on the federal tables, but it stays here in the territory. There is no additional territorial income tax. There are a lot of hidden taxes such as the gross receipts tax.
Texas doesn't have a state tax so the local govt here not have a separate territorial tax is going to be a wash for you. Most states seem to have state taxes but Texas does not. I'm from Ft Worth/Dallas area. And I think most people from Texas would find this to be more then a 30 percent increase of life. I guess except for Afriend. 🙂 But also it would depend on where you live in Texas. There are many very expensive areas in the major cities. For example my sister pays in property taxes what I pay in hurricane insurance in a year. So it is all relative.
Rents are high, groceries are high, electric is high, etc... and generally you get paid much less then you would stateside for the same job. So it's not like someplace in a major us city where the cost of living is high but so is the pay. I would take that 33% everyone throws out with a grain of salt. Compare what you are paying a month to what you would be paying here a month in bills and you will have a better idea.
We do not have sales tax, but that does not save you money because the cost is factored into the product.
Life is more expensive here. But the cost varies from person to person. We pay a little more here for our rent. But we live up in the hills and have very good breezes. We don't have a/c, and, of course, no heat, so our monthly WAPA bill is always less than $150. It was higher in Kentucky, where we came from. So electric is more expensive, but we use less -- does that make sense?
Gas is about the same as where we lived in the states, but we use less, it's a small island, no road trips!!
Food is very expensive, especially processed food. The grandkids spent 2 weeks with us this summer and the cost of dry cereal, milk and OJ were unbelievable! We eat pretty simply and do ok. We eat out a lot more than in the states, but that's a choice we make. We do frequent our neighborhood bar, but we don't drink much, so not much cost there.
But you really need to come and see for yourself.
Ok, I might have been a little low on my 15% to 25% range - Cost of Living is probably more like 30% higher in St. Thomas. It does, however depend on whether you are comparing figures from an urban area or a rural area.
Regardless of the percentages amount, in St. Thomas and throughout the Caribbean COL will be significantly higher and on average wages will be considerably lower than they are in Texas (and most other areas). The Caribbean is not like major cities where wages tend to be higher because the COL is high. It can't be said enough - in the Caribbean wages are low COL is high!!!!
One has to have very deep pockets in order to maintain the same lifestyle in the Caribbean as they do in most of the US. It's either that or making a significant cutback in their living style.
Thanks again for all the input. Just to give a little more info about me. I am in my late twenties and have been looking to make this move for over 2 years. I just recently got back from 1 interview in St Croix and 2 interviews in St. Thomas. The Islands were everything I expected them to be like. Thanks to all the info I had gathered off this site over the years. I have 2 job offers out of the 3. One on St Croix and the other on St Thomas. I am currently leaning towards St Thomas due to the ease of access to the other islands among other things. The offer on St Thomas seems low and I was debating if I should try to negotiate the pay.
Hi zig. I sent you a PM with some questions.
Ah, Zig, you just missed the Texas Chili Cook-Off here on St Thomas. It is the big chance for Texans to two step in the sand. Ah, maybe next year...