This topic has not been covered as widely as it should have been. Let’s gain some insight into the high-skill visa workers’ life and see how well they live on less than $15,000 a year while saving a fortune. Most of us would be amazed to learn about living such a life here in the United States!
Every year, thousands of high-skilled and executive class temporary visa holders (H and L classes) travel to this country. Some of them stay back, apply for residency, and eventually citizenship, but, a majority go back to their home country with the money saved during their stay here in the US.
Typically, these visa workers spend 2 to 3 years in the US working for multinational corporations, mostly in Hi-tech industries.
Legally, they can only spend up to 6 years before renewing their visa. With the median household income around $67,000, these visa holders earn a lot more than that. Often their spouses work, doubling the household income.
If the worker has enough experience or holds a manager or a team leader position, their salary often reaches $150,000 or above.
Naturally, they earn way more than average Americans. Many travel here without their spouses or children to keep the cost of intercontinental flights and the cost of living in check, especially if the deputation is for a shorter term.
The two largest contributors to this flow are India and China, the two countries with perhaps the deepest family tradition. Their extended families take care of the immediate family members during this temporary foreign work assignment.
These folks are the creams of the crop in their respective countries – they are highly educated, intelligent, and hard-working people with average IQ well above the average human IQ level. They mainly work in the IT or science and technology (STEM) sectors.
Not every skilled visa worker lives a life of extreme frugality though, there are many exceptions. Still, the frugal practice is quite widespread and pretty consistent among most.
From the outside, you may like living in poverty, driving a 15-year-old car, and wearing age-old dresses. You can easily distinguish them in a crowd. They buy the cheapest of everything, from soap to salt. They don’t care what other people think about them.
Readers welcome to the world of short-term extreme frugality demonstrated by non-immigrant visa workers.
With just a couple of years of living in the US, they go back to their home country with a fortune and live life happily ever after. Often their home and car loans are paid off in full with the saved money.
They always stay in groups, with 3 to 4 people sharing a 2-bedroom apartment, and the roommates share a rental car. sometimes, they buy an almost junk car for the sole purpose of commuting to work and weekly shopping trips. They manage the household budget and expenses like professional financial experts, pinching every penny, counting every cent!
They buy bare minimal things every week, just enough to survive until the weekend. On the contrary, when they finally return to their home countries, they go back with expensive gadgets, brand-name clothes, perfumes, shoes, and accessories for their loved ones.
They cook their meals, mostly buying raw meat and vegetables and ingredients. They don’t eat out. Often they get all the cookware and other household stuff from someone ready to head back home. It’s a cycle of acquiring and giving things for free.
I know many such visa workers, some of them were my colleagues. To give you some numbers to prove my point, let’s consider the case of 4 of my co-workers. They shared an $1800 per month apartment and a $1000 per month rental car.
Considering $200 per month towards gas, their per-person cost of housing and transportation was only $750. They had a food cost of $300 per month per person, as they cooked most meals at home. Then, if you add another $150 toward entertainment and utilities, per person.
Total per person, per month cost comes out to be $1100. This is living below $15,000 a year!
Every purchase they made involved bargain hunting, from hand-me-downs to couponing to deal hunting. They spent hours browsing shopping and deal sites for freebie offers and price mistakes. They never bought costly items. The ones they did were for carrying to their home country.
Going back to the general population of visa workers again, they sleep on couches or mattresses made of comforters. They sleep on the floor. They buy very basic cookware and personal care items if they at all need to buy them. They hunt garage and yard sales. For them, it’s a passing phase of life where they only accumulate wealth.
With the money saved, they live a life of abundance and luxury back home. Now, let’s calculate their savings, if I may.
These skilled visa workers command a high salary due to their superior human capital. Now, consider a salary of $10,000 per month (an annual Salary is $120,000 is quite normal for highly skilled professionals).
After taxes and insurance, the net take-home salary comes down to $7,000 a month. With an expenditure, as calculated above, of $1100, monthly savings is $5,900. Rounding off the saving to $5,500, they manage to save $66,000 in a year. At this rate, within 3 years, they accumulate a fortune of $200,000!
Back in India (and even in China), $200,000 is enough money to buy a large house and a car with cash. With a longer stay in the US than 3 years, their retirements get secured as well. Due to the higher purchasing power of the local currency compared to that in the USA.
Before you feel that they don’t live a fun life during their stay here, they do live a fun life. It’s just that they grow richer One Cent at a Time.
They do enjoy all types of frugal fun. In just a few years, they cover pretty much all the tourist attractions, securing the lowest airfare and stay through deals and offers.
They create lasting memories of their stay here. They pick the priciest gifts for their loved ones back home. Yet, they do not even visit the cheapest of restaurants, rather they cook meals. They buy cars that barely run. They always thrift their clothes.
I am not at all against this lifestyle. once I was one of them. Before my marriage, I stayed in the US for two months on a business visa. In those two months, I saved enough to fund my marriage along with the engagement ring. It was a great relief to my retired parents who otherwise had to fund our marriage, as per the Indian customs.
These visa workers are the biggest contributors to the growth of the overall IT industry in the world. On any day, as a group, they are sharper than any other group of individuals. The philosophy of their lifestyle is delayed gratification- have pain now to experience comfort later.
The reason behind this article is to encourage self-imposed and short-term hardship. Delay gratification and living below means for a couple of years can make a major difference in your financial life.
Whether to become debt-free or to build wealth, all you need to do is control spending and exercise self-discipline, as these visa workers do.
Few things that I think can be learned from their way of living.
Have a Goal: They set a goal to save as much as possible for a home, a car, retirement, etc.
Discipline: No matter what, they never splurge or go beyond the budget. They simply stick to the set plan.
Motivation: They are constantly motivated. Each day of hardship cuts the remaining days of hardship by one. When the goal is set it’s easy to keep motivated towards saving.
Reward: Saving is no fun without a reward. They go out and see places, and tourist attractions. They buy the latest and best gadgets and take them home to own for a lifetime.
They spend on self-improvement: I know many of them learning Spanish, Salsa, Zumba, Karate, etc. They try to take maximum advantage of their stay here. Back home either these lessons are not available or are usually costlier. They almost always make good use of the community gyms.
Watch out for pitfalls
I feel that being an American going all-out into extreme frugality is not a very good idea from a long-term perspective. When constant couponing and deal seeking and delayed gratification becomes a habit they tax your personal happiness. It may cause household tensions.
So, make fun a part of a constant routine, spend on things you enjoy and have absolute tight grasp on everything else.
Temporary visa workers can even neglect small health-related issues while they are in this country. They get their annual leaves to go back home. It provides a good opportunity to access health care at a much lesser cost. You being permanently in the US do not have this flexibility. Do not let health issues unattended. If you do, you may run into a bigger healthcare cost later on.
By sowing frugality, we reap liberty, a golden harvest. ~ Agesilaus
Readers, share your opinions!