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 $10,000 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, the majority go back to the 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 average American household income around $50,000, these visa holders earn a lot more, a minimum wage of $60,000 per year is required by law.
No employer can hire H or L category visa workers with a salary lower than this limit. Often their spouses also work, doubling the household income.
If the worker has enough experience or holds a manager or a team leader position, their salary often reaches 6 figures.
Naturally, they earn way more than average Americans. Many travel to this country 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 science and technology (STEM) sectors.
Not every skilled visa worker lives a life of extreme frugality while they are in this country, there are many exceptions. Still, this practice is quite rampant and pretty consistent among most.
From outside, they look like living in poverty, driving a 15-year-old car, 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. After all, their stay is temporary.
Ladies and gentlemen 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 with a home and car paid off in full with the saved money.
They always stay in groups, with 3 to 4 people sharing a 2-bedroom apartment, 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 barely minimal things, just enough to survive until the next weekend. On the contrary, when they finally return to their home countries, they buy all sorts of electronic gadgets, brand name clothes, perfumes, shoes, and accessories.
For food they cook their meals, mostly buying raw meat and vegetables and ingredients. Very seldom they go out for eating. Often they get all the cookware and other household stuff from someone ready to head back home. It’s a cycle of acquiring things for free and then giving it for free to someone else after their stay is over.
I know many such visa workers who were from India and China. To give you some numbers to prove my point. Let’s consider a case of 4 of my co-workers. They shared a $1200 per month apartment and a $500 per month rental car.
Considering $100 per month towards gas, their per-person cost of housing and transportation was only $450. They had a food cost of $200 per month per person, as they cooked most meals at home. Then, if you add another $150 toward entertainment and utilities.
They never bought furniture. They collected furniture from their neighbors and through Craigslist free listings. Altogether they lived with only $800 spending per month.
This is living below $10,000 a year!
Every purchase they made involved bargain hunting, from Craigslist to various coupon and deal sites. They spent hours in front of the Craigslist freebie section waiting for new listings. They never bought costly items. The ones they bought were for carrying to their home country.
Going back to the general population again, they sleep on couches and mattresses made of comforters on the floor. They buy very basic cookware and personal care items. For them, it’s a passing phase of life where they only accumulate wealth without spending much.
With the money saved, they live a life of abundance and luxury once they return to their home country. Now, let’s calculate their saving if I may.
These skilled visa workers command a high salary due to their superior human capital. Now, considering a salary of $6,000 per month (annual Salary is $72,000 is quite normal for the high skilled professionals they work on).
After taxes and insurance, the net take-home salary comes down to $4,000 a month. With a saving of $3,200 per month (with $800 towards expenses we calculated earlier), they manage to save $40,000 in a year. At this rate, within 2 and 1/2 years, they accumulate a fortune of $100,000!
Back in India (and even in China), $100,000 is enough money to buy a large house and a car without borrowing anything from a bank. With a longer stay in the US than 2 and a half years, their retirement coffer gets secured as well. In countries like India and China, the purchasing power of the local currency is much more than in the US, so things are much less costly there.
Before you feel that they don’t live a fun life during their stay here, they in-fact do live a fun life. It’s just that they grow richer One Cent at a Time.
They 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 visit the cheapest of the restaurants, they cook meals. They buy cars that barely run.
I am not at all against their lifestyle. Until very recently, I was one of them. Though I am living with my wife and not sharing a room or car with others still, my rate of saving is much less compared to them.
Before 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 ritual we have back home in India.
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. 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 end is near, it’s easy to keep motivated towards saving.
Reward: Saving is no fun without a reward. They go out and see places, tourist attractions. They buy the latest and best electronics 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 in the US. Back home either these lessons are not available or usually available for a high cost.
Watch out for pitfalls
I feel that being in America permanently and going all-out into extreme frugality is not a very good idea for a long-term perspective. When constant couponing and deal seeking becomes a habit it can tax your personal life. It may cause household tensions. Do make fun of a constant routine and reward a saving-money attitude.
The temporary visa workers can neglect small health-related issues while they are in this country. They get their annual leave 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, what do you think about these visa workers? I am sure you have come across a few, how was your experience with them?