Is 45000 GBP a sufficient salary for an family expat of three to live comfortably in London?

I often write on Quora.com, where I am the most viewed writer on financial matters, with over 261.2 million views in recent years.

In the answers below I focused on the following topics and issues

  • Is 45000 GBP a sufficient salary for an family expat of three to live comfortably in London?
  • What is the best and worse of British culture, including from a financial perspective and attitudes to success?
  • Is Korea more expat friendly than China?
  • What is it like to emigrate to many countries in your life?

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Is 45,000 GBP a sufficient salary for an family expat of three to live comfortably in London?

Source: Quora

It is sufficient to live but maybe not comfortable. 45,000 will be about 29,000 a year after tax.

That is about 2,800–2,900 a month for a family of three. Many people do manage on that budget, but if they want to live comfortably, they usually live in the outskirts of the city.

Or they are young and single, and share accommodation in the centre, which isn’t your case.

Let’s look at this another way. The average cost of even a studio flat in a decent location is high.

The below rental map shows some average prices for housing:

The bottom line, then, is that it is very doable. You can live for that or less.

It isn’t really comfortable though in terms of what you can do when it comes to housing, together with other expenses with a family of three.

That isn’t to mention costs like property taxes on renting, stamp duty if you buy property etc.

I would live in the outskirts or commute into London if you want to live more comfortably.

The rest of the UK is a different story. Outside London and the South East, you can live comfortably in many towns and cities for 45k a year.

Once you are living in the UK, I would therefore consider whether working remotely is a possibility.

If so, that will double your purchasing power in some cases, especially when it comes to housing.

What’s the best and worst of British culture?

Source: Quora

As somebody who has lived overseas for a decade now, I can look on with more impartiality than most.

One of the best answers I have read recently on Quora was from an Irishman who was responding to the question “why don’t many Irish people like Bono”.

Now as he said, there are many complex reasons why plenty of Irish people dislike him.

The perceived self-righteousness, hypocrisy and many other things.

Yet there is one thing nobody can get away from. If he was lesssuccessful, he wouldn’t be as unpopular, even with those negative qualities.

In most countries he would be a source of patriotic pride, regardless of his character, but seems not so in Ireland.

Bono himself commented that (I am paraphrasing) “in America people look at the person in the big house and think one day I will be that person. In Ireland many people look at the same person and think one day I will get that person”.

That answer brings me to the UK. Whilst the culture has some differences to the Republic of Ireland, we don’t celebrate success enough.

We feel more comfortable, in a strange way, if our sporting teams exit at the semi-finals (Tim Henman and the English football team), than actually win.

Now sure, we celebrate if our sporting teams win like the English Rugby team in the early 2000s, or Andy Murray.

Yet somehow we love the underdog. Success isn’t celebrated. We don’t celebrate our business success stories like Dyson:

Even if the UK creates the world’s first trillioniare in twenty years, and that person was a saintly character who plans to give away 99.9% of his/her wealth to charity, people would still say it isn’t enough.

The best performing kids at school get bullied. Getting Cs, Bs and the occasional A star?

That is fine. But all A Star’s? Probably that kid will get bullied by classmates.

Most of the kids in that class will also come home to see their parents supporting the underdog in sport.

Winners, in any domain, aren’t celebrated. The only way winners “can get away with it”, is if they are so humble they are almost apologetic for their success (think Roger Federer, Messi etc)

Somebody who knows they are good, like Ronaldo? Not so appreciated!

Far from creating an airport in his name like the Portuguese have, we would want to bring him down to earth.

So, in some other cultures, success is more celebrated. 

Airports and train stations would be named after Stephen Hawking and even sports stars.

As it is, many British kids don’t even know who Hawking’s is.

It isn’t just Britain though as mentioned. Seems similar in many European countries, and it is creeping into American culture slowly.

The problem is, since 2008, attitudes to the “rich” and successful (regardless of their financial situation), has become worse.

Opportunistic politicians have blamed others for every problem in society.

With that being said, having lived overseas for so long, I do think the UK does more things right than wrong.

It has been a democracy for centuries, even if women haven’t had the vote for that long.

Whenever there is a crisis, and the country is on the brink, it always seem to come back.

Few countries, apart from places like France, some Nordic countries and America, are as stable.

People are, for the most part, nice enough, even if the reserved nature of some Brits will confuse outsiders.

The food culture is now good and international and I could go on with the positives.

If the UK was exactly how it is, but had a better attitude to all forms of success, it would be one of the best countries in the world to live.

What is it like to immigrate to many countries during your life?

Source: Quora

In general, it is one of the best things I have done. You learn more even compared to travelling to many places.

You learn so much, meet great people, expand your mind, toughen up and lose your obsession with your home country/home government looking after you (I never had that final one).

It can also be a great financial decision, as taxes and cost of living can be lower in some cases.

Don’t get me wrong though, there are negatives, including

  1. You lose contact with friends even though it is easier to stay in touch now due to Facebook et al.
  2. You see family members die and can’t always say goodbye to them….especially during Covid-19….
  3. It becomes impossible to keep learning every new language, especially if you are busy. Or you learn but very slowly. In my first expat trip in China, I spent hours learning the language per day. That becomes harder as you start a family, a business etc.
  4. You will face loads of good, positive, things like the hospitality of people. You will also face discrimination everywhere, in every country. That could be due to government policies, and not always the people.
  5. You aren’t always as comfortable as staying in one place, but that can be a reason to do it as well, as great things happen outside your comfort zone.
  6. As more people are working from home, and technology is bigger than ten years ago, the lifestyle you will lead in another country won’t be as difficult as in 2005 or even 2011. Lifestyles, at least in cities, are starting to converge a bit across most countries.
  7. You need to pick your locations wisely. A place like Switzerland or Finland might be great if you have a family, for example, but might not be as good for a 25-year-old wanting to work hard and party just as hard. Or living in hotter climates might not be the best idea for a clean freak.
  8. If you move to a country which is developing, you will need to be very patient. In comparison, the more developed places can sometimes be just as clean, safe (or even more so) than your home country.
  9. You will be outside your social security system in most cases. This is mainly a good thing. You can often save and invest more overseas. Yet at the same time, that means that a certain kind of character, like somebody who struggles to take action, ends up worse off overseas. I personally know several expats in their 50s and 60s who don’t have a penny to their name, despite in some cases earning executive level salaries.
  10. If you come back home, you might get reverse culture shock.

Overall, it is worth it. It is best to have at least one assignment when you are young.

It gets harder for people to adapt themselves overseas as they age, especially if it is their first assignment.

Is China more expat-friendly than Korea?

Source: Quora

China is a continent. Korea is relatively small – about 96 times smaller.

Therefore, obviously I will need to generalize.

In general, Korea is now more expat-friendly than China.

The reasons are

  • The English is better. It isn’t Singapore, Malaysia or Philippines, but it is better apart from the special economic zones outside of Mainland China like Hong Kong. Mainland China has improved a lot when it comes to language compared to my first visit in 2007, however.
  • The internet is relatively much more free.
  • It is a more free society as a democracy
  • It is a more developed society. Things work. Average income is significantly higher which therefore explains the greater efficiency. The per capita GDP is now about 35,000, which is higher than even Shanghai:
  • It is cleaner and more polite
  • Times have changed. When I first visited China (2007), and Korea (2010), my impressions were that China was more welcoming. Even when I first lived in China (2011), my views were the same. Things have changed. China is now more nationalistic. Younger Koreans are more open.
  • From a financial point of view, Korea doesn’t tax overseas income for the first five years you live there. This is the same as Japan. To quote KPMG “Individuals are classified either as resident or non-resident taxpayers. Resident taxpayers are taxed on their worldwide income. However, tax residents in Korea of foreign nationality who have had a domicile or place of residence in Korea for 5 years or less in aggregate in the previous 10 years ending on the last date of the tax year concerned, will not be subject to Korean income tax in relation to their foreign-sourced income attributable to that tax year unless the income is paid in or remitted to Korea”. So, unless you are American or from another country which taxes you based on citizenship, you can save a lot on taxes.
  • Following on from the previous points about things changing, China used to be cheap. It isn’t any more, at least for quality in bigger cities. Therefore, Korea can be cheaper now. Much cheaper if you can take advantage of the previously mentioned tax advantages.
  • There are fewer restrictions on moving money out of the country.

With that being said, the best things about China is that there are more opportunities work wise.

In Korea, there are only a small number of people who can be professions.

Either you work for an embassy, teach, in the US army, have your own business/are a remote worker or are very high level/high skilled.

China has a much bigger market and indeed greater needs for expats. The average expat packages in certain industries are also higher.

Shenzhen is one of the best places for tech workers. Shanghai and Hong Kong are two of the best places for finance workers. Korea, even Seoul, can’t compete with that.

You will also learn more in China, regardless of whether you like it or not.

Honestly though, the most welcoming places in Asia are probably Taiwan or some places in South East Asia.

Pained by financial indecision? Want to invest with Adam?

Financial Planner - Adam Fayed

Adam is an internationally recognised author on financial matters, with over 261.2 million answers views on Quora.com and a widely sold book on Amazon

Further Reading

In the article below, taken from my online Quora answers, I spoke about the following issues and subjects:

  • Looking back, what are some financial decisions you wish you had made differently? What is some advice you’d give to teens who are getting their first job and want to establish financial stability?
  • Why do many people want to buy real estate even though buying stocks is easier, more accessible and gives better returns in many cases?

To read more click on the link below.

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