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 Post subject: Guten Tag!
PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 1:45 pm 

Joined: Tue Jul 03, 2007 1:28 pm
Posts: 147
Location: Sunnyvale, CA
Hello!

I stumbled upon GRS just recently, and I was impressed by how it addressed things I find myself thinking about more and more, like investing, personal growth, work/life balance. That, and real practical advice regarding banks and brokers. :)
So I decided to register and introduce myself.
Being born in East Germany, my parents fought hard to be able to emigrate to West Germany in 1985, before the iron curtain fell, when I was 9 years old. They were just over 40 years old back then, and had to start all over again. I'm really grateful they made this move towards freedom with me. :)
Now I'm 30, working as a software engineer, currently for a bank in the principality of Liechtenstein (which is a souvereign country, but somewhat attached to Switzerland, similar to the relation of Monaco and France). Now for the interesting part: I'm going to go to the San Francisco bay area in August, to work there for a couple of years. So, I will have a lot of questions regarding personal finance in the U.S., as it seems to be somewhat different than in Germany.
I have a lot of plans about how I will change my life once I get there: Restart my track&field career, get into stock photography, and avoid buying a tv set. :D I will face challenges like finding a suitable apartment (cheap and functional, or more expensive and fancy?) or buying a car ("reliable" beater, or extravagant convertible)?
I also hope that I'll be able to contribute some european views to some topics here.

Please excuse the bad grammar, my English got a bit rusty...

Regards,
Lars


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 2:25 pm 
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Joined: Sun Apr 29, 2007 3:00 pm
Posts: 411
Location: Chicago
I've lived in the US for just shy of 30 years (exactly as long as I've been alive actually), and I must say, if your English is a bit rusty, it's noticeably better than many of the people I encounter day to day. Welcome to the forum.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 4:20 pm 
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Joined: Wed May 30, 2007 11:23 am
Posts: 859
Location: Portland, OR
Wilkkommen Lars. Wie gehts? That's about the extent of my written German (spoken is slightly better) so I don't think you have to worry about your English! :-)

I used to live in Switzerland but never made it to Liechtenstein - beautiful area though!

Your post reminded me that at one point I was considering developing a personal finance 101 course for expats. But that was in DC where there are many of them...here in Portland it's not so necessary.

One thing you might want to consider doing before your move is opening an account at a bank in Liechtenstein that has branches in the bay area. By establishing this relationship it may make it easier to get loans/credit once you come to the states instead of starting fresh with a new bank.

Establishing credit will be your biggest problem since you're starting from scratch. Since they're doing away with the authorized user thing that isn't as helpful so I'd see about getting a secured card ASAP.

As far as the car and apartment goes, I'm a big fan of cheap and functional. And, depending on where your job is, you may not need a car. If you do get one, I'd get a good used one that's a few years old. Particularly since you know you're not going to be here to drive it until it dies.

Good luck!

Tchuss!


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2007 2:15 am 

Joined: Tue Jul 03, 2007 1:28 pm
Posts: 147
Location: Sunnyvale, CA
pf101 wrote:
I used to live in Switzerland but never made it to Liechtenstein - beautiful area though!

Yes, it is beautiful, and one of the most affluent countries in the world and generally a nice place to live. But somehow, I feel I don't fit in here. For me, Swiss German is much harder to understand than English, and my "plain" German immediately identifies me as an outsider. I still live in Germany and commute or stay at a hotel here, which is quite life draining. :( I am employed at a German company that provides IT services to banks, and the current project requires me to be on site most of the time.

pf101 wrote:
One thing you might want to consider doing before your move is opening an account at a bank in Liechtenstein that has branches in the bay area. By establishing this relationship it may make it easier to get loans/credit once you come to the states instead of starting fresh with a new bank.

The only viable option would be Citibank, but there are several reasons why I don't want to work with them (one being the aggressive marketing of overpriced consumer loans here). What I did now is open an account with a German bank that offers a free checking account with a free VISA card with which I can use ATMs worldwide to withdraw funds without fees (up to $1000 per day), while earning 3.8% on positive balance. Ironically, this is the successor of the East German state bank.
Once I get there, I will open an account either at Charles Schwab (Investor Checking with 4.25% APY) or WaMu (online savings/checking), both feeless, with nice perks and branches near my future home.

pf101 wrote:
Establishing credit will be your biggest problem since you're starting from scratch. Since they're doing away with the authorized user thing that isn't as helpful so I'd see about getting a secured card ASAP.

This is what I'm worrying about, too. I'm not planning to get loans or credits, but I heard that a lot of landlords do credit checks before renting out an apartment. What happens if I don't have a credit history at all? I was in the U.S. for an internship six years ago, and I remember getting offers for "preapproved" credit cards back then. Does this mean that at least I was registered at the credit check agencies? Am I out of the system now after leaving the country for six years? I cannot check my rating online, this only works inside the U.S. (haven't bothered using a proxy yet).

pf101 wrote:
As far as the car and apartment goes, I'm a big fan of cheap and functional. And, depending on where your job is, you may not need a car. If you do get one, I'd get a good used one that's a few years old. Particularly since you know you're not going to be here to drive it until it dies.

It will definitely be a used one, preferable late 90s/early 2000s. I think I'll get a really cheap one first (if I really need one), so that I then have time to look for a more expensive and fancy one without pressure.

Thank you for your help!


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2007 8:17 am 
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Location: Portland, OR
floppel wrote:
Yes, it is beautiful, and one of the most affluent countries in the world and generally a nice place to live. But somehow, I feel I don't fit in here. For me, Swiss German is much harder to understand than English, and my "plain" German immediately identifies me as an outsider. I still live in Germany and commute or stay at a hotel here, which is quite life draining. :( I am employed at a German company that provides IT services to banks, and the current project requires me to be on site most of the time.


Yes, Swiss German is an insane language. I didn't realize that's what they spoke there...but I guess it makes sense. I lived in Geneve so it wasn't much of a problem most of the time but when I traveled to Zurich and other areas it got interesting. I learned a few words out of necessity because I did the APR which goes through many small mountain villages where even High German is rare much less English. That was interesting to have to spend the entire time speaking German! lol

I'd imagine that's quite a commute. I can see why you're ready for a change.

Quote:
The only viable option would be Citibank, but there are several reasons why I don't want to work with them (one being the aggressive marketing of overpriced consumer loans here). What I did now is open an account with a German bank that offers a free checking account with a free VISA card with which I can use ATMs worldwide to withdraw funds without fees (up to $1000 per day), while earning 3.8% on positive balance. Ironically, this is the successor of the East German state bank.
Once I get there, I will open an account either at Charles Schwab (Investor Checking with 4.25% APY) or WaMu (online savings/checking), both feeless, with nice perks and branches near my future home.


Well, I can understand not wanting to work with Citi. Personally, I don't use big box-banks at all. I stick to credit unions. I re-read and you're coming in a month so it wouldn't really have made a difference anyway. Sounds like you already have a plan which is good.

Quote:
This is what I'm worrying about, too. I'm not planning to get loans or credits, but I heard that a lot of landlords do credit checks before renting out an apartment. What happens if I don't have a credit history at all? I was in the U.S. for an internship six years ago, and I remember getting offers for "preapproved" credit cards back then. Does this mean that at least I was registered at the credit check agencies? Am I out of the system now after leaving the country for six years? I cannot check my rating online, this only works inside the U.S. (haven't bothered using a proxy yet).


If you established credit when you were here 6 years ago then you are probably still in the system since things tend to hang on for 7.5 years. You will, in most cases, be required to submit to a credit check for an apartment. One thing you might want to do is bring a copy of your german credit report (do they have them?) to show (not sure if it will help or not, it's just an idea) and be prepared to offer a much larger security deposit. Alternatively, if you get into a shared housing situation then it's usually not as big of a deal so that might be an alternative for the first few months until you get something established. If your employer is relatively large and used to having expats then they can probably make some housing recommendations and other suggestions through your HR/Benefits office.

Quote:
It will definitely be a used one, preferable late 90s/early 2000s. I think I'll get a really cheap one first (if I really need one), so that I then have time to look for a more expensive and fancy one without pressure.


Honestly, that sounds like a bit of a waste to me. You'll spend a lot of extra money on taxes, registration, etc than if you just buy one car and be done with it. It shouldn't be that hard if you have one in mind. I'd try to get around with a rental or public transport instead of dgoing 2 cars. I'd hope that your company gives you some sort of allowance for this and if you go through priceline it should be pretty cheap.

good luck!


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