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Thread: Cost of living in Vancouver

  1. #1
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    Default Cost of living in Vancouver

    It seems that these days more and more of us artists are being offered jobs in Vancouver. While financial incentives up there seem overwhelmingly beneficial for companies, they seem a major detriment to the individual artist.

    Can anyone that has lived or is living in Vancouver share with us their opinions on cost of living in Vancouver. These are a few of the things I have discovered:

    -It is the most expensive city in North America.
    -Tax rate is 41-44% compared to 28% percent in the US. You also do not get large tax returns like you do in the US.
    -You would make much less in OT with the Canadian OT laws.
    -There is no 401k or 401k match in Canada.
    -Exchanging money back to US dollars would incur 3% transfer fees.
    -Gas costs about the equivalent $5.50 a gallon.
    -Auto insurance is very costly.
    -Rent is 10%-15% more expensive than Los Angeles
    -Grocery and restaurant prices are very high.
    -Sales tax is 12% vs 9% in LA.
    -If you are married, your partner will most likely not be able to work.
    -Unless you spend the rest of your life in Canada you will not reap the benefits of a socialist system. (healthcare for life, affordable college for your children, etc)

    I'm not sure what else I am leaving out, but it seems that if you are not making 30-50% more money in Vancouver than you where in the US, financially you are putting your short and long term goals in severe risk.

    What do you guys think?
    Last edited by jable; 01-27-2012 at 10:27 AM.

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    Lets say you are a seasoned artist making an even 100k salary (easy to do the math with 100k)

    -It is the most expensive city in North America.
    -Tax rate is 41-44% compared to 28% percent in the US. You also do not get large tax returns like you do in the US.
    You'd be paying roughly 15k more in taxes
    -You would make much less in OT with the Canadian OT laws.
    This could easily be 10-15k or more in lost OT pay
    -There is no 401k or 401k match in Canada.
    This would be 5-10k less depending on your companies 401k match.
    Plus this would be zero you are putting away for your eventual retirement back in the US.
    -Exchanging money back to US dollars would incur 3% transfer fees.
    -Gas costs about the equivalent $5.50 a gallon.
    -Auto insurance is very costly.
    -Rent is 10%-15% more expensive than Los Angeles
    -Grocery and restaurant prices are very high.
    -Sales tax is 12% vs 9% in LA.
    -If you are married, your partner will most likely not be able to work.
    -Unless you spend the rest of your life in Canada you will not reap the benefits of a socialist system. (healthcare for life, affordable college for your children, etc)

    Just adding up these first 3 categories, we're looking at 30-45k in lost salary over a US income for the same job. Adding up the other categories and it could easily be 40-55k in lost money. Please let me know if I'm off on this.
    Last edited by jable; 01-27-2012 at 10:27 AM.

  3. #3

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    I don't know much about Vancouver because I went there just on vacation, but I can tell you this couple of things:
    OT in the US is just money for the IRS and years less you have to live.
    The OT laws are there for a reason: family, health, quality of life... Also there is an union taking shape there..
    I don't know where you have worked, but VFX jobs are contracts, so you never become employee which means that of those few companies that offer 401k, there is no match. might as well save the money yourself..
    While you live in Canada, you are covered by government benefits, which means that at the very least you have health insurance (taxes for a purpose, not like ours just going to finance wars).
    Vancouver is way smaller than LA, less traffic, I'm sure and also I'm pretty sure you can get by with public transpo. One friend of mine is an Ad executive and never owed a car.. So you save in gas and wear and tear.
    So, my final point is: are you working in VFX, because you love it, want to gain the experience and move up the ladder, get a reputation as an artist and make a decent living out of it, or it's just money your concern?

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    Quote Originally Posted by infinityitalia View Post
    OT in the US is just money for the IRS and years less you have to live.
    The OT laws are there for a reason: family, health, quality of life...
    I am concerned about OT pay because it usually makes up 25-40% of my salary on a yearly basis. Perhaps you are not familiar with the OT laws in Vancouver. Basically they get to work you for free up there. On a weekly basis from hour 40 up to hour 50 you work for free. After 50 hours some places have 1x and others have 1.5x pay per hour. Some places also pay 1.5x for any weekend work.

    In general the Vancouver mentality is not to work overtime and enjoy life. However, these are LA based companies, with LA producers and LA schedules. They will be taking full advantage of loose overtime laws.

    Quote Originally Posted by infinityitalia View Post
    I don't know where you have worked, but VFX jobs are contracts, so you never become employee which means that of those few companies that offer 401k, there is no match. might as well save the money yourself..
    While you live in Canada, you are covered by government benefits, which means that at the very least you have health insurance .
    Many reputable large scale shops are offering 401k and some even offer 401k match. Even if the company does not offer a match you are allowed to deposit money into your 401k retirement pre-tax. This alone can save you a few thousand a year.

    The affordable health insurance cost in Canada would be an advantage and a savings.

    Quote Originally Posted by infinityitalia View Post
    Vancouver is way smaller than LA, less traffic, I'm sure and also I'm pretty sure you can get by with public transpo. One friend of mine is an Ad executive and never owed a car.. So you save in gas and wear and tear.
    So, my final point is: are you working in VFX, because you love it, want to gain the experience and move up the ladder, get a reputation as an artist and make a decent living out of it, or it's just money your concern?
    Yes, you probably would be driving much less in Vancouver and save on gas money.

    I'm am working in VFX because I love it. I have climbed up the ladder and have a great reputation as an artist. At the same time I want to maintain a good quality of living and make sure that I'm on the correct financial path for the future. Nobody should have to take a 30-50% pay cut for the exact same job just because they've crossed the border. Companies should adjust their pay scale for a regions cost of living.
    Last edited by jable; 01-10-2012 at 08:36 PM.

  5. #5

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    Well, so far for me it's been great. I just moved up here from LA, and started working up here. For me the experience has been as following:

    OT is paid, well, first 10 hrs (50hrs/wk) are regular time. After 10 it's OT. Saturday is 1.5x, and I think Sunday (7th day worked) is 2x for the first 8 hrs (have to double check, but I'm pretty sure that's how it was).

    I get paid holidays, even on contract. I don't a 401k, but even then, who does in the US that's in this business? It's hard to come by and usually only comes with being staff somewhere.

    Gas is expensive, but the city has much better transportation, and it's easy to get around. Really easy. I haven't put gas in a month, and I have a big ass truck. Takes like 5-10 minutes usually to drive to where you need to go. Less if you hit no traffic.

    I would also like to mention the health factor: fresh air, and if you don't drive, you'll walk everywhere like every other Vancouverite. I've lost a few pounds already.

    I'm married, and my wife got a work visa through me when we moved up here. Only restriction on it is that she can't work in the medical/education fields. Since those require 'professional workers' visa.

    Taxes, I'm only paying 23%, the reason you see the 40%+ I think is that you pay that when you are considered a 'non-resident'. But if you're here for at least 6 months, you're considered a resident. Have to look again, but it all goes on a scale. It was a certain % for the first $48k, then something else on the next $48k you earn, etc. I'm definitely going to double check though.

    When it comes to rent, currently I'm moving into a place that's $1800/mo. It is big, about 860sq ft. 1 br, massive lounge area, patio, and comes fully furnished, so I don't have to buy anything. At all. No blender, plates, blah blah. You can find places for about that much that have big flat screen tvs in every bedroom. It's pretty cool. Never found anything like that in LA. I know it's more expensive. The deposit was only half months rent, and I didn't even have to pay an extra pet deposit, although a lot of places make you.

    A few things that are expensive: Cigarettes about $12-15 (camel's are $12). Veggies and Chicken are a bit more expensive. Meat is not too much more, depending of which shop you go to ( I recommend IGA, or a butcher, although I haven't looked for a butcher yet). Dairy. Actually, I guess everything is a bit more expensive. I won't like to you.

    People so far have been alright, nightlife is great. Rain or shine, people dress up to go out at night. It's a great place so far. You'll only have to get used to not having the sunshine right up your ass all the time, cause it does like to rain here (apparently, I haven't experienced much rain in the month I've been here... yet).

    On the plus side, you have 3 world class ski resorts right out of town

    I would give it a go, I've liked it a lot, and if I can, I'd like to stay here to be honest.

    EDIT: Also, I'm selling my truck soon, since there is no need to be doing payments on something I don't really need. I will only need a car when going to Costco, but for that, I will get a zipcar membership. (you get to pick up the car at any parking garage that has them). I'd only need it for about 2 hrs. Much cheaper than paying $480/month for my truck.


    Come play with us Jable.

    For ever...

    ... and ever....

    .... and ever....
    Last edited by davidclopez; 01-11-2012 at 12:07 AM.

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    We know that the employee stands to loose 30-50% of their income with a move to Vancouver. Lets now look at what the company that sent you there stands to gain. The incentive in Vancouver is roughly 45% on your salary. So for a 100k salary it only costs your company 55k a year up there. Vancouver picks up the other 45k. Then on top of that your company does not have to pay subsidized healthcare or other benefits like 401k. This is easily another 20k or more in savings per year for the company.

    Salary US: 100k plus 20k in subsidized healthcare and benefits. Total cost in US 120k

    Salary CA: 55k with no healthcare costs, it’s picked up by the government.

    Companies are paying 120k vs 55k. This is easily more than a 50-55% savings the company makes on sending you north of the border. The company could easily give you a 20% raise and they would still have a better incentive than anywhere else. It's a major windfall for the company to have you in Vancouver, they just aren't sharing any of the winnings with the employee.
    Last edited by jable; 01-11-2012 at 08:24 AM.

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    Canada Federal tax rates for 2007 are:
    15.5% on the first $37,178 of taxable income, +
    22% on the next $37,179 of taxable income (on the portion of taxable income between $37,178 and $74,357), +
    26% on the next $46,530 of taxable income (on the portion of taxable income between $74,357 and $120,887), +
    29% of taxable income over $120,887.

    British Columbin Provincial Tax rate for 2007 are:
    5.7% on the first $34,397 of taxable income, +8.65% on the next $34,397, +11.1% on the next $10,190, +13% on the next $16,925, +14.7% on the amount over $95,909

    Canada has a sliding tax scale. As it turns out the taxes may not be as bad as it looked at first glance. Yes it's combined 41-44% but only on portions above 74k federal and over 96k provincial. Based on 100k it would be about a 28k tax rate. Similar to the US rate.

    However....if you are very senior, a lead or supervisor making over 120k you should expect to pay 44% taxes on any income over 120k. This would be a significant reduction in pay.

    Your OT after 120k would not only be straight time instead of 1.5x, but it would be taxed 44%.
    Last edited by jable; 01-27-2012 at 08:54 AM.

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    Thanks for the updated tax link.

    Anyone who has lived in Vancouver a while have any feedback?

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    Cost of living index:

    Los Angeles: 92
    http://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living...+Angeles%2C+CA

    Vancouver: 107
    http://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living...city=Vancouver

    Vancouver's cost of living is substantially higher than New York City and San Fransisco. Los Angeles is dirt cheap in comparison. Once again, it is the most expensive city in North America.
    Last edited by jable; 01-27-2012 at 10:28 AM.

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