Why Take An International Assignment?
My wife and I are beginning to wrap up our assignment here in China. In less than 90 days we should be headed back to the US unless there is an unexpected change. I thought it would be a good time to list out the benefits of taking such an assignment.
It has been hectic year for us - I started the assignment in July; I came back and we got married in October; we left the next day and have been on assignment since. Even though it was a non-ideal time we still decide to take this opportunity and make the most of it.
Here are some of the non-financial reasons:
- There is never a good time to go on an international assignment. After talking to many colleagues I realized there is never a good time to take this type of opportunity. Through all stages of life there are family needs, etc that could prevent someone from doing it.
- This assignment has really help us to become more culturally aware and think with more of a world view.
- More time to travel. Before now neither my wife or I have ever spent a prolonged period outside the US. Even if money was no object, trying to find the time to travel the world is difficult. Stepping away from the daily grind of life back home has allowed us new freedom on the weekends to see more places than ever before.
- It goes without saying that being on an international assignment is usually good for the career. Better visibility, more networking opportunities, and likely higher profile work.
- While it’s a pretty minor in the grand scheme of things, you can rack up some serious airline miles while on assignment.
Here are some of the financial reasons:
- I rented out my home in the US and reduced my housing costs to near zero. After we got married we didn't have a good plan for my wife's home but have subsidized the monthly expenses by having her brother live there. We are also saving by not having to upgrade our home sooner as we plan to do when we get back to US (Savings: ~$1000/mo)
- Our living costs are reduced to a minimum amount - I receive a daily per diem to cover food and transportation while away. (Savings: $500-$600/mo)
- We are on an international healthcare insurance with no monthly cost (Savings ~$100/mo)
- I got a lump sum moving allowance that I ended up spending most of when we got here on basic furnishings, but was able to save some of it. Savings: ~$500 one time)
Depending on the company and assignment package offered you could get more or less financial benefits from the assignment. Regardless you typically come out with more money as your normal expenses can be cut and some allowances saved.
My wife and I are only coming out negligibly ahead even though we have the savings listed above; my wife is not earning anything close to what she made in the US. Even if it wasn't financially beneficial I would still think it’s a good move and an experience of a lifetime.
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