Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Great (Pay) Expectations

When I joined the Foreign Service, I expected to take a fairly substantial pay cut. I was making 6 figures at my last job and figured I would start as a low FS-5. That being said, I've been (pleasantly) surprised by my actual compensation. In my initial guesses, before getting hired, I really didn't understand how overseas pay was calculated. Here's a breakdown of my current pay modifiers:

All Foreign Service Officers, while overseas, get "Overseas Comparability Pay" (OCP) of 16.14%. In Chennai, I receive 15% "Hardship Differential." In addition, I get a 5-10% "Cost of Living Adjustment" (based on some wonky math, so it ends up being 4-8%).

This changes my original belief of making $43,378-$63,702 to $60,369-$91,881. That's a pretty substantial difference. In addition, I was also fortunate to qualify for a much higher step than I'd expected. Throw in free housing and utilities,  drastically lower expenses ($5/month for a cell phone plan(!), $20/month for high speed internet, et cetera) and things are much better than I'd expected.

Other's mileage may differ, certainly many countries have lower hardship differentials (or none) and are much more expensive than the US (Hi, London!). That being said, we've actually been saving more in Chennai than we ever did living in the DC/Baltimore corridor, despite the lower gross pay. I've heard more senior officers say that you save money while overseas to be able to afford going back to DC (where you don't get free housing, differential, or COLA). I could definitely believe that.

Of course there are a lot of "quality of life" differences as well, both good and bad, but I'll save those, and how my benefits have changed, for another post. (Hopefully? Soon).

Note: Why oh why did they discontinue these AMAZING one rupee coins? Eeeeeeeeeey!

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