Russell Schick well remembers April 4, 1997. It was the day he walked into his three-bedroom Vancouver apartment and announced to his then-common-law spouse, Beth Fleming, that he had just accepted a higher-paid position with a telecommunications firm in Santa Barbara, Calif. Schick, a 1995 computer engineering graduate from the University of Waterloo, says two things factored into his decision: he felt the company he was working for was too small to compete in the high-tech market, and he knew with the lower taxes he would pay in California, he and Fleming could save for raising a family. Two years later, and now married, Schick, 28, and Fleming, 31, have found a great deal of financial security. Schick earns about $113,000, more than twice as much as he did in Canada—and pays about 10per-cent less in taxes. Stock options have yielded about $75,000, allowing the couple to buy their first home—a 76.5square-metre bungalow, 10 minutes from the Pacific Ocean. And he can write off
the interest from his mortgage payments. “We are much further ahead than had we stayed in Canada,” Schick says. “Our goal is to return one day. And financially with the exchange rate, our savings and investments will allow us to live well.”
Like Schick, many Canadians are lured south of the 49th parallel by tax incentives and financial opportunities. Sharon Fisher-Griffin, 49, moved with her newly wed husband last month from Toronto to Silicon Valley in California, where she went to work for Sun Microsystems Inc. as a head of an international services division. A stay-at-home mom during her first marriage (she has four children, all of them living on their own), Fisher-Griffin felt she had a lot of makeup saving to do. She was also tired of seeing a large portion of her salary absorbed in taxes.
“I have a psychological barrier past the 50-per-cent mark,” says Fisher-Griffin, who now earns more than $150,000 and pays about 15-per-cent less in income tax than she did in Canada. “When, for every dollar I make, I can’t even keep
half, it becomes discouraging and unfair.” Although the rich financial rewards of working in the United States are clear, so are the trade-offs. Toronto-born child psychologist Maria Channell, 31, married an American and now lives in Battle Creek, Mich. Though she earns about $90,000 for nine months of work (she takes one week off each month), Channell says there are things that concern her about remaining in the United States. She and her husband, Shawn, pay about $540 a month for health insurance that wouldn’t cover them fully in an emergency. And then there is the crime. Though Channell does not yet have children of her own, she is fearful of the violence, gangs, knives and guns that are in the schools. “There is so much pressure on parents to do financially well that they often have a hard time juggling work and family. I have concerns about raising children in this environment. It all comes down to whether money dictates your quality of life.” In the end, there are some sacrifices for money she will not make.
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