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Financial Considerations
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Excerpted from the United States Career Guide

Cost of Living

Good news: Prices for consumer goods in the US are holding steady. Inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), has decreased to a relatively low 2.0 percent. This is close to half the rate seen just a year ago and many economists predict price increases will remain around 2.0 percent or less over the near term. Many retailers are reluctant to raise prices, given the decline in purchasing power many Americans are experiencing.

Not-so-good news: While food and other consumer price increases are generally flat, fuel costs are still climbing. Recent figures show the gasoline index jumped 7.0 percent in the last month, after rising 9.0 percent the previous month. Unfortunately, salaries in the US are lagging behind fuel costs, severely cutting into buying power. Real wages dropped 0.2 percent over the past 12 months according to the US Labor Department.

Housing

The good news: the US housing market is finally recovering.

Many economists’ predict the worst of the country’s housing collapse is over. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports sales of existing homes are up by 11 percent from a year ago. Overall, foreclosure activity is down: Realty Trac reports foreclosure activity is down in nearly two-thirds of the nations’ largest metropolitan areas.

Mortgage rates are at historic lows. Rates for fixed 30-year loans are below 3.5 percent for those with good credit.

The not-so-good news: house prices are rising as well.

Transportation

The United States is definitely the land of the personal automobile. People moving from other countries into the US are often surprised at the lack of public transportation. In fact, most people have two or even three vehicles in one household and spend a great deal of their earnings on purchasing a stylish and serviceable vehicle. Driving to work is the favored means of commuting, as nearly nine out of ten workers (87.7 percent) drive to work. The average commute time (for those who do not work in the home) is 25 minutes. Because the transportation system in the United States relies on cars, the price of a car, insurance and gas are expenses any person relocating to this country must take into consideration.

Vacation and Hours of Work

In the US, the number of vacation days allowed is not mandated by statutory law, as in many countries, but is generally determined by the length of an employee’s service. The number of days depends upon the amount of time he/she has worked for an employer and typically increases with the amount of service. For example, employees receive, on average, about ten vacation days upon completion of one year of service and 22 days after 30 years. The same is sometimes true for sick days: the number of days of available sick leave may increase with the length of service.

This is just a short sample of what you’ll find in over 100 pages of information in the complete United States Guide.



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