Seeing in the new year, winter and cost of living

We’re a couple of weeks into 2017 already and for some reason I am having no trouble transitioning into naturally saying and writing the right year. Other years it’s been March and I’m still stuck on the previous year. Maybe that means it’s going to be a good one. I think most people would agree, 2016 was a somewhat year of turmoil, so many of us are keen to take a fresh look on a new year.

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Watching the sun go down on the last day of 2016 at Whale Bay.

We said goodby to 2016 with a bottle of champagne watching the sunset at Whale Bay before heading to St George’s Town to a street party with live music. And saw the new year in with a fireworks display (that far exceeded my expectations!) and Bermuda’s take on the Time’s Square ball drop – an onion drop! Ok so it was more of a onion lowering…  And not a real onion of course….

So, it’s actually winter in Bermuda. Before moving here I didn’t really know how cold it would get but since being here people have talked about how cold and damp it gets in winter. We really haven’t experienced either of these things although earlier this week, Bermuda reached a record low of 13 degrees celcius overnight! I don’t think this was an historical record, just the lowest recorded for some time.  And to be honest, in the grand scheme of cold, a low of 13 degrees for one night isn’t too bad!

And it hasn’t all been cold. In fact last week we were basking in delicious sunshine and I even went for a swim (and it wasn’t that cold at all) and out on the boat and paddle board. One cannot complain about doing that in the middle of ‘winter’.  You get soft in these sub-tropical conditions though and complain it’s cold when it dips below 20 degrees celcius. It’s all relative.

Winter will be winter anywhere so we’ve also had torrential rain! And given Bermuda is a rock, with a few inches of soil on top in most parts, the drainage isn’t the best….

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Amongst all the new year celebrations, driving through surface flooding, and swimming in the middle of winter, the city of Hamilton in Bermuda was recently named the world’s most expensive city. While Bermuda’s economy has one of the highest per capita earning in the world, as the survey shows, living in Bermuda is not cheap. Unfortunately surveys such as this don’t take into consideration income levels and the fact that there is no income tax in Bermuda, so they don’t really give an accurate picture.

Before moving to Bermuda was even on the radar, one of the few things I knew about it was that it is a tax haven (complete with gorgeous pink sand beaches and turquoise waters of course). Okay so ‘tax haven’ is probably not the right word….  Anyway, I thought I’d set out to clear up a few preconceived notions about what makes Bermuda an attractive place to do business and work.

Bermuda is considered “offshore” which means a company might choose to relocate part or all of its functions from another country to Bermuda to take advantage of lower costs. And its main economies are international business and tourism. International business is made up of insurance, reinsurance and fund and trust management. What on earth is reinsurance might you ask? It’s essentially insuring the insurance companies.  So if there was a major natural disaster – it means the insurance companies are covered if they can’t foot the bill.

What about tax? Well there is no sales taxes in Bermuda and as I mentioned earlier, there is no income tax. That said, you or your employer pays a small “payroll tax” – I believe this is something around 6%.

This might sound like the best thing yet and why are more people not taking advantage of this tax free income?… well that’s because there are taxes on just about everything else.  There is property and real estate taxes (and the average price of a house in Bermuda is around US$1 million). There are taxes on groceries, mobile phone bill, transport, imports (a hefty 22.5% on things like clothing bought overseas), etc etc. You even have to beg the post office to give you your birthday present without paying customs tax (that they make you open at the post office – but don’t get me started on that!).

But I still think you come out on top.  With high wages and no income tax and an island with limited temptations to spend your hard earned cash on, it seems like a no brainer.

Kiwi in Bermuda

 

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