My Personal Finance Journey

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The Cost of Keeping A U.S. Identity

Contributed by mm | March 3, 2006 5:03 PM PST

At the onset of my three-year expatriate journey, my attorney advised me to maintain my U.S. identity to ensure successful repatriation. I found this to be sound advice -- even without it, I do intend to keep my U.S. ties. For sure, there will be a time I will return and live in one part of the country or another.

Maintaining an identity usually involves keeping a phone number and street address, and optionally, cell phone number and fax number. I'm lucky to find a number of low-cost providers for these services:

1. Phone Number

I'm retaining Vonage and paying $16.94/month ($14.99 for 500-minute basic plan, $1.50 for "Regulatory Recovery Fee" and $.045 for "FET tax") to keep my original home number. I'm also enjoy the flexibility of Vonage being a VOIP provider -- I can dial all U.S. phone number as local numbers and receive calls as before.

2. Cell Phone Number

We are keeping two cell phones with Verizon Wireless. In August, we signed up for two free phones via a corporate plan, and currently we are only paying $1.21/month (plus per-minute charges) to keep the account active. The cell phones are particularly useful when I'm on business trips in the States (about once every quarter).

3. Fax Number

I use eFax for a virtual fax number. The service charges me $12.95 per month for a Seattle-based number. If you don't need a specific area code, the service will be free! (Additional per-page charges apply.)

4. Street Address

I paid $291 in October for a one-year lease of a fairly large mailbox at the local UPS Store (I do have a lot of mails/magazine subscriptions). This gives me a street address instead of a PO box (if you go to the USPS route). Cleaning up this physical mailbox is now the #1 in my to-do list for my quarter trip to the mothership.

5. Credit Monitoring

I also feel it is prudent to actively monitoring my credit profile (on top of relying on free annual credit reports from the three credit reporting agencies). At $7.46/month, I found TransUnion credit monitoring services via Walmart Financial Services to be one of the best deals around.

All the above services add up to an affordable $800 a year, but I didn't mention one thing, the tax bill! In fact, I am still subject to federal income tax and FICA tax. The FICA tax alone set me back about $9,000 a year. Of course, paying tax is the right thing to do, but it is still costly.

This Post Has Received 32 Comments. Share Your Opinions Too.


Adam Commented on March 3, 2006

For credit monitoring, a free alternative is to get a no annual fee Providian card. If you log in to your account online, you can see your FICO score monthly, as well as the history for the past 6 months or so (I think it's based on TransUnion data).

I know you're concerned about applying for new credit cards now that you're living outside the US, but use your UPS Store address, and apply a month or so before your next visit to the US, and pick up the card then. I'm living in Australia now and have done this.


Pablo Commented on March 5, 2006

Credit monitoring is great. The central service for getting your free credit report is actually www.annualcredit report.com not the one that is advertsied on TV.

I have found this site to be helpful in fixing credit problems

http://www.brokencredit.com


Wandering Indian Monk Commented on March 7, 2006

You could save even more money switching your VOIP provider to SunRocket (www.sunrocket.com) and signing up for their $199 annual package.


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