Plan Before You Make Your Move
I've gotten a few comments lately from readers who, after a vacation to Buenos Aires, are anxious to come and live here, but quite frequently they fail to plan adequately. The owner of ApartmentsBA made a very good comment about this that I'd like to share and then discuss.
Keep reality in focus. It can be 'romantic' or exciting to just walk away from life but have a solid gameplan. I can't emphasize this enough. I see so many foreigners (especially Americans) moving to BA to live out some fantasy. Most of them live here just a few months and reality sets in. They have no prospects for a job or making money and have to move back home.
Unemployment rates have drastically fallen from their highs but keep in mind that salaries are extremely low here and cost of living is going up. There are many bilingual, educated, English-speaking college graduates here. They aren't making a lot of money, so why would someone pay you more? You have to look at things in terms of that. Most Americans I talk to that want to live here can't speak any Spanish (let alone decent Spanish) yet they still think somehow they will find this great paying job and live their dream life.
The reality is that you have to plan well. Honestly, look around and you will see that most foreigners fail here. In fact, El Expatriado is one of the only ones that I know that has succeeded and it's because he had a solid foundation and good business plan and planned things out.
The Reality of Argentina
Most of us are not independently wealthy. We need income to survive. Right now Argentina is cheap enough that, if you bought a place to live, you could live well on $1000-1500 USD per month. Could you live on less? Sure, but you'd need to be frugal and watch your budget closely. Lots of things we have in the United States and take for granted are luxuries here. If you want to try and replicate the lifestyle you had in the United States, you'll need more money.
All the Americans (and Argentines) I know here that are doing well financially are either selling their products / services abroad or working in the tourism / hospitality industry here, earning their money in dollars. If you get a job here, expect to be paid between $400-1000 USD monthly, depending on your skills. And that's only if you can find a job that is somehow working with foreigners where your skills would be needed.
The Buenos Aires Labor Market
The point ApartmentsBA makes about having to compete against locals is a good one. I could potentially hire an American here to work customer service for my U.S. clients, but the Argentine that I hired speaks English, Spanish, and French. His English accent is very good, so it doesn't bother my U.S. customers much. Since he's a local, he can also help me with whatever I need done locally as well - odds & ends. I also wouldn't be paying anywhere near $1000 USD per month for that position.
The only way I'm paying someone $1000 USD per month here is if they're brining in business or they're such an effective manager that they can run the business for me and I don't have to even think about it anymore. The point is, you'd only pay a salary like that to a very special person. So, it is unrealistic for an American to think they're going to come here and earn that.
The Importance of Good Planning
I had a software development center here in Buenos Aires a full year before I even gave one thought to moving here. It was only through my repeated trips to Buenos Aires that I realized how much I liked it here. Since I do most of my selling over the internet and through word of month, I rarely met my clients in person. So, for me, it didn't really matter where I lived. That's not a normal situation for most people.
Don't think it'll be easy to just come here and start a business either. I've had an office here for 2 years and today my Argentina sales add up to about 3% of my business. Don't expect anyone here to pay you in dollars for your services. Also, the reason I have Argentine partners is that they need my help to sell to people from the U.S., not the other way around. People are going to be much more receptive to entering into a partnership with you if you can drive sales to people in your country, not the other way around. Don't expect to find someone who will magically help you sell your products and services here. Your Argentine partners will expect you to be working the magic.
So, it isn't impossible to come here and live well. It does take good planning, however. Think things through. Your best bet may be just to stay in the U.S. a little longer and work on that nest egg. If you really save and be very frugal, you can work up the savings required to live here. Remember, with just $1500 USD in income per month and owning a property you'll be well off. If invested properly, that doesn't require such a huge amount of savings.
Good luck, and I hope to see you all soon in Buenos Aires. Just be smart about it!