The Rayo Money Framework 2

Part 2: Get Started on your Savings Plan

Welcome to Part 2 of the Rayo Money Framework!

In Part 1 of this series, we gave a quick snapshot on elements that made up the Rayo Money Framework, and also covered tips and tricks on how you can track and collate your income from various sources. You also learned how to create your budget, and track and control your expenses. If you need a refresher, revisit these ideas here:

5 Elements of Rayo Money Framework:

  • Income
  • Expenses
  • Savings
  • Insurance
  • Investments

In Part 2, we will dive into another critical aspect of your money situation — savings. Your income is what keeps you going today, but to ensure that your future is protected as well, you need savings. And to be financially independent today and in the future, you must create a savings plan. And this is what this article is all about. Here, we will show you how to manage and control your savings. We will also explain how you can find your “net worth”, create an “emergency fund”, and set up a “savings fund” to create wealth.

Don’t worry if these terms sound overwhelming right now. As you keep going, you will see how the Rayo Money Framework simplifies all these ideas for you. Just make sure that you don’t just read or skim through the ideas. Imbibe them, and take action as soon as you can!

GET STARTED WITH YOUR SAVINGS PLAN

In this section, we’ll talk about savings — both for sudden emergencies as well as for the future — and how you can manage your debts, if any.

The first thing you need to do is consolidate everything you know about your financial situation. This means you need to understand your “net worth”.

STEP 1: REVIEW YOUR NET WORTH

Your net worth primarily consists of your:

Assets: what you own

  • Bank account balance: checking, savings, etc.
  • Property: home, building, office, factory, land, etc.
  • Investments: taxable and non-taxable
  • Jewelry
  • Intellectual Property: rights to a book, piece of music, invention, etc.
  • Vehicles
  • Stocks or bonds
  • 401(K) plan

Liabilities: what you owe

  • Loans
  • Mortgages
  • Credit card debt

Net worth = Assets — Liabilities

If you want to grow wealth, your Assets must be greater than your Liabilities.

A good way to find your net worth is to create your Personal Balance Sheet. Remember how we created a Personal Income Statement in the previous section? A Personal Balance Sheet is a similar exercise, albeit with Assets and Liabilities, rather than Income and Expenses.

Here’s an example of what your Personal Balance Sheet might look like:

Understanding your net worth will help you get a better sense of your financial progress and goals, because if you know what you’re worth, you can decide how much you need to save and invest for the future.

STEP 2: SET UP STANDING INSTRUCTIONS FOR AN EMERGENCY FUND

According to the 50–10–20–20 rule, you must allocate 20% of your income to an emergency fund.

An emergency fund is what you save to manage unforeseen events:

  • Job loss
  • Accident
  • Sudden illness
  • Unplanned expense due to a natural disaster

You should not touch these monies for your living or lifestyle expenses. If you find yourself falling short, you should find ways to cut your expenses, rather than dipping into this fund.

This is because:

  • Living and lifestyle expenses fund your present
  • Savings and emergency funds are for your future

When it comes to this fund, one great rule of thumb to follow is to “pay yourself first”. This means you should always set aside money in your emergency fund before you spend any money on your living or lifestyle expenses. And the best way to maintain discipline with this item is to set up standing instructions (SI) in your bank account. Set up a monthly SI so as soon as your checking account is credited with your income (from your primary source, e.g. job), 20% is automatically transferred to a separate emergency fund account located at either the same bank or at a different bank. This is what paying yourself first means.

STEP 3: CREATE A “SAVINGS FUND”

What is the difference between a SAVINGS FUND and an EMERGENCY FUND?

Simply put, an emergency fund is what you put aside to protect yourself from unforeseen events, while a savings fund is what you set aside to create wealth for the long term.

Now you can either leave this money in your bank account where it will earn interest, or you can invest it in a financial instrument like stocks, Certificates of Deposit (CD), bonds, etc. Bank interest rates on savings accounts tend to be very low, so leaving your savings here is not the best way to create long-term wealth. This is where you need to be smart with your savings, and invest it!

How much money should you put into your Savings Fund?

This would depend on both your medium and long-term life goalsand your net worth.

Examples of life goals:

  • Buy a house
  • Complete an advanced degree (Master’s, PhD, etc.)
  • Get married
  • Have a baby

Try these strategies to set up and manage your savings fund:

  • Identify your key goals and assign a timeline to each
  • Identify the amount of money you would need to meet that goal as per that timeline
  • Calculate how much you need to earn (income), spend (expenses) and save (savings) to match this amount
  • If you have loans or other debts, make sure you consider your loan repayment schedule in your plan
  • If you’re on an existing loan (say, a mortgage) and are out of your lock-in period, find out the latest rates, and if you can refinance it with a lower interest rate

Tips to increase your savings

  • If you foresee a large expense in the near future, cut unnecessary/lifestyle expenses today
  • Lower the amount you allocate to your lifestyle expense budget, and move the difference to your emergency or savings funds
  • Avoid using a credit card if you find it difficult to control your spending
  • But also reduce the amount of cash you carry in your wallet to minimize the temptation to make cash purchases
  • Opt for a card that gives you rewards, cash rebates, or air miles with every purchase
  • Identify repeated expenses and see if you can either club them into a one-time expense, or if you can eliminate them entirely

Next: Part 3: Protect Yourself with Insurance and Grow Your Wealth with Investments

Congratulations on finishing Part 2 of the Rayo Money Framework! By now, you have a good handle on the three critical parts of your unique financial situation — your incomeexpenses and savings.

In the third and final part, we explore two more ideas to round out your financial plan — insurance and investments.

If you’d like to revisit Part 1 of the Rayo Money Framework on income and expenses, click here

  • Disclaimer — The contents on this site and the Rayo Money Framework are for informational purposes only and does not constitute financial, accounting, or legal advice.


The Rayo Money Framework

Take charge of your personal finances with the Rayo money framework

Part 1: Understand your income and track your expenses

The concept of money as we know it has undergone radical transformations since the modern homo sapiens first created a barter system to exchange goods and services.

Today, money is a store of value. It’s what you use to buy stuff, to explore leisure-time activities, and to build a life of comfort. In fact, a lack of money can seriously affect the quality of your life, as well as the lives of those who depend on you. Moreover, an unexpected event or personal setback like a medical emergency, job loss or divorce can have a disastrous impact on your current and future well-being. All of this is true regardless of your personal circumstances, career choice or family background — whether you’re a U.S. citizen or new immigrant, man or woman, senior citizen or young adult.

And that’s why it’s important to manage your money.

If you’re not sure where to start, the Rayo Money Framework is here to help!

Greater financial stability and economic independence are within your reach with the Rayo Money Framework. All you need is patience, commitment, self-awareness, and a willingness to keep learning and improving!

In this 3-part blog series, we will show you everything you need to:

  • Understand your current financial situation
  • Identify gaps you need to address
  • Set goals and objectives to achieve financial independence
  • Take the necessary actions to achieve these goals

Think of the framework as a “living document” that you regularly update and personalize as your needs and goals change. Each part includes step-by-step ideas to help you create your unique financial plan. In the first article, we will talk about two of the most important aspects of your money situation — your income and your expenses. Part 2 will address another key aspect — your savings. And the third and final part is about insurance and investment, two money matters that most people typically ignore, or are unaware of. Make sure you review these three articles in the right order to get the most value out of them.

Greater financial stability and economic independence are within your reach with the Rayo Money Framework.

Ready to get started?

Let’s dive into Article 1!

The 5 Parts of the Rayo Money Framework

The Rayo Money Framework consists of 5 key elements.

  • Income
  • Expenses
  • Savings
  • Insurance
  • Investments

How to use the Rayo Money Framework:

  • Block out some time to thoroughly review it (it’s an extensive process, so be sure to block out 2–3 hours across three days to complete it!)
  • Print it out if required
  • Identify the key action items that apply to you
  • Assign dates to each item so you have a goal to work towards
  • Track your progress regularly

Figure 1

Understand your Income

Let’s start at the beginning. Without income, there can’t be any savings, investments or insurance, so it’s critical that you get this part of your Rayo Money Framework exactly right.

STEP 1: UNDERSTAND YOUR INCOME SOURCES

Understand how much money you’re bringing in from your regular job, business, or other sources of income.

Take a look at the table below and fill it out. We have filled out a couple of rows to help you get started. Feel free to add or remove rows or columns as per your unique personal situation. For example, if you have a couple of side hustles going on in addition to your regular job, say you tutor high school kids and you earn money from Amazon affiliate marketing, add these to the table, and update each row accordingly.

The table is so simple that you can use Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets to manage it. No complex personal finance app or software are required!

Figure 2

Helpful tips:

  1. Gather your bank statements, salary slips and other documents to clarify your income sources
  2. Calculate your weekly, monthly and yearly income
  3. Update the table on the first or last day of each month
  4. For “irregular” income sources, use the best estimate or average figures to populate the table each month

STEP 2: CREATE YOUR BUDGET

Now that you know how much you’re earning, you’re ready to create your budget.

Use the 50–10–20–20 Rule to allocate a fixed amount from your income to each of the below items:

What does this rule mean in practical terms?

Simply put, it means that you break down your income into 4 key parts, and allocate an amount to each part every month.

So, if your total monthly income is $5,000, here’s what the 50–10–20–20 Rule will look like for you:

Figure 3
Figure 4

What this means is that out of a total income of $5,000, you now know the:

  • Maximum you can spend on living and lifestyle expenses
  • How much you should put aside in an emergency fund
  • How much you should save or invest

Now that you know how much you’re earning, you’re in a better position to figure out the rest of the framework as it applies to your unique situation.

Track your expenses

This part of the Rayo Money Framework can be a bit tricky because it requires being honest with yourself — something that a lot of people struggle with. If this sounds like you — it’s okay! Remember that the Rayo Money Framework is meant to help you create the plan for yourself.And that’s why, the more honest you are (with yourself), the better your plan will be. This will help you sort out your finances in no time!

STEP 1: DEFINE YOUR CURRENT FINANCIAL PICTURE

Prepare to ask yourself these 4 questions:

  1. What do I spend my money on?
  2. Am I spending on needs or wants?
  3. Is there a need to cut down on any expense(s)?
  4. Is there a need to reallocate the money spent on one item to another item?

To find the answers, move to Steps 2 and 3, and then come back to this step.

STEP 2: BREAK UP YOUR EXPENSES

Now it’s time to take action on the 50–10–20–20 rule we discussed in Part 1. Let’s tackle the Living and Lifestyle expenses bit first. Then we will discuss Savings and Emergency Expenses.

Before we get into the details, do you remember how we allocated 50% of your income to living expenses and only 10% to lifestyle expenses?

Figure 3

What do these percentage amounts really mean?

It simply means that you can spend 50% of your income on living expenses, and only 10% on lifestyle expenses.
Such an allocation will help you control your expenses, so that you don’t overextend yourself on leisure expenses, like vacations or shopping if your income doesn’t “allow” it.

For example, say you want to book a two-week vacation to Hawaii in March.

Expected cost of the holiday = $3,000

According to the 50–10–20–20 rule, since you are allocating 10% of your income ($500) per month to lifestyle expenses. So this is what your Lifestyle budget will look like in March:

Figure 5

By March, you should have saved at least $3,000 in your Lifestyle budget to fund your Hawaii vacation. However, you are short by $1,500. This means that the earliest you can take your vacation (assuming the cost of the holiday remains $3,000) is June.

Figure 6

Now, let’s get into the nitty-gritties of living and lifestyle expenses.

First, identify your expenses and allocate them to either the Living column or Lifestyle column.

Remember, as per the 50–10–20–20 rule, you allocate:

  • 50% to living expenses
  • 10% to lifestyle expenses

Living expenses for Month 1

Monthly income: $5,000

Amount available: 50% ($5,000) = $2,500

Figure 7
Figure 8

Figures 7 and 8 will help you identify and track your expenses from month to month.

Now, your expenses will likely vary from one month to another, so you should track your expenses at the end of every month. Use the below table:

Figure 9

According to Figure 9, by the end of the year, you would have saved $1,700 on budgeted living expenses, and $2,340 on budgeted lifestyle expenses.

Both Figures 6 and 7 show savings. However, you may also experience some shortfalls, say due to an unexpected expense, or due to a sudden increase in the price of something else. And that is okay, as long as you try to adjust your expenses in the coming months. The main aim is to ensure that by the end of the year, you don’t overshoot your budget for either living or lifestyle expenses.

And what if you have saved some amount on your budget?

This is the best situation to be in!

In our example, since you have achieved savings in both living and lifestyle expenses, you can:

i) Carry this money forward for next year’s living or lifestyle expenses

Implication: Your budget for next year will be slightly higher than the previous year.

OR

ii) Move it into your Emergency fund account (see Part 3: Savings)

Implication: You will have more money in the account and therefore a bigger “cushion” if something goes wrong next year.

OR

iii) Invest it (more details on Investments in our third blog post)

Implication: You can invest more money for your future.

STEP 3: REVISIT THE QUESTIONS FROM STEP 1

Remember the 4 questions from Step 1:

  1. What do I spend my money on?
  2. Am I spending on needs or wants?
  3. Is there a need to cut down on any expense(s)?
  4. Is there a need to reallocate the money spent on one item to another item?

Once you identify your expenses, you will have clarity on Questions 1 and 2.

Next, identify if there are any expenses you can cut down on for the foreseeable future.

So, if you are struggling to meet your monthly living expenses, or plan to spend your Christmas vacation in Florida, but are unsure if you will have enough funds, check if you can cut down on some other expenses.

Try these tips:

  • Review your “needs” (lifestyle expense) and “wants” (living expense)
  • Prioritize what is important, necessary or both
  • Understand if you have mistakenly identified a need as a want, and see if you can cut it
  • Cut all expenses that are unnecessary, unimportant or purely discretionary (i.e. you can live without them without affecting your day-to-day life)
  • If completely eliminating a regular expense is not possible, cut a percentage amount every month that you can live with

STEP 4: CREATE A “PERSONAL INCOME STATEMENT”

Now that you have clarity on your Income and Expenses, it’s a good idea to track them together. This is because when you can see both your inflows and outflows in one single sheet, you get a complete picture of your current financial situation.

Here’s a simple table you can use on a monthly basis to simplify your life. You can also create an annual version. Use Excel or any spreadsheet application.

Going back to our previous example:

Figure 10

Now you know whether you’re in a good position to allocate money to your emergency and savings funds as per the 50–10–20–20 rule.

Next: Part 2: Get Started on your Savings Plan

Now that you have your income and expenses in order, are you ready to tackle the next part of your financial plan? In Article 2, we explore and simplify ideas about your savings. Stay tuned for the second article coming up next week!

 

References

https://easyfamilyfinance.com/2017/12/24/what-is-the-personal-financial-framework/

https://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/personalfinance.asp

https://blog.seedly.sg/beginner-series-tips-seedly-money-framework

https://www.schwab.com/resource-center/insights/content/whats-your-portfolio-role-various-asset-classes

https://www.timesnownews.com/business-economy/personal-finance/article/investment-or-insurance-what-is-more-critical-in-financial-planning/614074

https://corporatefinanceinstitute.com/resources/templates/excel-modeling/personal-financial-statement-template/

https://easyfamilyfinance.com/2017/12/24/what-is-the-personal-financial-framework/

https://johnmccarthycpa.com/the-framework-for-personal-finance/

https://deanyeong.com/personal-finance-guide/

*Disclaimer

The contents on this site and the Rayo Money Framework are for informational purposes only and does not constitute financial, accounting, or legal advice.


How much should immigrants in the U.S. save in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and beyond

“How much money should I be saving in my 20s, 30s, 40s and beyond?”

This is an age-old question that everybody wants to know the answer to, especially so for immigrants in a new country who need the financial security in the event of any emergencies. Now, there’s no “one-size-fits-all” answer to suit every immigrant, as everyone comes from a different background, with factors like family, education, wealth, current commitments, etc. playing a role in who they are today, and who they’re likely to be in future. For instance, some immigrants who are the only child would need to provide support for their parents back home; older siblings in the U.S. pay for their younger siblings’ education and other expenses; and younger immigrants sometimes have the financial backing of their parents during their studies, which means that they can graduate debt-free — a luxury that many students in the U.S. don’t have. All these realities play a role in how much a person needs to save, in addition to other factors like current lifestyle, expected future lifestyle, family setup, expected retirement age, etc.

But whether you’re a fresh graduate, well set in your career, or already blazing your own life path in your new country, one thing will always remain the same for everyone — it’s important to save. And it’s never too late to start. By following some general guidelines, you can be better prepared to achieve your goals and confidently navigate through your new life in the U.S..

Ready to start thinking about saving some moolah?

Why Every Immigrant in the U.S. Must Save

How much money should you save if you’re a youngster in your 20s with few responsibilities and commitments? And what is the “right” amount if you’re in your 50s and making retirement plans?

Before finding the answers to these questions, it’s important to answer the question of why you need to save and why identifying an ideal amount can be helpful. To start with, remember that regardless of your current age, lifestyle or aspirations, the future is always uncertain. Aiming for an ideal amount to set aside can help you prepare for whatever the future may hold for you — good or bad — including:

  • Emergencies such as medical troubles, accidents, job losses or natural disasters
  • Pursuing new hobbies
  • Making large purchases, such as a retirement home, a foreign holiday or family car
  • Supporting your family members, say, with education or medical expenses
  • Retirement

How much money should you save by age?

First, keep in mind that savings and savings goals are subjective. This means, they’re different for different people. Second, you should think about savings from two aspects — your annual income, and an emergency fund.

Regarding the first, there are no hard and fast rules about how many dollars you should have in the bank, but based on your annual income, here are some figures for you to aim towards:

Table 1

So if you’re 25 and earning a salary of $50,000 per year, by your 30th birthday, you should have saved at least $50,000. Similarly, if you’re 65, and earn $125,000, and plan to retire at 67, you should have savings of at least $1,250,000 tucked away.

These savings include anything you may have in a retirement account, like a 401(k) or Roth Individual Retirement Account (IRA), as well as investments in things like index funds. Also, if you have worked in the U.S. for at least 10 years, and have accumulated 40 U.S. work credits, you may qualify for monthly Social Security benefits starting at age 62. These payments, along with your retirement account can be used to supplement your savings.

Let’s consider an example using data from the U.S. Census Bureau. According to the 2018 American Community Survey (ACS)[1], between 2017 and 2018, the real median household income in the United States was $61,937. This figure is for all households, not just immigrant households, but the figures will still give you a good starting point to create your own savings plan. Based on Table 1, here’s what you will need to save if your annual income is $61,937.

Table 2

Do remember that these numbers are only guidelines. The actual amount you save will vary based on:

  • Your income
  • Your current financial commitments
  • Aging parents
  • Supporting a non-working spouse
  • School-going children
  • Supporting other relatives back home
  • Current expenses including rent or mortgage, food, travel, etc.
  • Leisure activities including vacations and hobbies
  • Your planned retirement age
  • The kind of lifestyle you want to have after retirement

The second part of your savings should be an “emergency fund” which you should have, regardless of your current age. This fund should cover unexpected or sudden expenses, and must be between 3 to 6 months’ worth of your current expenses.

For instance, if your average monthly expenses are $5,000, your emergency fund should be somewhere between $15,000 to $30,000. This fund should be liquid and easily accessible, such as tucked in an online high-yield savings account instead of a certificate of deposit (CD) or an investment account where your money gets “locked in” (and is therefore difficult to access).

In general, monthly expenses tend to vary depending on many factors, including the individual’s age:

  • 20s: Leisure, shopping, food and drink, rent
  • 30s, 40s, 50s: Family expenses, food and drink, rent/mortgage, leisure
  • 60s: Food and drink, medical expenses, leisure

A good way to figure out your expenses is to track your own spending for a few months, and then calculate the average amount you need month-to-month. Then make sure you have at least 3–6 times this amount in a savings account.

If you can’t put aside a large amount yet, start small. Even $5 per day can help accumulate to a savings of $1825 in a year. If in certain months, your expenses are lower, you can put aside a greater amount into your emergency fund.

When should you start saving?

The answer to this question is simple — as early as possible! The sooner you start saving, the longer you have to take advantage of the power of compound interest, which allows your money to grow over years and decades.

If you’re starting in your 20s, aim to save at least 15% of your annual gross paycheck for retirement. Put it into your 401(k), 403(b), or a similar tax-advantaged retirement account like an IRA. If this is not possible, say, because you just got married and spent a majority of your savings on the wedding, or have just bought a house for your expanding family, start with a percentage that’s more manageable for you. Then try to increase savings by 1% each year until you reach 15%. If possible, you should also invest more than 50% of your savings in stocks to get a higher return on your money.

In general, the older you are when you start saving, the more you will likely need to save in order to meet your financial goals. You should also save more if you plan to retire early (don’t we all?). For example, if you want to retire at 62 and travel the world, you will need a bigger retirement account than if you plan to work until you’re 70.

How to increase your savings

When you start to save, it’s important to have a plan in place. Review your current savings and monthly expenses, and see if you can cover unexpected costs like medical bills. When you understand where you spend your money, you can identify savings opportunities and also start building your emergency fund.

Next, put aside at least 15% of your annual salary into your retirement fund. If you can put aside a higher amount, say 25%, even better. If you’re currently paying back loans or other debts, don’t panic. Stick to your repayment schedule, and put away what you can. Once you’ve paid off a debt, transfer that monthly payment amount into your retirement fund.

You can turbocharge your 401(k) if you save enough to qualify for your employer’s full match. For example, if you’re 35 years old and your annual salary is $50,000, set aside 5% in your 401(k). If your employer matches your contribution by 100%, this is what your retirement fund will look like when you turn 40:

Table 3

Remember that this is just the minimum that you must save from your annual income. Ideally, your savings should be more closely aligned with the figures shown in Table 1.

If you expect to have large expenses in future, say, a new home or your wedding, start saving early. If you expect to have multiple expenses, prioritize both your savings and your expenses. Say you’re 30. You want to get married in the next two years and purchase a home back in your hometown for your parents within three years after that. Both will be large expenses but your priorities based on timelines are different. However, you can try to save $1,500 a month towards both items, say $1000 for the home and $500 for the wedding. After you get married, you can redirect the $500 to your home savings fund.

Also check where you can lower your expenses. Looking at the average cost of each expense can give you an idea of how much you can save, and how much you need to set aside. For example, instead of visiting your home country twice a year, can you make a trip once a years? If you support your parents, can they move in with you so you don’t have to pay the expenses for two households? Can you move into a smaller family home in a less-upscale part of your city?

When saving, automate monthly transfers from your checking account to a savings account or an IRA. This method enables your money to grow automatically and takes the stress out of reaching your goals. It also reduces the temptation of spending your cash.

Save more with Rayo

For immigrants in the U.S., “savings” can be a challenging endeavor. But it doesn’t have to be. Yes, everyone has different priorities, lifestyles and values, and understanding your own priorities, lifestyles and values can help you better manage your money and be more financially responsible. Rayo can support you in this regard by providing financial products and services that are specifically designed to meet the needs of immigrants in the U.S.

From savings accounts and credit cards, to fast money transfers and even personal loans, Rayo can help you kick-start your financial journey and meet your short-, medium- and long-term financial goals in the U.S. Rayo also offers other unique services such as relocation assistance, concierge services, immigrant attorney access, pre-arrival account opening and immigrant help center. If you’re an immigrant, you can join Rayo’s waitlistto become a founding member. Founding members receive unique benefits such as a special edition debit card, dedicated customer support and lifetime fee-free money transfers.

When you emigrated to the U.S., you brought with you many dreams of a better or different life — not only for yourself, but for your loved ones in the U.S. Make these dreams come true through financial planning and saving with Rayo — set up by immigrants to help fellow immigrants navigate the financial world better. Contact Rayo to know more.

 

References

https://www.fidelity.com/viewpoints/retirement/how-much-do-i-need-to-retire

https://www.cnbc.com/select/savings-by-age/

https://www.ally.com/education/financial-life/emergency-fund/

https://www.ally.com/do-it-right/money/savings-by-age-how-much-to-save-in-your-20s-30s-40s-and-beyond/

https://blog.seedly.sg/how-much-savings-age

https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2019/09/us-median-household-income-up-in-2018-from-2017.html

https://www.investopedia.com/retirement/how-much-you-should-have-saved-age/

https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/030816/immigrants-over-65-and-social-security-benefits.asp

[1] https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2019/09/us-median-household-income-up-in-2018-from-2017.html


USA, the wander-land

When you are in the third largest country in the world with a great internal conservation plan in place, your options of a getaway are plenty. Let’s be honest the United States is a huge expanse. And it’s as diverse as they come.

You have the two largest oceans on the flanks, you have your deserts, you have your heap of islands and you have incredible national parks with a diverse conglomeration of flora and fauna. Then there’s always Hollywood.

And let’s be honest, we all know, this lockdown phase is soon going to be over. Soon we will resume to safe travels for all and can begin discovering these amazing places.
So while you sit at home and have that extra time in hand here’s a list of 10 places you could look forward to visiting once the wheels get rolling.

New York City, New York

“Some folks like to get away
Take a holiday from the neighborhood
Hop a flight to Miami Beach or to Hollywood
But I’m takin’ a Greyhound on the Hudson River line
I’m in a New York state of mind” — Billy Joel

Once you have ever fallen in love with New York, you are in love forever. Whether your interests lie in sports, theatre, arts or food, the Big Apple has something for everyone. And of course it’s got Times Square — a place where people from every corner of the world come to celebrate the great nation of the United States of America. And be sure to make a trip to Liberty Island — the place that hosts what’s probably the most recognized face of the country — the Statue Of Liberty.

Mount Rushmore, South Dakota

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is centered on a colossal sculpture carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills of Keystone, South Dakota. With the faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln this structure is a tribute to the foundation of the United States as we know it. Besides the history, it’s home to a diverse ecology, native to South Dakota, it’s also a bird-watcher’s paradise.

Venice Beach, Los Angeles, California

Approximately 28,000 to 30,000 people visit the Venice Beach Boardwalk and the parks and recreation on a daily basis, making it one of the world’s most popular destinations. The Boardwalk is a summer retreat for the entire area, which can get pretty hot during the year.

A popular fishing pier, Venice Beach is also a popular spot for various street performers and skaters. All it’s sports courts, skate plaza, pier and other amenities are open to the general public on a daily basis.

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park is a 3,500-sq.-mile of wilderness recreation area that sits atop a volcanic hotspot that is spread across 3 states — Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. Yellowstone features dramatic canyons, alpine rivers, lush forests, hot springs and gushing geysers, including its most famous, Old Faithful. It’s also home to hundreds of animal species, including bears, wolves, bison, elk and antelope. So if you are a wildlife buff, this is one place you definitely want to visit at least once in your lifetime.

New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans is all about the good ol’ times. In every Jazz bar you enter you will hear the sounds of a magical era, re-lived today. At every street corner clarinets and saxophones and throaty divas dole out magical melodies.

There’s so much live music happening every night, that it can feel a little overwhelming. Begin your trip with the best weekly residencies and reputable clubs, then, from there, head over to the French Quarter’s side streets with lively bars and restaurants. The huge immigrant population here makes sure that you have the most amazing palate laid out across the cityscape. From the famous Cubanos to the Beignets, Crawfish to New Orleans Pralines — you are bound to find something that is right up your alley.

Glacier National Park, Montana

A paradise for hikers, the Glacier National park is based on the US-Canadian border. With 700 miles of pristine trails you can hike, swim and do countless activities while fully immersed in nature. Going-To-The-Sun Road is a mesmerizing scenic trip that one should not miss out on. It is a 52 mile drive through the park that offers spectacular views.

The best time to visit the park is July and August.

St. Augustine, Florida

When we talk about Florida we generally talk about Theme Parks and Miami beach, but it would be negligent to overlook USA’s oldest City. Known for its Spanish colonial architecture, St. Augustine has great historical landmarks like Old Jail, Ponce De Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park and the Lightner Museum. The city sits by three rivers which offer you lots of seafood restaurants. If you are on a budget you can always book trolly rides and have access to all the popular tourist attractions this town has to offer. Peak season for St. Augustine is from June to August.

Williamsburg, Virginia

This old time Virginia town is a pocket friendly and educational trip. It features a contemporary art scene, hipster culture and vibrant nightlife. Jamestown and Yorktown are breathing monuments to some of the best-known figures of US’s colonial history. It can get crowded during the summer time as so if you want to avoid the rush you can always visit the town in early spring.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Spread out across 520,000 acres, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is an affordable summer destination perfect for outdoor enthusiasts. This park is one of the few national parks that offers visitors free entry. Spread across the Tennessee-North Carolina border, the Smokies have impressive waterfalls, top-notch fishing, scenic drives and exciting hikes. With evening temperatures in the 60s and 70s, it’s an excellent place to camp. Stop by any of the four visitors’ centers to brief yourself on some park history, pick up trail maps and check out the ranger-led tours.

Mackinac Island, Michigan

Summer vacation on Mackinac Island in Michigan is a throwback to the simplicity of the summer vacations of the 1800s. A ferry to the island is required, and once you arrive, there are no cars and no chain hotels. Transportation is by horse and carriage, bicycles, or on foot. The island represents a wholesome kind of vacation that is ideal for families or romantic getaways.

These are just a few places to visit during the spring and summer months once things get back to normal. The list though exhaustive, can include additional places to visit during the winter — Aspen during the skiing season, Vermont during fall and Miami during winter. You can always keep ticking them off, over time.

And when you plan your travel, you won’t have to keep your life on hold as the Rayo App will travel with you and help you manage your financial commitments even while on the go. To learn more about Rayo and the services we offer, visit www.rayo.com.


The Dream is alive

Truth be told, the US that we know today was built by immigrant hands.

When you look at the landmark events, inventions and technological breakthroughs that have shaped America, it’s plain to see that most of them would not have happened without immigrants. If we exclude the early settlers, even in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, some immigrants have changed the course of American history. When we look back, their legacies shine bright not just in the US, but globally.

Nikola Tesla

A colossal figure, Tesla’s contribution to the post-industrial-revolution world and subsequently modern machination is unquestionable. It’s only natural that he became the eponymous inspiration for Elon Musk’s venture.

Born in 1856 in Smiljan, a small Croatian village, back when the area was still part of the Austrian Empires. After a brief glitch in his career due to movement, dropping out of school and his father’s death, Tesla began teaching at his old school in Gospic and in 1881 moved to Budapest. It was here where he started working for the telephone exchange — his first brush with modern technology.
Soon with a relocation to Paris, would follow a position in the Continental Edison Company. When his manager was transferred to the United States, he insisted that Tesla go with him.

This was how the serial inventor came to the United States of America, landing in New York City in 1884. Tesla quit his job at Continental Edison Company soon after, and started Tesla Electric Light & Manufacturing. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1891, which was the same year that he patented the Tesla Coil.

Tesla passed in 1937, leaving behind a rich legacy as one of the most celebrated inventors of all time and one of the most famous immigrants in American history.

Albert Einstein

When you hear the word twentieth century scientist the face of Albert Einstein appears almost instantly. If there is one world famous Physicist in the modern world, he is it.

His immigration, though, was hardly ceremonious. In the early thirties, the persecution of Jews in Germany was picking up and in 1933, the government passed a law against any Jews holding official positions. This included professorship of universities. Soon after a bounty of $5,000 was put out for Albert Einstein — the Jew. It was the same year Hitler officially came to power.

Immigration or imprisonment — those were the two doors that lay ahead. While universities all over the world sought to bring Einstein on board, Einstein decided to settle down at the Institute for Advanced Study in New Jersey. Few years later, Einstein wrote to then President Franklin D. Roosevelt about the looming threat of the Nazi forces. There were also traits of encouragement from him to start the atomic bomb project in this letter — which later led to the development of the world’s first nuclear weapons.

In 1940, Einstein officially gained his U.S. citizenship. He passed in 1955, in Princeton, NJ, remaining vocal about nuclear disarmament once the war ended.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Once an Austrian citizen to a former Nazi father, who Arnold has often gone on to label “abusive”. This in itself suggests to how interesting his story and how great his rise has been. Arnold also served a year in the Austrian Army immediately after turning 18. He was, by then, already competing in the professional body-building circuit.

While still in service, he won the Junior Mr. Europe and was also voted the “best-built man of Europe.” He came in second the first time but it opened up an opportunity to move to London with his next trainer.

London gave him stability. The following year, he won the Mr. Universe contest — the youngest to do so, and followed it up with similar glory the next year as well. He moved to the US in 1968, at the age of 21.

Schwarzenegger became a naturalized U.S. citizen on September 17, 1983.

Then the movies came calling when he was chosen to play the title role in Hercules in New York in 1970. Defying all odds, he became the one of the biggest movie stars in the world in the nineties. Parallelly, a career in politics bloomed.

In 2003, he was elected the Governor of California — a living embodiment of the American Dream.

Indra Nooyi

In 2017, she was ranked the 2nd most powerful woman once more on the Forbes list of The 19 Most Powerful Women in Business. A constant on that list, Indra Nooyi was born in Madras, India on October 28, 1955. After receiving a degree from the Madras Christian College and a Post-Graduate Diploma from the Indian Institute of Management, in 1978, Nooyi moved to the US to pursue a master’s degree in Public and Private Management in 1980 at Yale.

Nooyi, who joined PepsiCo in 1994, was named the CEO of the company in 2006. During her tenure, the company’s sales grew 80%. Nooyi served as CEO for 12 years, 7 years longer than the average CEO tenure at large companies according to an Equilar study. In 2018, Nooyi was named one of the “Best CEOs In The World” by the CEOWORLD magazine.

She has also been a strong voice for the development of Connecticut as a co-director of the Connecticut-based non-profit organization AdvanceCT. In 2008, Nooyi was named one of America’s Best Leaders by U.S. News & World Report.

Rupert Murdoch

If there is one name that could carry the title of a media mogul, it is that of Rupert Murdoch’s. Born in Melbourne in 1931, Keith Rupert Murdoch, the son of Sir Keith Murdoch and Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, who themselves had English, Scottish, and Irish ancestors, had the news in his blood.

His father was a keen newspaper man who owned two regional papers running out of Adelaide. He was also the chairman of the Herald and Weekly times. Rupert joined the family business at the age of 21, upon his father’s passing. And straight away got into expansion mode which laid the foundation for the Murdoch empire as we know today. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Murdoch expanded these holdings across Australia and New Zealand. He expanded even further, into the United Kingdom, in the late 1960s, and in 1974, moved to New York City to focus on the US market.

And there was no looking back. He acquired The New York Post in 1976, and 20th Century Fox in 1984. The next year he gave up his Australian citizenship to become a naturalized US citizen, in order to legally own and operate US television stations. Today, he is the 34th richest person in the US and the 96th richest person in the world.

Levi Strauss

No other piece of clothing speaks American more than a pair of blue denims with the label Levis Strauss Co.
Levi Strauss was born in Germany in 1829, and moved to the American shore in 1847. He was the son of Hirsch Strauss and his second wife Rebecca Strauss (née Haas).

At age 18, Strauss traveled with his mother and two sisters to the United States to join his brothers Jonas and Louis, who had begun a wholesale dry goods business in New York City called J. Strauss Brother & Co.

The family decided to expand to the West Coast to cater to the California Gold Rush. Levi was chosen to represent them, and he took a steamship for San Francisco, where he arrived in early March 1854 and joined his sister’s family.
Strauss opened his wholesale business as Levi Strauss & Co. which then made tents and later jeans while he lived with Fanny’s growing family. Jacob W. Davis was one of his customers and one of the inventors of riveted denim pants in 1871, he went into business with Strauss to produce blue jeans. The two men patented the new style of work pants in 1873. With this, an American icon was born. and the course of fashion was changed forever.

Audrey Hepburn

An icon who transcends movies, fashion, philanthropy and the great American spirit — Audrey Hepburn, the quintessential idol of elegance, was born in Belgium in 1929, to a Jewish family. It was a turbulent time in Europe as the Nazi influence grew and the world was heading towards another great war. To avoid Jewish persecution, the family moved to the Netherlands. But as the Netherlands fell to Germany, they had to go into hiding. She eventually escaped to Britain. At age 22, she moved to the US, where she starred in her first major acting career with the Broadway play, Gigi. Roman Holiday propped her into international stardom and landed her the Academy Award. She is one of few entertainers who have won an Academy, Emmy, Grammy and Tony Awards.

Apart from her acting career, her work with disfranchised children has been monumental. As a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, she travelled extensively for their food programs carrying a beacon of hope wherever she went. Her legacy will remain rich in American history.

Sundar Pichai

Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Alphabet — the parent company of Google was born in Madurai, India on June 10, 1972.

After getting a degree from the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur in metallurgical engineering, he moved to the United States to get an M.S from Stanford University and an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, where he was named a Siebel Scholar and a Palmer Scholar, respectively.

He joined Google in 2004, and after leading the product development for a host of products from the Google Suite, he was named the CEO of the company in 2015. He took over the charges with the completion of the formation of Alphabet Inc. His global influence is now a matter of American pride; now that’s what you call an immigrant song to be sung.

There are so many others who are shining bright in their respective fields and as beacons of hope for other immigrants, every day. Hope that keeps the American Dream alive.


Indian immigrants’ guide to banking in the U.S.

Settling in the United States of America is a dream for many across the world. Whether you’re a fresh college graduate looking to study in the US, a working professional relocating for a job opportunity, or someone moving on a short-term basis, opening a bank account is one of the first steps in finding your financial footing. For Indians immigrating to the US, the contrast between the banking systems in the two countries can seem rather stark. Let’s discuss what the differences are and how you can overcome them.

Account opening procedures

Opening a bank account in the US allows you to manage your finances, access essential services like property rentals and start building credit in the country. While the process of setting up an account is fairly straightforward for American citizens/residents, it might not be so for new immigrants. Every bank has its own requirements, but by and large, you may need the following:

  • Personal and contact details, including full residential address
  • Driver’s licence or state issued ID document
  • Social Security Number (SSN)
  • An opening deposit payment

In the absence of these prerequisites, you may be required to visit the bank. This can be cumbersome for new immigrants, who are not likely to have all their documents in place right away.

Cost of fund transfers

Indians are used to transferring funds at no cost. Banks in India charge zeroto minimum charge on digital transactions via their Real Time Gross Settlement System (RTGS) for large, instant fund transfers and the National Funds Transfer (NEFT) system for other fund transfers. It may come as quite a surprise that some American banks charge an external transfer fee of $3 to $10, increasing the strain on consumers’ pockets.

An important note if you are looking to remit money back to India, is that money transfers to India are also expensive. Banks may charge between $25-$50 for wire transfers overseas. So be mindful and top up that extra bit to ensure that the recipients back home receive the amount intended.

Account fees and surcharges

In the US, look out for hidden fees and surcharges and read your account agreements and disclosures carefully before you open your account. Services that are typically free in India, such as ATM withdrawals, checks, deposits and withdrawals from an account, may be charged for in US bank accounts. There are some websites that do frequent comparisons on fee charges imposed, do check them out.

Difference in banking terminology

Indians who are new to the system may be thrown off by the way accounts are named. For example, a fixed deposit account in India is called a certificate of deposit (CD) in the US. A current account in India is similar to a checking account in the US. Even the spellings differ for common terms — in US checks are spelled ‘checks’ vs. ‘cheques’ in India. Get acquainted with different account types and gauge which one is best for you, based on what they offer.

Opt for digital banks for smoother banking experience

Digital banks save you the hassle of waiting in long lines at the bank and let you take control of your account from anywhere in the world, giving you 24/7 access to your finances. Digital bank accounts usually have no minimum balance requirement, and often offer high yield savings insured by FDIC up to $250,000. Unlike traditional banks, digital platforms enable debit card availability and multi-currency access as soon as you arrive in the US, helping you save on hidden FX fees and added ATM charges.

Settle in faster with Rayo!

If you’re thinking of moving to the US, Rayo promises to give you a head start. Right from opening a bank account until after you’ve settled down in your new home, Rayo is with you all the way through.

One of the most unique features of our offering is that we enable you to set up your US bank account, even before you arrive in the US; so you don’t need to scramble for documents or wait in bank lines.

Another attractive benefit is that you can open your NRE/NRO account in India, which is otherwise a long-drawn-out, tedious process in the US. Once you land in the US, your Rayo Debit card allows you unlimited ATM transactions with no pesky ATM fees. Rayo will soon offer you the ability to apply for a credit card, a personal loan and/or set up an investment account. What’s more, if you become a Founding Member, you get additional benefits such as early access to the Rayo App, dedicated Customer Support, a special edition Rayo Debit card and fee-free money transfers and remittance to home countries, for life! Besides these banking features, we also provide solutions such as free data on your arrival, expert relocation service and access to our immigrant Help Center and Knowledge Base, to help make your transition seamless.

Banking may not be the most exciting part of your relocation, but it is the first step to achieving everything you want in the US. With Rayo, you can expect complete fairness and transparency in everything we offer– ease of set up and use, world class customer service and fast money transfers with great rates. Say goodbye to long lines, costly transactions and hidden FX fees! We’re here to assist you at every stage of your journey, in banking and beyond.


Only in America

Common American things that will surprise you, when you are new to the US

Though the US is composed of people with different backgrounds, nationalities and ethnicities, there are some customs shared by all Americans that may seem odd, especially when you are new to the US. Some things Americans consider to be commonplace are actually quite unique to the US. If you’re not from the US, you may find many of these traditions or customs a little odd, with no clear answer or reason why Americans do these things. Here’s a list of common American customs that will surprise you.

Obsession With College Sports and Alma Mater

You will be hard pressed to find a nation that idolizes college sports more than Americans, and in particular, college football. You probably didn’t know that Americans watch more college football than the National Football League (NFL). Partly because there are over 700 College football teams, and only 32 in the NFL. This is also due to American’s obsession with their Alma Mater (the college or university one attended).

Americans are so proud of the schools they attended that it becomes part of their identity. To many Americans, going to university is a big deal. The better the school, in terms of sports and academics, the stronger affinity an American may have with their school. Even years after they have graduated, Americans will still name drop the college or university they attended.

Yellow School Buses Aren’t Found Outside the U.S.

School buses can be found all over the world, but good luck finding a yellow school bus outside of the US. What makes American school buses unique is that they are painted bright yellow in America. The glossy yellow color was created in 1939 specifically for North American school buses. The color was originally called, National School Bus Chrome, a shade designed to quickly attract attention and keep kids safe.

Treat Pets As Family

There are pet lovers all over the world, but in the US, people take their love to the next level — as many Americans treat their pets like family. As a matter of fact in the US states of Illinois and Louisiana, pets are being treated just like humans or better, as reported by the New Republic. Two-thirds of households in the United States have pets, and these households spend more than $50 million annually on pet care, pet insurance, birthday presents and having professional photographs taken of them.

Black Friday & Cyber Monday

Black Friday is the biggest and busiest shopping day of the year in the US. Black Friday always falls on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Almost every retail brand offers the best deals and promotions of the year on Black Friday. People line up for hours in advance, even the night before, to get the best savings of the year. Cyber Monday is the biggest and busiest online shopping day of the year as well. Cyber Monday always falls on the Monday after Thanksgiving. Almost every online retail brand offers the best deals and promotions of the year on Cyber Monday. In both cases, these national shopping days represent the start of the Christmas shopping season.

Supersized Meals

Anyone who has been to a fast food restaurant in the United States has learned the term ‘Supersize-it”. It sometimes feels like every meal in the US comes with the option for a larger drink or fries, or some other form of supersized food. Large portion sizes often baffle visitors because though the standard size of a soda can is 12 oz, but many fast food chains in the US have supersized options of up to 42 oz.

Free Refills

Have you ever gotten a free refill? Maybe not back home, but in the US, restaurants love to give out free refills of beverages, especially soda. People new to the US might not understand why they should get free refills of the same drink, despite only paying for one. But it’s customary in US — restaurants to make sure your drinks are always filled to keep their customers happy and coming back.

Tipping A Server

In the US, it’s customary to tip up to 20% of a restaurant bill (pre-tax). It’s understood that in the service industry, a server relies on tips to supplement their low wages. According to the Atlantic, tipping accounts for over $11 billion a year in income — that’s a lot of money. As a result of tipping, restaurant goers expect highly attentive restaurant servers, which may also feel strange if you’re new to the US. Common interjections from servers include: “How is everything?” and “Do you need a refill?” But this level of attentiveness is distinctly American.

Doggie Bag

As stated, Americans love to have huge portions and supersized meals. Many can’t finish their supersized meals in one sitting, so they take their unfinished meal home in a “doggie bag.” This started back in the 1940s, when there was a food shortage, it made sense to take leftovers home with them. Eventually, this became part of the fabric of American eating out. In other places around the world, when dining out, the plate size is a normal portion that can be eaten in one sitting.

Fake Cheese or Spray Canned Cheese

Cheese is a staple of American dining, and you will be hard pressed to find a meal without some type of cheese. But did you know that Americans also love fake cheese or cheese in a spray can? Some call it fake cheese because only 51% of the substance is actually cheese, as ordered by US laws. You’ll find this type of cheese served with crackers during football games, or any sporting event hosted at a home. Though spray can cheese started back in the 1960s and is losing some of its popularity, it’s still around today.

Red Solo Cups

In almost every US college social gathering, you will find red Solo cups serving some type of alcohol. The Solo red cup is an iconic American symbol that has been around since 1970. The cups were designed in red to conceal exactly what someone was drinking. The red Solo cups are something you just don’t see outside the US. People around the world throw American themed parties that revolve around the trademarked Solo red cups.

Coffee to Go

Coffee culture is different all around the world; but unlike most countries, coffee culture in America is rooted in a “grab-and-go” philosophy. Cafes in the US serve large portions, in disposable cups, and value quick service to make the coffee line move faster. Whereas in European countries like Italy, drinking coffee is a sit-down affair to be enjoyed; sometimes for hours.

They Drive Everywhere

Have you jumped in a car to drive to a friend’s house that’s literally 3 blocks away, or an hour away? Regardless of the duration of the trip, if you are in the US, you will most likely drive your car. Though public transportation is available in most parts, Americans prefer to drive their cars, especially for short distances within 50 miles. Car culture is one factor affecting driving habits in the US. It doesn’t hurt that highways can be found in every corner of the country, which allows people to drive to almost any destination they want.

Don’t Take Time Off

Americans lead the world in time off not taken because they don’t receive a lot of holiday time. The United States does not require employers to give paid leave to their employees. Many Americans simply can’t afford to take the time off, so they often group their vacations with holidays, to get the feel of more time off.

Have Similar Looking Money

Ever wonder why US dollars are printed green, while almost every other country prints their currency in many colors? Money in the US is printed in green ink because green is plentiful, and it represents stability and growth. And although US currency may look similar with a quick glance, they consist of different amounts showcasing historical American figures.

Price Tags Without Taxes

When shopping in the US, you will never see a price that includes the tax on that item. Often, you won’t know the final price of an item until you checkout. US shops don’t show the total amount with tax included because all 50 states have different state taxes, which will change the final price of an item, depending on where it is bought. It also provides a less expensive price point when consumers are making purchase decisions.

Formatting Dates

If you are new to the States, dates might confuse you. You are not alone because Americans write dates differently. You are probably used to dates formatted as DD/MM/YY. So are we. But in the US, the date is written in the format of MM/DD/YY. Just another thing only Americans do.

Imperial System of Units

Fahrenheit, ounces, gallons and miles — to most people on Earth these measurement units are unfamiliar or a distant memory. The US is only one of the 3 countries which still (mostly or officially) stick to the imperial systems of measurement.

Like most people around the world, Americans enjoy their cultural attributes. They may seem odd to you at first, but with time, they will become part of your culture as well.


Expats’ guide to filing taxes in the U.S.

It’s that time of the year when you have to dredge up your last year earnings. That’s right — it’s tax season. Though this year’s tax filing season has been postponed until July 15, the date is now fast-approaching. For those of you who have recently moved to the US, and even for those who have had experience doing so in the past, we understand how overwhelming this process can be. Here are some #RayoProTips to make your life easier — tips to keep in mind when filing your taxes as an expat in the US. Read on to know how you can complete your tax filing timely with ease.

Register with the IRS — First things first, you are required to have an SSN(Social Security Number) for yourself, your spouse and all dependent family members, and register with the IRS (Internal Revenue System). Your SSN is needed for filing taxes, but just in case you don’t have it, don’t worry. You can still file taxes by applying for an ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number). All you have to do is use Form W-7 along with your IRS ITIN application. Additionally, if you’re an employer, you should also have an EIN (Employer Identification Number).

File the correct forms — Before knowing which forms to file, you need to know which immigrant category you belong to. Immigrants in the US are classified into 2 categories: Resident Aliens and Non-Resident Aliens. Briefly put, a resident alien is a non-citizen, who can be legally considered a resident of the country. A resident alien must either have a Green Card or must have passed a Substantial Presence Test, a criterion used by the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to determine whether an individual who is not a citizen or lawful permanent resident in the recent past, qualifies as a “resident for tax purposes.” A non-citizen who has not passed or is exempt from the Green Card or Substantial Presence Test, is known as a non-resident alien.

Once you’ve determined your immigrant category, all immigrant employees must familiarize themselves with the W-4 Form. This is an important document that allows your employer to determine how much federal income tax to withhold from your monthly or annual paycheck. The IRS also has an online tax withholding calculator to help ensure you have the right amount withheld.

The process is distinctly different for resident aliens and non-resident aliens. If you’re a resident, you can simply use the same forms as an American citizen (Form 1040), if not, you can file Form 1040-NR. These forms determine the total taxable income and deduction/refund for the taxpayers.

Report your foreign assets — The US taxation system requires the residents to declare all their income and investments (US and worldwide) similar to US citizens. If you fall under the resident alien category, you must file the Foreign Bank Account Reporting (FBAR), acknowledging your authority over a financial account outside the United States. You will be required to file taxes only if your foreign accounts exceed $10,000 at any time during the calendar year you’re filing taxes for. According to the IRS, you must file Form 8938 if the aggregate value of your specified foreign financial assets is more than the reporting thresholds. Check if you need to file Form 8938 here.

Learn about tax deductions — You may be eligible for certain tax exemptions under the US taxation system. The W-4 Form (mentioned above), in addition to determining your taxable income, helps you claim tax credits or itemized deductions. Other expenses, like care of a child or an elderly person, can also be used to generate tax credits. You can check your eligibility for such allowances, right here.

Keep a track of state and local taxes — The United States has a layered tax system. There are separate federal, state and local governments, and taxes may be imposed at each of these levels. The federal government follows a progressive tax system, while most of the states have either a flat or progressive tax system. The federal and state taxes have different rules, just like state income taxes can vary from one state to another (#RayoProTip for state taxes: If you are working in one state, and living in another, you will need to file taxes in both states). Read up carefully on these to get a clear picture of which rules and taxes apply to you.

We know that with all its intricacies, the US tax system can be a confusing concept for most natural-born Americans, and even more so for an expat new to the United States. We hope our tips will help make tax filing simple for you this season! Be sure to check in with your CPA for the specifics if you have any doubts about how to proceed. Happy filing!


Five must-dos when moving to the U.S.

Moving to another country can be a daunting experience. Whether you’re moving for a new job, a spot at your dream school or just for a change in scenery, moving to new country means uprooting your life and embracing an entirely new system.

We, at Rayo, understand how difficult moving may be and have come up with a checklist of must-dos if you are moving to the U.S.

Bonus — we have also added some RayoProTips to help you navigate these items.

Opening a Bank Account

One of the first few steps to building a new home overseas is to establish a new bank account. Opening a bank account in a completely new country may seem like a tedious task since you may have no prior credit history established. Generally, to open a bank account in the US, you’ll need to ehave your identification documents on hand, such as your passport and perhaps a reference. Most banks, however, require you to have a US Social Security Number (SSN) for the application. While you can apply for a Social Security Number as part of your Visa application, it might take a while before you get your SSN issued. Unless you’re comfortable going without a bank account for months after your arrival, you’ll need other options.

Here’s the good news — digital alternatives like Rayo allow you to apply for a bank account without a SSN. This means you can start setting up your bank account before you even arrive to the US! Keep in mind, once you arrive, you’ll have 30 days to provide Rayo your SSN, so we can continue to keep your account open. Upon approval of your visa permit to the US, simply apply for a bank account on Rayo by providing some basic information about yourself, and you can be on your way to having your bank account set up even before stepping onto US soil!

Building Credit

When you’re starting to do the financial prep work for your move, you may have noticed that everything revolves around one’s credit history. Although it’s possible to use cash to pay for services when you’re in the US, establishing a satisfactory credit score is sometimes necessary when applying for essential services such as phone contracts, property rentals, and more.

The prerequisite for building credit is getting a SSN, which can be a relatively hassle-free process. The tricky part, however, is that establishing credit requires you to have a good credit score, but credit from your home country isn’t recognized in the US. This is mainly due to existing regulations prohibiting the sharing of credit information overseas.

So how do you start to establish good credit history?

A good place to start is through getting a credit card. Traditionally, getting a credit card as an immigrant may take some time as this too generally requires a SSN. However, digital alternative providers like Rayo, allow eligible immigrants to apply for a credit card immediately, without needing a credit score or having to wait in queues at a bank branch. All you need to do is click “sign up” on Rayo’s website, input your details, and that’s it! Rayo’s Credit Card partner will do the work to determine your eligibility in almost no time.

Once you’ve gotten your first credit card, a RayoProTip is to work towards a good credit score. A credit score is based on some of the following criteria:

  • Payment history: Do you pay your credit card bills on time?
  • Credit utilization: How much of your credit limit do you use?
  • Length of credit history: Length of time you had the credit accounts open
  • Credit mix: How many credit accounts (or cards) do you have open?

Your US credit score can range from 300 to 850. Most people have a credit score between 600 and 750. The higher the score, the better it is. An “excellent” credit score is 750 or above. People with excellent credit scores can usually get the best interest rates on things like car loans and mortgages.

Finding a home in a neighborhood of your choice

This may be one of the most important items on your must-do list, as home is where you spend most of your time relaxing after a stressful week at work. Being new to the country, your neighbors will also be the first few people you get to meet, so this can be an exciting but also stressful decision. For expats with children, there is the added complication of finding a home within a good school district.

It’s important to start this process early. Before you arrive, start browsing online and shortlist neighborhoods you’d like to stay in. Safety, proximity to grocery stores and public transportation and presence of a community to socialize within are important factors to consider while assessing the suitability of a neighborhood.

Contact a real estate agent or put a property management company in charge of your home rental process so you can start viewing properties as soon as you arrive. Here are some popular and credible real estate listings you can browse through to ease your process: Real Estate Listing and Agency Sites

You may be asked to show your international credit score or proof of employment when applying as a non-citizen. RayoProTip: set aside 30% of your salary for your rent.

If you’re moving as part of your job, relocation experts may help make your move smoother. It’s still a good idea to shortlist the neighborhoods you would like to stay in and let your relocation specialist know.

Getting the right health insurance plan

Access to healthcare facilities is one of the biggest concern immigrants face. Medical costs in the US are known to be among the highest in the world. Find out if your employer will provide healthcare coverage for you and your family. If not, make sure you pick a suitable health insurance plan after carefully studying the in-network coverage, co-pays and deductible. RayoProTip: Review this step-by-step guide to better understand the ins and outs of US Health Insurance. — Health Insurance Guide.

Obtaining a driver license

The US is a huge country, and driving is the most common mode of transport — make sure to get a driver license as soon as possible. As a new US resident, you can use your license from your home country or an International Driving Permit for 30 to 90 days, depending on the state you reside in. After this period, you will need to obtain your a US driving license. RayoProTip: Details such as required documents, fees etc. differ from state to state, but the general process remains the same. Read more about How to Apply for a US Driving License.

There are two means of identification at the state level: the ID card, and the Driver License. The former allows you to identify yourself to the authorities or anyone that may need your identification. The latter accomplishes the same purpose, but also indicates you can legally drive a motor vehicle.

For expats moving to a city and do not foresee themselves driving, you should know that a driver license can be used for certain applications and is commonly used as a form of identification. It’s also always handy to have one should you decide to embark on a cross-country road trip! So why not just apply and keep it, just in case?

Starting a new life in a new country can be overwhelming. If you’re relocating to the US, we know you’ve got plenty on your plate, so leave the banking to us! At Rayo, we strive to give you financial peace of mind with a tailored, seamless and borderless banking experience. Our financial products and services are here to assist you at every step of your journey — so you can land smoothly and hit the ground running.


Quick analysis on the executive order signed by U.S. President

On April 20, 2020, President Trump addressed the nation on immigration issues that will affect your lives directly. President Trump signed an executive order on temporarily blocking the issuance of green cards to those outside the United States. There are many exceptions which makes the Executive order more confusing.

Let’s recap what happened that caused some confusion. First, Donald Trump announced that he would STOP immigration at the press conference. Later, the White House unveiled some vague details about his executive order. Finally, the actual executive order was published for all to see, so we can now interpret what it means.

Needless to say, these executive orders have been quite an emotional roller coaster for those who were applying for a work visa in the US, as well as for Green Card applicants. It seemed possible that the immigration visa processes were going to be stopped entirely. Now that the executive orders have been published, let’s clarify what the order really means.

Full executive order below. Proclamation 9994 of March 13, 2020

Section 1. Suspension and Limitation on Entry. The entry into the United States of aliens as immigrants is hereby suspended and limited subject to section 2 of this proclamation.

Sec. 2. Scope of Suspension and Limitation on Entry.

(a) The suspension and limitation on entry pursuant to section 1 of this proclamation shall apply only to aliens who:

(i) are outside the United States on the effective date of this proclamation;

(ii) do not have an immigrant visa that is valid on the effective date of this proclamation; and

(iii) do not have an official travel document other than a visa (such as a transportation letter, an appropriate boarding foil, or an advance parole document) that is valid on the effective date of this proclamation or issued on any date thereafter that permits him or her to travel to the United States and seek entry or admission.

(b) The suspension and limitation on entry pursuant to section 1 of this proclamation shall not apply to:

(i) any lawful permanent resident of the United States;

(ii) any alien seeking to enter the United States on an immigrant visa as a physician, nurse, or other healthcare professional; to perform medical research or other research intended to combat the spread of COVID-19; or to perform work essential to combating, recovering from, or otherwise alleviating the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees; and any spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old of any such alien who are accompanying or following to join the alien;

(iii) any alien applying for a visa to enter the United States pursuant to the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program;

(iv) any alien who is the spouse of a United States citizen;

(v) any alien who is under 21 years old and is the child of a United States citizen, or who is a prospective adoptee seeking to enter the United States pursuant to the IR-4 or IH-4 visa classifications;

(vi) any alien whose entry would further important United States law enforcement objectives, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees, based on a recommendation of the Attorney General or his designee;

(vii) any member of the United States Armed Forces and any spouse and children of a member of the United States Armed Forces;

(viii) any alien seeking to enter the United States pursuant to a Special Immigrant Visa in the SI or SQ classification, subject to such conditions as the Secretary of State may impose, and any spouse and children of any such individual; or

(ix) any alien whose entry would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees.

The executive order above describes a temporary new process to acquire a Green Card. These changes will materially impact US immigration norms in many ways. The main effect of the new executive order is that spouses and minor children of Green Card holders will no longer be able to apply for a Green Card from outside of the US (the only exception for this is theEB-5 Investor Green card application). This includes both adult children and siblings of US Citizens applying from outside of the US. Additionally, the executive order describes the halting of the green card Lottery.

Fortunately, the executive order does not affect all applicants. One will still be able to apply for a Green Card if you are within the US. Which means that spouses and minor children (under 21) of US Citizens can apply if they are already in the US. Also, Temporary Visas, like H1-B or student visas will not be affected; nor will applications for Medical, Nurses, Army or Health Care professionals coming in to help combat COVID-19 be affected.

According to CNN, there had been a rate of 30,000 Green Card application approvals on a monthly basis (approximately 1M annually) — these will be cut severely by this new order and will affect approximately 358,000 Green Card applicants.

The White House announced their plan to reassess this order in 50 days and will determine next steps on whether to extend or finalize the executive order.

As immigrants ourselves, we understand the challenges of immigrating to the US. That’s why it’s important to us to make the Rayo community aware of relevant changes that may impact you, or a loved one’s move. We also specialize in tailoring our financial services to your needs, so you can meet the changing immigration system head-on, and with a friend like Rayo.

References

https://www.natlawreview.com/article/president-trump-expected-to-sign-executive-order-to-temporarily-suspend-immigration

https://www.politico.com/news/2020/04/20/trump-suspend-immigration-coronavirus-197755

https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/22/politics/immigration-executive-order-trump/index.html

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2020/4/21/21229286/trump-immigration-ban-executive-order-coronavirus