Norma & Ray Branch announce the birth of their great-granddaughter, Riley Anne Branch, born November 15, 2014.
Riley Anne is the granddaughter of Aramco Brat Scott Branch and the daughter of Scott’s son Zachary and his wife, Caitlin.
She is appropriately dressed for a Carolina Gamecocks fan!
Photo of the Week
Aramco ExPats celebrated its twelfth anniversary in 2014, a year marked by continued growth in all areas. By year’s end, our website will have logged over 4 million page visits and the number of subscribers to our weekly newsletter will pass the 8,000 mark. These numbers are dramatic evidence of global interest in Saudi Aramco and life in the Kingdom.
Here are some of the highlights of the past year:
January: Saudi Aramco Ex-Employees Association (SAEEA) celebrated its ninth annual reunion at Lavish Dine Restaurant in Karachi, Pakistan. Eighty-eight people attended the function.
February: Travel stories are a regular feature of our Newsletter. In February, for instance, subscribers were treated to a colorful account of a meandering journey across France that began in Paris and stopped in the Médoc. Further episodes of that saga are promised for future editions.
March: Abdulateef Al-Mulhim is a regular contributor to our Newsletter. In March, we featured fascinating articles by him on the holy city of Madinah, Amelia Earhart and pearl diving in Bahrain.
March: We regularly highlight the literary accomplishments of past and present Aramcons. In March, for instance, we wrote about a new book by Natasha Burge titled “Expats of Arabia.”
April: One of our most prolific contributors is Tim Barger, an Aramco brat and son of a legendary former Aramco executive. In April his article “Wajid Zain” recounted a humorous tale told to him by a former expat housewife of her encounter in Abqaiq with a door-to-door vendor of “natural” fertilizer generated by goats. She thought at first they might be pearls!
May: News of current events in the Kingdom make up an important part of the content of our Newsletter and website. In early May we reported on a major wind storm in Dhahran with 90-mile-an-hour winds that downed hundreds of trees and damaged dozens of cars.
June: As we all know, most Aramcons suffer from serious cases of Wanderlust. Catering to their needs, our Newsletter frequently features announcements related to trips being offered by the Aramco ExPats Travel Club. Witness our June 4 issue in which we carried notices about safaris in Kenya and Tanzania, tours of China and Istanbul and discovery tours in Nepal and Tibet.
July: For many years, the Aramco newspaper “Arabian Sun and Flare” brought news of the Kingdom and the world to eager readers. In July we announced that four new archived issues dating back to 1945 would be released each week and provided a link.
August: Often we provide information on publications on interest to annuitants, and August was no exception. In our 13 August issue we provided links to “Alaela” (“Family”), Saudi Aramco’s twice-yearly magazine produced for annuitants, families and friends of Saudi Aramco and Aramco Overseas Company, and to another of their publications, “Al-Ayyam Al-Jamilah.”
September: The big event of September was the Asheville Hafla Reunion held at the Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina. Nearly 400 annuitants took part in a weekend crammed full of exciting activities.
October: We like to publish accounts of the special memories of our readers. In October, the article “Play Ball! Memories of Udhailiyah Revisited” appeared, recounting the excitement and fellowship that surrounded softball games in the oil patch camps.
November: Aramcons are famous for their generosity and big hearts, and Tricia Franck is no exception. In November an article appeared relating a unique program Beta Sigma Phi in Dhahran put together offering Saudi-themed gifts, with the proceeds going to the support of international charities.
December: We try to offer practical, useful advice from trusted sources. To wit, in December we featured an article from Bernd & Brooke Schumacher identifying the complex set of expenses associated with retiring in the U.S. after years of living in the Kingdom.
We look forward to continuing to serve you and keep you informed in 2015.
Happy New Year!
The Schumacher’s – December 2004
by Bernd & Brooke Schumacher
When we were asked to provide our thoughts on costs faced upon retirement back in the U.S. for a recent article, we realized that there were quite a few things that came to mind. In sharing our thoughts that helped us best prepare for our return, we hope to also help others.
When returning to the United States after many years in Saudi Arabia, Aramcons are likely to experience “sticker shock!”
First, there are expenses related to rent or the purchase of a home and car. This likely entails costs for home improvements/renovation.
There will be a significant increase in annual taxes and insurance. Recurring expenses, such as utilities, add up very quickly. Of course, with all the retail offerings in the United States, most Aramcons will wish to rapidly satisfy many perceived wants and needs. Also, there is a tendency to eat out more, which can be a very significant budget item. It is important to realize these increased expenses before the move back, as well as to establish a budget and to pace oneself. Reilly Financial Advisors helped us realize this “sticker shock” ahead of time.
The decision to leave Aramco was a hard one for us. We had enjoyed raising our family in Dhahran for 13 years, but once the kids were teenagers we wanted to keep our family together.
No matter how long the stay, every expat family knows it is temporary. Returning home is on the mind, sometimes deep and far away, sometimes right at the surface like a fervent wish. Years before our actual departure, we started thinking about our priorities in life. We considered schools and jobs, sunshine and temperature, large and small towns, and home country versus new adventure.
Home for me is Ohio, and my husband grew up in Germany. Neither of us wanted to return there to live. It turned out that weather was a big factor in our decision. After 13 Chicago winters, followed by 6 Houston then 13 Dhahran summers, we were ready to live in a place where the weather was wonderful all year long. We also looked at where we chose to travel when given time off. We did not head to the ski slopes, we went to the beach. We did not narrow our considerations just to the United States. We looked at Australia, Europe, other Middle Eastern countries, even Thailand and the Seychelles. Factors such as whether foreigners could own property and the quality of education and healthcare systems ruled out most foreign countries.
Although we loved the big cities of Chicago and Houston as young adults, we did not feel that was the best environment for our middle and high school children. The only home they had ever known was the closeness and protection of Dhahran. We decided to transition to a small United States town near the coast with beautiful weather all year round… San Luis Obispo, California.
For about six months before our move I tried to gather as much information on the cost of living in our new town as I could. It was not easy to do from Dhahran. Most of the online cost-of-living calculators compare two United States zip codes by asking for your current utility costs, property taxes and grocery bills. The best source of information was real people in our new neighborhood. We asked what their water, electric and gas bills were. We asked what other bills they had, and added water softener, garbage pick-up, internet/TV/phone, home owner association dues, and gym membership to the list. The Catholic schools we chose not only charge tuition, but expect parents to pay for text books and to participate in many fund raisers and volunteer activities. We realized that Mother Aramco had been providing a lot of benefits.
Of course, living in Dhahran also means living without…without local attractions to explore, without wonderful food and great restaurants and without a beautiful home of your own. Exploring our beautiful new surroundings and upgrading our daily life was part of our dream, and that costs money, too. After 18 months here we can report that our monthly cost of living is about 5 times what it was in Dhahran, while my husband’s new salary is about one third of his Aramco pay.
The advice I would give to families planning their exit from Aramco is to spend some time soul-searching to clearly identify priorities. Put all the options on the table and consider them with fresh eyes. Anywhere you move will cost much more than Dhahran, so be sure you have enough money to meet that steady drain on your savings before deciding on big expenses like a home and vehicles. Unless you have a huge retirement fund (greater than 10 Million Dollars) you will have to make some choices about location, home purchase, vehicles and schools. Knowing your own priorities will ensure that you are in the right place for the next season of your life.
After years of living with limited expenses in Kingdom and becoming accustomed to spending freely on re-pats, how does one cope with the costs of retirement in the U.S.? Deciphering retirement costs is difficult enough for somebody retiring in the U.S. who has lived their whole life stateside. Living overseas for an extended period of time makes it that much more difficult. Working with someone to review, explore, and predict your retirement budget can help. That’s why Reilly Financial Advisors has developed a critical Cost of Living Worksheet, updated annually, as a great place to begin planning for your financial future. For Aramcons, you’ll need to explore three main adjustments; inflation, assuming new expenses, and lifestyle changes.
I. Inflation plays a huge factor not only during retirement years, but just as important during the years spent overseas. The prices of everything from milk and bread to utilities and housing rise over time making budgeting in the future extremely difficult task. To illustrate the power of inflation, the price of a gallon of milk has gone from $2.88 in 2004 to over $3.75 in 2014. A 30% increase! When Brian and Susan Bahr returned home they were taken by just how expensive things had become. “We raised our eyebrows at the cost of Insurance and the cost of utilities (gas, water, electric, rubbish) and subscriptions (cable, cell phones, internet).”
II. Even after you have accounted for inflation and the real costs of commodities, accounting for every line item on the budget is a daunting task. Living in the Kingdom, it is easy to forget how quickly all of life’s day to day expenses add up. After returning stateside Brooke Schumacher commented “We realized that Mother Aramco had been providing a lot benefits.” Some of these benefits are expensive while others are inexpensive, but regardless, they all add up. Preparing to repatriate Garth Jahraus comment that the biggest change he is anticipating is “having to pay all the utility bills and home maintenance costs. Right now we can call someone at any time and they come right out and fix whatever we need free of charge.”
III. It’s also important to remember the typical American lifestyle, and account for those added costs. Moving to a different part of the world creates a broad change in lifestyle and in America it can be an expensive one. “Of course, with all the retail offerings in the United States, most Aramcons will wish to rapidly satisfy many perceived wants and needs. Also, there is a tendency to eat out more, which can be a very significant budget item,” according to Bernd Schumacher. But starting off retirement by spending like you are on a re-pat is the surest route to failure. “I think the worst thing is the misconception that you will be siphoning a trickle of cash, just to make the new life comfortable, and that little trickle turns into Niagara Falls!”, stated Sian McGhee, who made sure that she utilized her financial plan to stick to her retirement budget and not overspend.
Over our extensive history of helping Aramcons, we’ve discovered that some of the biggest financial mistakes have been those who purchase too big of a home, purchase too many unnecessary “toys”, or attempt to travel as much as they did while living in Kingdom without recognizing the added costs of living in the U.S.
Reilly Financial Advisors’ Cost of Living Worksheet helps you better understand the real costs you will face if you decide to return to the U.S. Moreover, we update this worksheet annually to ensure that we factor in cost of living adjustments. If you are interested in learning more about the types of expenses and the direct costs you may face upon retirement, please email us for the complete worksheet.
You may also contact Mark Shane, in Kingdom, directly at email@example.com, 056-641-0190, or Vonage 1-561-414-8654.
Aramco Services Company
Aramco Services Company (ASC) is the U.S.-based subsidiary of the world’s leading oil producing and exporting company, the Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Saudi Aramco). Established in 1950 in New York City, ASC operates as a vital link between Saudi Aramco and North America to help facilitate the safe and reliable delivery of energy to customers around the globe. ASC moved its operation to Houston, Texas in 1974.
Important information regarding your retirement benefits including the Retiree Medical Payment Plan Summary Plan Description (SPD) can be found here, as well as various forms. If you have questions regarding any of your benefits, please e-mail ASC at Benefits@AramcoServices.com or download 2015 ASC Calendar and Helpful Phone Numbers for Benefits personnel.
2015 Saudi Aramco Calendar
For inquiries regarding ASC website or additional information, please contact: