Author Topic: Foreigner on a temporary assignment in the USA - 401k or not?  (Read 353 times)


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Foreigner on a temporary assignment in the USA - 401k or not?
« on: January 18, 2019, 02:27:07 AM »
Hi there,

I have been a long time reader and lurker of both the blogs and the forums. Now I have question where I need some advice:
First, some background:
From 2011 to 2016 I lived in San Diego with my wife and dog. Had a well-paying job as an engineer. We lived in a rented apartment at the beach. I managed to save and invest lots of money (for me at least): By the end of 2016 my Fidelity account had $100k, both 401k + normal savings (MSCI World ETF + MSCI US ETF). Then we spent $60k on medical bills :( :( As we didn't plan to ever move back to the US, I dissolved the 401k and payed the penalty because Fidelity required a US address to keep the account open. And I would need to forever file US tax returns if I kept it.
Well... Now I am back on a temporary 3-year assignment to the US. I might stay longer. Don't know yet. My employer has a 401k match of up to 7% of the annual salary.

Due to the limited time frame, I am not sure if the the 401k makes sense. Or should I rather use a post-tax vehicle like a Roth IRA (still learning the correct terms here in the US)?

Additional considerations:
1. I probably have another $80k medical bill coming in 2-4 years. No, there is no way around this. No health insurance is covering it.
2. My employer pays my taxes. So I could take the 401k and employer match and dissolve it in 2-4 years. As the employer pays the taxes, he pays the penalty. My napkin calculation says this is a great idea. Morally a totally different question though.

I want to maximize the amount of money I have at the end of my assignment.

What should I do? 401k? Post-tax saving and investing? Short term bonds?

Thank you for any insight and advice =)