Advice for the next wave of CPAs

It must be that time of year again. 

Both at work and at home, I've been getting emails from plenty of accountants regarding interest in moving to Cayman. Everyone is eager to check out the Caribbean once mid-February rolls around. My current work experiences will verify that it is indeed our annual busy season. But what this influx of inquiries tells me is that, somewhere, it also must be winter.

Cayman must have missed the winter memo: Christmas Day on the island was warm and sunny.

The latest blog email communication that I received reads as follows:

I am sure you get many of these emails; however, I stumbled upon your blog while researching living and working in the Cayman Islands. I have found the blog to be extremely informative and useful, in addition to being an overall good read. I am currently seriously considering a 'tour' to my firm's Cayman office for 1-2 years starting in October 2013. 
A little background on myself - I am a 25 year old audit senior associate working within the FS practice (mostly work on Registered Investment Companies, some smaller PE/hedge jobs) of a Big 4 firm in [a wonderful U.S. city]. I really enjoy [this wonderful U.S. city], the people I work with, and (generally) my clients; however, I feel that I am in a great position to experience work abroad for a period. I came across a posting internally for the Caymans and have done some pretty thorough research in the past couple weeks regarding working and living in the Caymans. My next step now would be to speak to my 'coach' at work (sr manager) and relationship partner regarding the opportunity and formally initiate the process. 
Before doing so, I just had a few questions/concerns that I was hoping you could maybe lend some perspective to:
1. Cost of living - the Cayman dollar is stronger than the USD, as such, I assume my salary would be adjusted to reflect this. That said, do you find that you are still able to allocate money to savings? I know that everyday expenses are going to jump in price; however, I do not want to deplete my savings account entirely. 
2. Housing - in looking at your blog, in conjunction with other sites online, it seems that the best places to live are West Bay, SMB, and GT...I would ideally like to live in one of the three aforementioned places. Looking at rental listings online, living alone (I am single) on my senior associate salary, even if adjusted, may prove difficult. I was wondering if you had any good resources to turn to in terms of looking for rental listings, as well as roommates. I would not be opposed to (may even prefer to) living with a roommate(s), especially if this meant that I could live in a more sought-after location at an attractive price. I was also wondering if you had any thoughts on living in one of the other areas of the island that I did not mention. I would want to be close to work ideally (within 20 minutes) and not be isolated (have some social options available nearby). 
3. Social life - as a single 25 year old moving to an island where the closest person I would know is at least an hour flight away, I was wondering about the social scene in the Caymans. I am pretty laid-back, and am by no means a party every night type; however, I would definitely like to go out with co-workers and on the weekends. After all, a large part of my wanting to head to the Caymans is to experience other cultures, gain new perspectives, and build relationships that will last. How difficult is it to assimilate to island life? Are co-workers generally accommodating and outgoing? I would basically be relying on co-workers to be my extended family for the 1-2 year tour. I know the culture may be different from firm to firm, but any insight you can provide would be greatly appreciated. 
Overall, I am extremely excited and anxious to begin this journey. I sincerely appreciate any insights/thoughts you can share.

I think that a lot of people ponder the same questions when deliberating a move to Cayman, so I figured this email warranted a blog post response.

In regards to your background: A secondment from a Big 4 (or even Top 10) firm in the States to the corresponding Cayman office is totally possible based on what I've observed on the island. We have friends at most of the firms, and we've seen some firms recruit almost exclusively from within their global firm. Some of our best friends on island have transferred from PwC or Deloitte in the States down to the Cayman office. It also definitely helps that you work in the financial services practice at the moment. When we were hired, we had no FS experience, so you'll have a leg up on some of the competition with respect to industry knowledge.

In terms of your questions:

Cost of living and maintaining a savings account:
Cost of living is definitely higher in Cayman than in many parts of the States (although there are exceptions), but it all depends on how you choose to live. We've found it pretty easy to sock money away despite the higher rent, gas, and food prices due to our generally conservative spending style. While I'll admit that food and bar prices are sky high here, there are a lot of inexpensive ways to have fun, like joining a corporate sports team, learning a water sport, or pursuing a hobby like photography (okay, maybe that's not been my cheapest endeavor.) If you set financial goals for yourself as a professional on a budget, you'll certainly find a way to achieve them.

My friend Maya practicing her manual camera settings during our photography workshop.

Where and with whom to live:
It certainly helps to have a housemate to share the rent burden. Generally, people wait until they arrive to find a housemate, either finding someone in their incoming class or an existing employee in the office who may have an open slot due to a former roommate leaving island, for example. Sometimes the firms have Facebook pages set up for the incoming seniors, and you can communicate with new and existing employees to get island tips even before you arrive.

In terms of where to live, the areas you've mentioned are indeed the most popular. You can check out this blog post where I review all of the districts in Grand Cayman. Most of us move to the Cayman Islands with a history of long work commutes, and driving 20 minutes from Prospect to George Town seems like no big deal at first. And maybe it's not. But beware: The island lifestyle inevitably takes over, and former-commuters start to question why anyone would drive more than ten minutes to get to work. As a result, the majority of expats live in the Seven Mile Beach "strip", from West Bay to South Sound.

Driving an hour to Rum Point requires food, water, and a map!

Social life and making friends:
I think I can safely dispel any concerns regarding the social scene in Cayman. Firstly, we were pleasantly surprised to find out how friendly and open all of our new coworkers were toward us. The scenario is often likened to freshman year of college when all of the new students bond quickly over recent common experiences, while still retaining their colorful and varied histories. As you mention, our coworkers became like second families to us, and now that we've gone through the experience of some of them leaving, we have friends to visit around the world! 

Secondly, outside of the workplace, we've found a strong sense of community through our involvement in extracurriculars like basketball, volleyball, running, kiteboarding, and church. And if that's not enough activity for you, I can predict with reasonable confidence that you'll have plenty of opportunities to host visiting family and friends. Trust me, it's a good thing. (I just typed "ting" instead of "thing". I've really acclimated to the Caribbean!)

Snorkeling with house guests in your back yard? Fun and free.

I wish you all the best in your Cayman quest. Who knows; maybe we'll be welcoming you to the island in the upcoming months. And then your busy season - although still requiring extra effort - won't involve you defrosting your windshield in the morning before leaving for your ten-minute commute. And really, if that's all that Cayman had offered us, it would probably had been enough.


  1. Excellent post. We're all very lucky to have a such a helpful person and blog like yours. I'm making the move in April. Won't be working but I'm sure I'll find lots of other activities like the ones you've listed. Keep it up!

    1. There are tons of extracurriculars in Cayman - I'm sure you'll find plenty that will fit your lifestyle and help you to establish a sense of community!

  2. Great post Jenn! And for your readers, the firms in Sydney are recruiting now as the southern hemisphere busy season starts in July..but until then..enjoying the summer in February!!