Increasing Numbers of NRIs Choosing to Return to India in Retirement

Jan 10, 2024

An increasing number of non-resident Indians (NRIs), who left India decades ago in search of better opportunities, are now returning to the country's warm embrace in their sunset years.

A recent survey by SBNRI, a FinTech platform, shows at least 60% of NRIs in the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Australia, and Singapore are considering returning to India after retirement. The survey reveals that 80% of NRIs based in Australia and Singapore, 70% from the UK, and 75% from the USA consider returning to India as part of their retirement plans, followed by 63% of Canadian NRIs. The research also indicates a significant number of NRIs have already started investing in India to support their decision to relocated post-retirement.

India’s rapid digital transformation, a rising middle class, improving infrastructure, better lifestyle, cultural familiarity, stable financial system, affordable healthcare and growing economic heft coalesce to create an irresistible appeal for retiring NRIs, who left a very different India in their youth.

India’s emergence as a retirement destination is also underpinned by its rapid progress towards achieving developed nation status, coupled with its resilience during global crises, and medical advances; all of which have helped reshape the retirement landscape of the country.

We highlight four factors, or reasons, fuelling the trend of NRIs moving back to India to spend their retired lives.

  1. Lower Cost of Living
  2. Healthcare
  3. Cultural and Social Pull
  4. Investment Opportunities

India Offers a More Comfortable Lifestyle for Wealthy NRIs

India’s distinctly different social structure from the one in the west makes Indian lifestyle more favorable to NRIs in retirement. Typical Indian lifestyle is a mix of many factors which NRIs come to miss over the years and find attractive in retirement.

Additionally, a lower cost of living in India significantly contributes to attracting NRIs for retirement. With living expenses generally more affordable compared to many Western countries, retirees find that their pensions or savings can afford a comfortable lifestyle in India.

“The extended family and community is a big pull, so is the medical facilities and support services,” says Monika Halan, analyst and author of the best-selling books Let's Talk Money and Let's Talk Mutual Funds.

In India, retirees discover a unique advantage – the ready availability of affordable domestic help, a luxury often scarce in Western countries. As physical capacities diminish with age, the ability to comfortably afford assistance with daily chores, such as cooking and cleaning, proves invaluable.

“It is a big factor, especially as domestic help supply [is in abundance] and it costs much lower than in the global North,” notes Halan.

Furthermore, the diverse cultural experiences and familial connections makes India an appealing destination for those seeking a more cost-effective retirement. This not only contributes to a less stressful life but also frees up time for pursuing other interests.

NRIs Can Get Paid Quality Healthcare, On Demand

The consideration of quality healthcare services plays a crucial role in the relocation plans of NRIs. Those residing in Western countries are accustomed to a specific standard of healthcare, which many are unwilling to compromise on, especially during their post-retirement years. Fortunately, India has made significant strides in the healthcare domain, particularly in the private sector, attracting an increasing number of patients from around the world.

Easy access to over-the-counter medicines, coupled with state-of-the-art hospitals and highly efficient medical practitioners, ensures that NRIs can continue to enjoy the high standard of healthcare they are accustomed to in the West.

“The private health system in India is very competitive and efficient,” says Halan. “Para medical staff for home visits are also not prohibitively expensive.”

More recently, India has seen emergence of many services catering to the needs of the aging demographic. “Managed care and assisted living are becoming popular in India as the affluent middle class begins to age,” says Halan. “Returning NRIs have a choice between their own towns and cities where there is extended family or can onboard one of the new properties that have amenities, medical facilities and lifestyle all combined.”

Cultural and Social Pull

Freed from the responsibilities of raising kids, paying mortgages, and enduring grueling work schedules and long daily commutes, many retired NRIs begin to experience a certain emptiness. They long for social interaction and a family atmosphere. Moving back to India enables them to be close to friends and relatives, participate in festive celebrations, and enjoy an active social life once again.

“For many people the feeling of belonging truly only happens in their own native lands,” argues Halan. “You are always an outsider in somebody else’s story when you are out of our country.”

That feeling gets stronger as one ages. The feeling of community is very strong, especially in smaller Indian cities, which is a part of the appeal for returning NRIs, she adds.

India Has Become an Attractive Investment Destination

Over the years, India’s growing consumerism, rapid economic advancement and policy reforms have paved the way for foreign investment. Retired NRI’s can find some attractive investment opportunities in the resurgent Indian equities market to park their savings.

“Indian stock markets respond to the growth in the economy and are on a multi-year bull run,” asserts Halan. “An average annual growth of 12% per year on a long-term basis is possible through a cheap index fund.”

The Indian mutual fund industry is highly efficient, cost-effective, and offers diverse solutions tailored to every investor age group. “The onboarding is easy, there are no front loads and maintaining a portfolio needs only an app,” Halan points out.

While India presents an appealing option for NRIs contemplating their life in retirement, the decision to return is complex and contingent on individual circumstances. The final move must be made after careful consideration and consultation with financial experts well-versed in both the financial landscapes of India and the country of your residence.

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