Retirement Options for Indian Immigrants

By Balwant Dixit, Fox Chapel, PA

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In recent years whenever seniors among Indian immigrants (65+) meet, either in small groups informally or at large gatherings such as at national conventions, one topic that always comes up is “What to do when we retire?” Such discussions usually end up by saying that Indian immigrants in USA must have their own retirement facility or community where all of us can enjoy our retired life with camaraderie seeing Indian movies, eating together Indian cuisine and arranging outings together, praying the way we always wanted to do and spend the remaining years in a an atmosphere truly Indian. However, such discussions rarely try to address or discuss many serious aspects of such a dream plan for retirement. I am 81 years old and I just retired after 50+ years working at the University of Pittsburgh in various capacities; from being just a teaching fellow to being an effective Dean of one of Health Science Schools.  I have spent over five years looking into this retirement conundrum each one of us who is close to retirement or who has just retired find himself or herself.  Retirement presents a myriad of issues that must be looked into in a serious manner. After collecting information for over five years I have written a comprehensive paper on “Retirement Options for Indian Immigrants to USA.”  A copy of my paper is available for a minimum donation of $5.00. All proceeds will be donated to a residential school, Dhayari Karna-Badhir Moolanchi Shala run by Suhrud Mandal, Pune, India ( that is “transforming life of hearing impaired” by providing them education from K2 to the 12th grade. The following is my personal story, which is repeated by so many who came to USA to build their careers in various fields.

When I arrived in USA in 1962, I was one of about 4,000 persons of Indian origin who were in USA then. Initially my plans were to go back to India since in those days persons from Asia were neither eligible to becoming US residents nor were they allowed to own any property (Ref: Immigration Act of 1917 blocking further immigration from Asia). So questions regarding where to retire were far away on the horizon.

Years went by fast. With a special arrangement with the US Immigration I was able to accept a faculty position just for three years at the University of Pittsburgh. The future looked uncertain since I had very little chance of getting permanent residency status because of the 1917 legislation. On the advice of a colleague I decided not join the retirement plan offered by the University since I, as an Asian, I would not have been able to stay in USA on a permanent basis and I will not be allowed to take my retirement benefits to India. However, in 1965 Immigration & Naturalization Act was passed by US Congress, and with University of Pittsburgh’s sponsorship I became a permanent resident. With all the hard work, I secured a tenured faculty position. Still I always thought that sooner than later I will return to India. After getting married, my wife had hoped that we will return to India in a few years. Years went fast, and promotions at the University also came fast. With the appointments as the Head of the Department, coupled with the failure to get any meaningful position in India we decided to stay in USA for a few more years. Further promotions as Associate Dean followed by an appointment as the Dean of a Health Science School and the birth of two children made it difficult to return to India. Since my primary expertise was in pharmacology and because of outdated requirements for academic appointments in medical schools in India, attempts in early seventies to return to India also were not successful. Ultimately, a US Citizenship became a prerequisite to get a strong foothold in American way of life. With increasing success in the University, thoughts of retirement did not enter my mind. My wife also adapted to the American way of life, which was very necessary and helpful.

However, as I approached 65, and having experienced serious health problems, I started thinking about retirement, since in those years mandatory retirement for faculty was 65. When to retire, where to retire, how to support the family after retirement, what type of health insurance will be available were some of the questions that came to my mind. However, retirement accounts did not show the needed accumulations. With proper medical care heart disease was under control. Age limit for retirement was also removed so a decision to retire was postponed for a few years. As the first generation of Indian Immigrants there was no tradition to follow; there were no examples to look for the answers.

As 2005 arrived, I realized I had worked for over 40 years at the University. Our children were also growing up with all associated problems. Thoughts of retirement became prominent but not compelling. We once thought of relocating to India. What will happen if I decide to go back to India after retirement, would it be possible to spend part of the year in India and the remaining in USA, what would happen about our relationship with our children if we permanently moved back to India? Would situation in India be comfortable for us? After a lot of discussion, and with some trepidation we ultimately decided to make USA our permanent home.

To know about retirement options available to us, we started looking into the retirement situation sometime around 2004. We collected a lot of information, attended seminars, visited a few retirement communities, and collected information about retirement communities in other states. When discussing our ideas about retirement with our friends we noticed that a denial syndrome. Most did not want to face the situation. Several times during this period forceful statements were made to the effect that, “It is imperative that Indian Immigrants must have their own retirement community in the Pittsburgh area.”  When confronted however, everyone agreed that no objective feasibility studies have been conducted.

Collectively, the information we collected formed the basis of our decision to stay in USA after retirement and to join an American Retirement Community of unique nature in the Pittsburgh area called Longwood at Home. Longwood at Home is a program that allows one “to age in one’s home.” In this paper I attempted to put forth the information we collected and those who read it will find the information useful. Information about various types of American retirement communities as well as information about several Indian retirement communities is included in this paper. A useful web site for NRIs (US citizens or Green Card holders) who might be thinking of retiring to India is ( No efforts were made to gather information about retirement communities in Canada, since its National Health Care System has a significant impact on how medical problems faced by older persons are addressed.

A word of caution on the financial solvency of the retirement communities in USA and in India. There are over 80,000 retirement communities of all sorts in USA. Many of these in USA are operated as private profit making and some as not-for-profit businesses, and are subject to economic adversities as any other enterprises. The situation in India is particularly uncertain because of nearly a total lack of supervisory role of any governmental agencies or by any autonomous non-governmental bodies, making it very difficult to assess the financial stability of most of the retirement communities.  As far as I know, a few have already gone bankrupt leaving the tenants who paid hefty sums of money uncertain about their future.  ♦

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