Retiring Abroad - Consider India and Kerala in Particular as a World Lesson In Economic Quality of Life

From the last post on Retiring Abroad - Or, Maybe Sailing Around The World for Free! I've received some mail and recommendations to dive a little deeper into consideration of India as a retirement location abroad.   There are quite a few resources and blogs dedicated to the subject.  A great post to dig into was at Retire To India by Nigel with his post last year 10 Best Places to Retire in India.  Nigel used the following guidelines in building his 10 best list:

  • Good location with interesting local activities and places to explore.
  • Good infrastructure, including medical facilities. A significant retiree population is a plus. This eliminates some of the more exotic locations.
  • Not excessively crowded. This rules out most of the bigger cities in India.
  • Safe, with a cosmopolitan outlook and open to outsiders. A sizable expatriate population is a plus.

In reviewing Nigel's list for myself I looked for one more guideline to be on the coast, because I love the water and I think others are of like mind.  This puts Goa at the top of my list and Kerala, Mangalore, and Puducherry as honorable mentions.

The former Portuguese colony of Goa is known for a fine climate and a cosmopolitan culture. Renowned for its beaches, Goa is visited by hundreds of thousands of international and domestic tourists each year. Located on the west coast of India in the region known as the Konkan coast, Goa is home to a growing number of Europeans and Indian expats from abroad.

Looking at cost of living in Goa and you'll find that the dollar does indeed go a long way.  Nomad4ever gives us this cost of living data and it is really helpful to see how far the dollar or euro will stretch.  I only wish we had this similar data for the other 3 coastal cities of interest.:


exchange rates 1.12.08 Avg price in rupees in USD in EUR
Cigarettes (10 Local Brand) 24.00 0.48 0.38
Cigarettes (20 Imported, Marlboro) 80.00 1.61 1.27
Clothes - FlipFlops ('Bata' or non-branded) 120.00 2.42 1.91
Clothes - T-Shirt (non-branded) 130.00 2.62 2.07
Clothes - Sports Shoes (non-branded) 200.00 4.03 3.18
Clothes - Pair of Jeans (non-branded) 200.00 4.03 3.18

From wikipedia we can see the coastal location of Goa. 

Located on the west coast of India in the region known as the Konkan, it is bounded by the state of Maharashtra to the north, and by Karnataka to the east and south, while the Arabian Sea forms its western coast.:

Finally I wanted to take a look at Kerala.  From wikipedia we can review the coastal location and climate variations of Kerala.

Kerala is wedged between the Arabian Sea and the Western Ghats[35]. Lying between north latitudes 8°18' and 12°48' and east longitudes 74°52' and 72°22',[36] Kerala is well within the humid equatorial tropics. Kerala’s coast runs for some 580 km (360 miles), while the state itself varies between 35 and 120 km (22–75 miles) in width. Geographically, Kerala can be divided into three climatically distinct regions: the eastern highlands (rugged and cool mountainous terrain), the central midlands (rolling hills), and the western lowlands (coastal plains). Located at the extreme southern tip of the Indian subcontinent, Kerala lies near the centre of the Indian tectonic plate; as such, most of the state is subject to comparatively little seismic and volcanic activity.[37] Pre-Cambrian and Pleistocene geological formations compose the bulk of Kerala’s terrain.


I found an interesting post Kerala: A Lesson In Light Living with a perspective on Kerala that goes beyond cost of living and dives more into quality of life. 

In conventional economic terms, Kerala is one of the poorest places in the world. Annual per capita GNP in 1986 was $182 (that's less than 50 cents per day in total economic production for every person in the state), compared to $290 for the whole of India and a whopping $17,480 for the United States. If Kerala were a separate country, those figures would place it 9th on a list of the world's poorest nations.

Yet in terms of quality of life, Kerala is an astonishing success story. In contrast to the rest of India and most other low-income countries, people in Kerala enjoy education and health at levels close to those in the West.

Kerala is actually quite an economic enigma for those that study such things.  A retired professor from California Polytechnic State University (San Luis Obispo), Will Alexander believed this so much that he setup up a series of Good Life Study Tours.  These were designed to try and convey the economic riddle that is Kerala.  Participants in the program live with a Family in Kerala for one month to try to better understand:

Kerala is a puzzle because the relatively high quality of life there simply doesn't fit with the tenets of economic science: "It's an absolute non sequitur that people could be happy and satisfied at consumption levels which are half that of Haiti."

Participation in a one month Good Life Study Tour sounds like an enlightening experience to anyone thinking about retiring abroad.  Whether they decide to retire in Kerala or not, there are valuable lessons to be learned from a community that is studied as an economic puzzle and gem of the world!


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