Monday, June 29, 2009
R2I Checklist - 25 things to do
Good to know that you are thinking of Returning to India (R2I). R2I is indeed a hard decision and requires meticulous planning. (Also read: R2I Planning Guide) There are lots of things to take care of, during R2I. This blog post makes your R2I planning, easier. It captures the list of things to do before your move to India.You can treat this as your Return to India (R2I) checklist.
1. Join the R2I Club Forums. This has lots of useful discussions on returning back to India. You can also look at Garamchai.com, which is a portal for Indians in US, and also has a number of R2I related articles/blogs.
2. Start preparing a to do list. You may not be able to get all the things in one shot. Keep updating the to do list as & when you remember/realize that something was missed out.
3. Start looking for a job in India. Update your resume & circulate it through your contacts. You should *get* a job before moving to India. A person in US who is moving to India would get a better treatment/package when compared to the local-ites. Many folks may have the question - what is the right pay? A rough ball-park is "You should get at least 1/3rd of what you are getting in US". The package varies significantly based on the city, your interview performance, your negotiation skills etc., So, talk to your friends in India to get ball parks. (Also read: List of MNCs (Product & Software) Companies in Chennai)
4. Tell your employer about your move. When to inform your employer is a tough question to answer. It depends :) I told my employer the next day after I decided to move back. They were very co-operative through-out the process & they helped me to the extent possible.
5. Consolidate all your bank accounts. Maintain one bank account with online access. You can use that to pay your bills or to file tax returns. Keep your ATM/debit card with you, safely.
6. Close all your credit cards. You can use your debit card for all the expenses during you travel. (Note: Your credit score shouldn't get affected when you close your credit cards in good terms. Talk to your financial advisor for details). I closed all my credit cards during the last week before my return.
7. Lock your SSN/Credit. If you want to prevent the fraudulent usage of your SSN, lock your credit. You need to apply for credit lock/freeze through all the 3 credit bureaus - Equifax, Experian & TransUnion.
8. Close all your utilities accounts (phone, TV, mobile phone, PG&E etc.,) at appropriate times. Have your mobile phone till the last day. You may need it for emergencies. I called & closed my mobile phone account on the last day.
9. Give "Change of Address" to your post office. It is recommended to give the address of a friend who owns a house (A friend who rents a house may move around). Also, the friend has to be very reliable. He/she shouldn't miss important mail communications to you. Give "Change of Address" to people from whom you may receive some correspondences (Banks, Utility providers, USCIS, IRS, DMV, etc.,). (Also read: R2I Change of Address - Checklist)
10. Decide what you want to do with your 401K account. You don't have to close your 401K when you leave the country. You can maintain the account till your retirement, also. Talk to a financial advisor to decide which option is best for you. I had very little balance in my 401K (I started with 401K very late). So, I sold all my possessions. Yes, there will be a 10% penalty for early withdrawal (paid during the time of filing tax returns) + 20% tax deducted at source. When you file your tax returns, you can calculate/settle the actual tax that you owe to the government. (Note: On the last day of your employment, you'll fill a 'participant distribution' application which instructs what your 401K provider should do with your account. You have an option of selling all the positions & wiring the money to your bank account. Just talk to your 401k provider/HR about the available options well in advance). Read the "R2I - 401(k) closure FAQ" for details.
11. Decide what you want to do with your stocks/bonds. I had very little money in stocks. So, I sold all my stocks. (Read: Stock Trading Lessons)
12. Track the USD -> INR conversion rates. When I returned to India, the conversion rates were at their best levels. So, I moved all my USD to India (INR), right away. I left some minimal balance in the bank to take care of the tax payments, next year. (Note: I had the practice of sending money to India on a monthly basis. So, I normally don't care about the conversion rates. If you are transferring money to India on a regular basis, it would get Dollar Cost Averaged out). Also read: US to India money transfer strategies
13. Decide what are some of the items that you want to take back to India, with you. You may need to arrange for containers to ship your personal belongings. There are several folks who take care of shipping items from US -> India. They'll take care of door-to-door delivery. It takes about 2 - 3 months for you to receive the shipment in India. You can get a price quote online. I didn't send any items through containers. All I sent/brought from US is just 7 suitcases. Rest of the items were either sold or donated to someone.
14. Sell/Donate the items that you don't want to take with you to India. Take pictures of items & put them in Craigslist for sale. Donate items to Goodwill. You'll get a tax credit for the items that you donated, when you file your tax returns. In order to avail the tax credit, get a receipt from Goodwill & keep that safe.
15. Plan well in ahead to sell your big ticket items (like house, car etc.,). My costliest asset was my car. I sold it to a friend of mine. I didn't have the pain of going through multiple prospects or the car dealers. (Note: Some of my friends, bought houses just before the housing market touched bottom in 2008. Their home values lost nearly 10 - 20%. If you are thinking of returning to India, don't make risky bets. Otherwise, you may be stuck in USA for a while).
16. Make proper long-term investments in India well-ahead of (years before) your move. I had made sure that I get continuous income in India. That way, you don't have the pressure to 'work' immediately. You can take a short break. Also, having worked in US for several years under stress, it is time for you to relax a bit. (Read: Power of Attorney for NRIs - FAQ, if you are thinking of buying properties in India)
17. Purchase a VOIP phone (such as Skype, Magic Jack, or Vonage) and take it with you to India. You may need that to stay in touch with your US friends & to communicate with people who maintain your US accounts. Magic Jack seems to be the cheapest at the time of writing this blog (But, your computer has to be kept ALWAYS ON for you to receive calls). I bought a Skype phone with SkypeOut number. The voice quality is good & the calls are very reliable. (Read: IP Phone - Magic Jack vs Vonage vs Skype)
18. If you have school going kids, you may have an additional responsibility of planning the move around the time the academic year starts in India. Some of the schools finish their admissions in Dec/Jan time frame. You should plan your move, accordingly (Read: Getting KG admission for a kid in school - the math behind it & R2I school admissions - FAQ)
19. Get medical documents for your family from your health care provider. Some of the providers make them available online. You may need to just take printouts. Complete your regular health checkups, dental appointments etc.,
20. If you don't know anyone in the Indian city where you are going to move to, you may have to arrange for a house, basic stuff for your move, well in advance. In the worst case, book a hotel for your stay for the first few weeks or so.
21. Send your family first to India. You can find out if they are getting adapted to India or not. Also, it will be easier for you to clean-up things in US, if you are alone (For ex., you can stay with your friends/some bachelors during the last few days in US)
22. You should have some "significant" money when you are in India. The cost of living in India has gone up, quite a bit. You would need money to settle down, comfortably. The amount of money that you need may vary based on your family size, life style, commitments etc.,
23. Scan all your important documents & convert them to soft copies. It is easier to maintain soft copies of documents (like tax filing documents, bank information, visa related documents etc.,).
24. If you have been in US for 10 years, you would've earned 40 credits for social security. You will be eligible for Social Security benefits after your retirement. From what I read, US government would send you the 'check' wherever you are. You have to just keep IRS updated about your whereabouts. [Also read: How can I get my Social Security benefits?]
25. If you have kids who are US citizens, you may need to get a PIO card for them to visit India. After reaching India & after being in India for 6 months, you need to submit a 'registration' application to extend the stay of US Citizens. Visit your nearest passport office (or) refer to the passport office web site for more details. [Recommended reading: "The OCI Hoopla" "Extending stay of a PIO card holder"]
My planning actually started 6 years back. Yes. I was preparing to go back to India since I landed in US. I was very conservative since day one. I made sure that I buy only the *mandatory* things. Whenever I visit India (or) if someone from India visits me, I send a lot of unused household items through them to India (such as books, mementos, gift articles etc.,). We started visiting important places in US, ~2 years before our move :)
Always, keep your options open. You may decide to return back to US, if you can't get adjusted to things in India. So, keep that in mind when you are planning for your move. I burned all my boats before I left US. That way, the only option for me is to be in India :)
If you think something is missed out, please drop me a note. I'll be happy to include that to the list.
Wishing you all the best for your move. India needs people like you.
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