How to Retire in Sweden: Costs, Visas and More

How to Retire in Sweden: Costs, Visas and More – SmartAsset

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Sweden is one of the most sought-after countries in the world. It offers an excellent quality of life for retirees with beautiful landscapes and historic, walkable cities to enjoy. The archipelagoes on both the nation’s East Coast and West Coast, famous smoked herring and classic meatballs plus vast, unspoiled forests offer something for just about any retiree. If you want to retire in this Scandinavian nation of just over 10 million people, this article will cover everything you need to know, from what costs you can anticipate to the quality of the healthcare system and more.

Cost of Living and Housing in Sweden

Sweden is an expensive country. Not counting rent, Sweden’s consumer prices are about 8.5% higher than those in the U.S., according to Numbeo, one of the largest cost-of-living databases. That higher cost of living, however, does not come from more costly housing expenses. Rather it comes from more expensive groceries and transportation, including more expensive gasoline.

Your housing dollars can go farther in retirement in Sweden than in the U.S. For example, rent costs are, on average, 32% lower than in the U.S. If you rent an apartment in New York City, a one-bedroom unit in the city center will likely cost about $3,415 per month. The same apartment in Stockholm would cost about $1,507 per month.

If you want to purchase an apartment in central NYC, it will likely cost about $1,319 per square foot. If you purchase in central Stockholm, it will likely cost just over $1,000 per square foot.

Retire in Sweden – Visas

Americans do not need a tourist visa to visit Sweden. However, if you plan to retire in Sweden, you’ll need a Schengen visa, which you must apply for before you move to Sweden. You can apply by visiting a Swedish consulate or embassy in the U.S. You’ll need to bring a valid passport, financial disclosures and a passport photo. You will also go through a residence permit interview in Washington, D.C.

The processing time for a Swedish residence visa varies, so you may want to wait until your residence permit is approved before purchasing a one-way ticket.

Retire in Sweden – Healthcare

Sweden has some of the healthiest seniors in the world. This is partially due to a culture that encourages people – no matter their age – to enjoy the outdoors during every season. People are encouraged to walk and bike whenever possible, as well as ski and skate in winter.

Another reason for the health of Swedes and Swedish residents is the country’s top-flight healthcare system, which also provides preventative healthcare. All Swedish residents have access to public healthcare. All residents must also pay taxes on their income, and taxpayers fund their public healthcare system. Nearly 10% of the country’s GDP is invested in healthcare, so Sweden has some of the best public healthcare in the world. Its Karolinska Institute, and attached hospital, is world renowned. The institute selects the winner of the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine.

Health insurance is rare in Sweden due to the public healthcare system being strong and available to all residents. Expats who want to use the public healthcare system must apply for a personal identification number at their local tax office. Then they will be issued a healthcare card.

Retire in Sweden – Taxes

Taxes in Sweden are notoriously high, though the burden of these taxes falls primarily on consumption rather than corporate earnings. That has fostered the rise of global giants like Ikea, Volvo, Electrolux and Ericsson.

What expats pay in taxes varies depending on a person’s stay in the country. For example, anyone staying six months per year or longer will pay the highest taxes, and anyone who is a resident but chooses to stay for less than six months may pay less. There is an opportunity for expatriate tax relief that reduces salary tax.

However, if you are not working during your Swedish retirement then these laws may not apply to you. Sweden taxes foreign-earned income if you are considered a resident. This includes your American pension and capital gains. If you want to avoid paying taxes in the U.S. and being taxed again in Sweden, it is a good idea to work with a tax professional and a financial advisor. They can help you navigate the complicated tax codes such as the U.S.-Sweden Tax Treaty, which helps determine how both countries will treat income.

Retire in Sweden – Safety

In general, Sweden is a very safe country. There are minimal personal crimes and very few personal safety concerns in this country. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of State’s Overseas Security Advisory Council, general crime rates in Sweden are below the U.S. national average. However, the organization also cautions that just because the crime rates are low, it doesn’t mean the foreign travelers are immune to crime. The majority of crime involves the theft of personal property from vehicles, homes and public areas.

But, if you find yourself in an unsafe situation, emergency medical care is available throughout the country and is both affordable and high quality. There are several rural areas in Sweden where one might find themselves far from the nearest clinic or hospital and therefore should take extra precautions when traveling.

The Takeaway

Sweden is known for its healthy and active seniors as well as its beautiful landscapes and coastal areas. It is generally very safe, has excellent healthcare and is affordable for those living on a fixed income. If you are considering a move to this northern European country, be sure to discuss your plan with a financial advisor. They will be able to help you create a financial plan that includes an international move.

Tips on Retiring

  • Retiring abroad can seem like a difficult task. Still, the right financial advisor can help you understand what you need to do to take your retirement income abroad and navigate the tax implications. SmartAsset’s free tool will match you with financial advisors in your area in a matter of minutes. If you’re ready to start planning your move to Sweden, get started now.
  • As mentioned above, Sweden and the U.S. have tax codes that can help make your retirement more affordable. You may be able to live there on your Social Security retirement benefit. You can estimate your benefit amount with a Social Security calculator.

Photo credit: ©, ©, © Wahlborg

Ashley Chorpenning Ashley Chorpenning is an experienced financial writer currently serving as an investment and insurance expert at SmartAsset. In addition to being a contributing writer at SmartAsset, she writes for solo entrepreneurs as well as for Fortune 500 companies. Ashley is a finance graduate of the University of Cincinnati. When she isn’t helping people understand their finances, you may find Ashley cage diving with great whites or on safari in South Africa.
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