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, there are a number of specifics you’ll need to know, from what costs you can anticipate to the quality of the healthcare system and more. A financial advisor can also help you plan for a retirement abroad.
Cost of Living and Housing in Sweden
Sweden is an expensive country, though its cost of living comes in slightly below the U.S. Sweden’s cost of living is roughly 33% lower than the U.S., according to August 2023 data from Numbeo. 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, 56.8% lower than in the U.S. If you rent an apartment in the U.S., a one-bedroom unit in the city center will likely cost about $1,836 per month. The same apartment in Sweden would cost about $897 per month. These prices can vary greatly depending on the city you choose to live in within either country.
Getting a Visa in Sweden
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.
Healthcare in Sweden
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.
Around 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, are 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.
Taxes in Sweden
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.
Safety in Sweden
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.
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, a professional like a financial advisor can help you understand what you need to do to take your retirement income abroad and navigate the tax implications. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can have a free introductory call with your advisor matches to decide which one you feel is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, 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.
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