Swedish pension fund warns of payment cuts

Swedish pensions firm AMF Pension has confirmed there is a significant risk it will have to cut its dividend rate, according to a statement by AMF's CEO Ingrid Bonde to Dagens Nyheter.

The cut would mean lower pensions payments to existing pensioners. Guaranteed rate products are not affected.

Falls in Swedish and global stock markets in recent months are the reasons given for the development; a definite decision is expected by AMF at the end of January.

Bonde predicts that more pensions firms will be forced to do the same as asset/liabilities ratios continue to fall.

“We have been affected like others by the financial crisis. Our policy has been to ensure savers benefit from the boom, but we also slow down faster in a downturn,” Bonde said to Dagens Nyheter.

Rival firm Folksam has however confirmed that it however has no plans to cut dividend rates, which are currently at one percent.

“It would require a major change in that case. We have continually cut our share of direct equities ownership and increased instead investments in interest-bearing funds,” said Folksam CEO Anders Sundström.

KPA Pension is the firm that has performed the best amidst the autumn’s financial turbulence. Folksam holds a 60 percent stake in KPA Pension which has reported a total yield for 2008 of 7 percent. For KPA Pension’s savers this means that they will receive a 6.3 percent rate of return on their pensions investments.

Folksam Liv savers will gain returns of 0.2 percent on their pensions savings for 2008. The company’s asset/liability ratio currently amounts to 105 percent.

“All the companies within the Folksam group have returned positive results,” according to Anders Sundström.

This is an indication of the firm’s financial strength, he argued.

“According to my estimations the sector as a whole will report a return of minus seven-eight percent for 2008.”


Sweden to increase retirement age from next year

A proposal for changes to Sweden’s pensions system could see incremental increases to retirement age beginning next year.

Sweden to increase retirement age from next year
Photo: Hasse Holmberg/TT

The proposal for reform to state pensions has been agreed on by parties on both sides of the political aisle, reflecting the political agreement which provided for the new Swedish government.

Later retirement age has been justified by the claim that people in Sweden “live longer and healthier lives”, but the last twelve years of life remain characterised by illness and failing health, news agency TT writes.

According to the proposal, the minimum age at which a state pension may be drawn will increase next year from 61 to 62 years. The right to retain employment, the so-called LAS age, will also be increased, from 67 to 68 years.

“We see a problem with the fact that people who want to continue working are not able to. We will now give people the opportunity to do that,” said Mats Persson of the Liberal party, who was part of the parliamentary group behind the proposal.

In 2023, retirement ages will increase again, with the minimum state pension age changing to 63 and the LAS age to 69. The so-called guaranteed pension, which is paid to those who have had little or no pension-qualifying income during their working lives, will also see an increased age limit from 65 to 66 years.

2026 will see further extensions, to 64 years and 67 years for the regular and guaranteed pensions respectively.

In a press statement, the government wrote that longer and healthier lives made the reforms to retirement age possible. Average life expectancy in Sweden has been found to increase by 3.5 hours every day.

But longer life expectancy does not necessarily correspond to better health in senior years, according to research.

International studies led by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) and the University of Washington recently found that Swedes have relatively high life expectancy – just under 82 years for both women and men – but that years with good health are considerably fewer, at just under 70 years.

Sweden fell outside of the top ten for countries with the most years of good health, the study found. Japan was the best-performing country, followed by Singapore, Andorra, Iceland and Cyprus.

The pensions proposal could therefore mean that retirement years will become increasingly unlikely to contain many years in which senior citizens can enjoy good health.

Persson told TT he disagreed with that conclusion.

“This agreement is based on the fact that we live longer as well as healthier lives. There is research to support that,” he said.

READ ALSO: How to manage your pension in Sweden – even if you're not planning to stay