Swedes struggle with unforeseen expenses

Nearly one in four households, or 22 percent, would have difficulty dealing with an unforeseen expense of 5,000 kronor ($635), according to a study by Länsförsäkringar.

The study showed that 34 percent would struggle to cope with 10,000 kronor more in expenses, while 49 percent would have problems addressing an additional 20,000 kronor in expenses, the study, which was conducted among Swedes aged 25 to 65, revealed.

More men than women believe that they can cope with unforeseen expenses, regardless of the amount. In two-parent households, more than eight out of ten said they could cope with an unplanned one-off expense of 5,000 kronor. Among single parents, only 45 percent said they would cope with such an expense.

The financial situations varied between counties. In Halland, 26 percent of households said they could not sustain an extra expenditure of 10,000 kronor, while in Södermanland, 40 percent said they could not make the sum.

It is important to secure a buffer in a regular bank account of about two or three times one’s monthly net salary, said Ingela Gabrielsson, family economist at Nordea.

“It might take time to accumulate it, so one must get started with setting aside money every month,” said Gabrielsson. “Even if it is very little, one can put it aside. It’s better than nothing.”

She questioned how so many people can be so badly off despite low mortgage rates and tax cuts.

“Maybe these are long-standing holes to fill and so we happily consume,” said Gabrielsson, who believes that SMS loans and credit cards often act as a safety net when one’s car breaks down or one deals with a high dentist’s bill.

“It is easy for it to become a vicious circle that people cannot get out of,” she added. “People get trapped making new installments all the time and there is still not enough to get by.”

Even Finance Minister Anders Borg believes it is important for households to try to create a financial buffer.

In response to whether he believed it was concern that households have such tight financial margins, Borg responded, “Yes, one should always be careful and it is good for households to try to be frugal, especially when interest rates are so low – as they are gradually going to rise,”

He added, “I know that it is tough for people with small margins, but one should always try to have a small, small margin to have a sense of security.”

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Pensions in the EU: What you need to know if you’re moving country

Have you ever wondered what to do with your private pension plan when moving to another European country?

Pensions in the EU: What you need to know if you're moving country

This question will probably have caused some headaches. Fortunately a new private pension product meant to make things easier should soon become available under a new EU regulation that came into effect this week. 

The new pan-European personal pension product (PEPP) will allow savers to take their private pension with them if they move within the European Union.

EU rules so far allowed the aggregation of state pensions and the possibility to carry across borders occupational pensions, which are paid by employers. But the market of private pensions remained fragmented.

The new product is expected to benefit especially young people, who tend to move more frequently across borders, and the self-employed, who might not be covered by other pension schemes. 

According to a survey conducted in 16 countries by Insurance Europe, the organisation representing insurers in Brussels, 38 percent of Europeans do not save for retirement, with a proportion as high as 60 percent in Finland, 57 percent in Spain, 56 percent in France and 55 percent in Italy. 

The groups least likely to have a pension plan are women (42% versus 34% of men), unemployed people (67%), self-employed and part-time workers in the private sector (38%), divorced and singles (44% and 43% respectively), and 18-35 year olds (40%).

“As a complement to public pensions, PEPP caters for the needs of today’s younger generation and allows people to better plan and make provisions for the future,” EU Commissioner for Financial Services Mairead McGuinness said on March 22nd, when new EU rules came into effect. 

The scheme will also allow savers to sign up to a personal pension plan offered by a provider based in another EU country.

Who can sign up?

Under the EU regulation, anyone can sign up to a pan-European personal pension, regardless of their nationality or employment status. 

The scheme is open to people who are employed part-time or full-time, self-employed, in any form of “modern employment”, unemployed or in education. 

The condition is that they are resident in a country of the European Union, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein (the European Economic Area). The PEPP will not be available outside these countries, for instance in Switzerland. 

How does it work?

PEPP providers can offer a maximum of six investment options, including a basic one that is low-risk and safeguards the amount invested. The basic PEPP is the default option. Its fees are capped at 1 percent of the accumulated capital per year.

People who move to another EU country can continue to contribute to the same PEPP. Whenever a consumer changes the country of residence, the provider will open a new sub-account for that country. If the provider cannot offer such option, savers have the right to switch provider free of charge.  

As pension products are taxed differently in each state, the applicable taxation will be that of the country of residence and possible tax incentives will only apply to the relevant sub-account. 

Savers who move residence outside the EU cannot continue saving on their PEPP, but they can resume contributions if they return. They would also need to ask advice about the consequences of the move on the way their savings are taxed. 

Pensions can then be paid out in a different location from where the product was purchased. 

Where to start?

Pan-European personal pension products can be offered by authorised banks, insurance companies, pension funds and wealth management firms. 

They are regulated products that can be sold to consumers only after being approved by supervisory authorities. 

As the legislation came into effect this week, only now eligible providers can submit the application for the authorisation of their products. National authorities have then three months to make a decision. So it will still take some time before PEPPs become available on the market. 

When this will happen, the products and their features will be listed in the public register of the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA). 

For more information: 

This article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News, a news outlet about citizens’ rights in the EU and the UK.