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Cashless Swedes sitting on old bills worth billions

Old Swedish bank notes worth 1.4 billion ($162 million) kronor are still circulating, according to the country’s central bank, despite them having been declared invalid a month ago.

Cashless Swedes sitting on old bills worth billions
The old 20, 50 and 1,000 kronor bills ceased to be legal currency in Sweden in June, after being replaced by new designs.
 
Old notes can still be deposited in a bank account up until August 31st. After that they can be exchanged for a fee at the Riksbank, Sweden’s central bank, which has received 400 million kronor in the past month. 
 
In an effort to get people to hand in their cash, the Riksbank launched a campaign this spring featuring “Wanted” posters on billboards, in newspapers and in digital channels.
 
Exactly what Swedes are doing with all the missing cash is not clear, but there’s a good chance that much of it is hiding in drawers in the famously cash-averse country. Sweden is one of the countries that has come furthest towards becoming a cash-free society, with cash transactions accounting for just two percent of the value all payments, a figure predicted to fall to 0.5 percent within five years..
 
Research commissioned this year by the credit firm company Visa suggests that Swedes are not only using payment cards more often than people in most other nations, they are also using them for smaller amounts of money.
 
According to Visa, the average card purchase in Sweden amounts to 301 kronor ($35), while the European average is 459 kronor ($54). People living in Sweden also use their cards more regularly than those living in all other countries except Finland, the study suggests.
 
Riksbank spokesman Thomas Lundberg told TV4 on Friday that old notes handed in to the Riksbank would be invalidated, shredded and burned to provide heat for Swedish homes. 
 
Sweden is due to get more new notes in October, including a 100 kronor note adorned by Greta Garbo, and a 500 kronor note carrying the image of Swedish soprano Birgit Nilsson. The one krona, two kronor and five kronor coins will also change appearance in the autumn, though the old versions will still be usable until June 30th, 2017.
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EUROPEAN UNION

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:

https://www.eiopa.europa.eu/browse/regulation-and-policy/pan-european-personal-pension-product-pepp/consumer-oriented-faqs-pan_en 

https://www.eiopa.europa.eu/browse/regulation-and-policy/pan-european-personal-pension-product-pepp_en 

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

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