How to retire to Sweden: A complete guide

TransferWise content team
21.09.17
5 minute read

Whether you’re a Brit, an American or an Australian, you’ve probably heard Scandinavia referred to as some sort of paradise. There’s a reason for this; Scandinavia has beautiful landscapes, robust social safety nets and some of the happiest citizens on earth. Retirees who want to spend their post-career days in Sweden are onto something. Sweden is full of expatriates seeking a relaxed and healthy lifestyle, and seniors make up a percentage of this population. For tips on city living, pension and budget specifics, and retirement leisure activities, read on.

What’s the money like there?

The Swedish krona is the currency that Swedes use. It’s written with the code ‘SEK’ in global markets, or symbolized by currency sign kr, as in 100kr. One krona is subdivided into 100 öre. As of summer 2017, approximate exchange rates for the krona are:

  • 1 EUR is around 9.75 SEK
  • 1 USD is around 8.74 SEK
  • 1 AUD is around 6.64 SEK
  • 1 GBP is around 11.13 SEK

What's the cost of living like in Sweden?

While consumer prices may feel quite high in Sweden, they’re balanced out by rent and housing costs being lower. Sweden’s laws are in place to ensure an egalitarian society. You’ll find some of the best public services in the world. One way to watch your budget and save on currency exchange is through using TransferWise, where you can transfer money into a local Swedish bank account without getting gouged on bank fees. TransferWise uses the real exchange rate and applies a low fixed fee - leaving you with more money to enjoy your retirement.

Here are some common prices you’ll run into in Sweden:

Item Estimated cost in Sweden
gallon of milk 38.5kr
loaf of bread 18.5kr
chicken breast 40kr
one beer in a bar 55kr
McDonald’s meal for one 70kr
monthly pass for fitness club 330kr
meal for two at mid-range restaurant 600kr
one pair of jeans 845kr
monthly rent, one-bedroom apartment 6,000kr
monthly rent, three-bedroom apartment 10,000kr
Petrol, one gallon 51kr
Volkswagen golf, new 200,000kr
one-way ticket on local transport 27kr
monthly transport pass 760kr
basic utilities for an apartment 621kr

How much money do I need to retire in Sweden?

You’ll need a small savings cushion if you want to retire comfortably in Sweden. However, remember that what you pay for in some areas are made up for in excellent health care, educational subsidies and reasonable public transport options.

To live cheaply, you can get by on a monthly budget of 8,000kr (about 850 euro or 1,000 dollars). On this budget, you’ll still be able to pursue leisure activities and take the odd holiday. If your pension or modest salary allows you to have a higher budget than 8,000kr per month, you can expect to live well in Sweden.

There are no restrictions on foreigners buying real estate, so if you’re looking to buy property in Sweden, you should be able to go for it. Transactional costs are known to be quite low, and the process moves quickly. Owning your own small slice of Scandinavia is certainly possible.

What’s daily life like?

In Stockholm, where most people live, the climate is typical of Scandinavia. Winters are cold and cloudy, and summers are cool and sunny. It rarely ever gets truly hot. In January, the average temperature is one degree Celsius /33 degrees Fahrenheit, while the average temperature in June is 20 degrees Celsius and 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Like most Northern climes, Sweden has a range of seasons. Tourists tend to visit in the summer, when the days are long and the climate is more mild. However, if you’re a fan of snow and reindeer, there’s plenty to celebrate about winter.

Sweden has one of the oldest populations in the West, which means some of the healthiest seniors on earth. It’s no surprise then that retirees in Sweden tend to be very active. From hiking to canoeing to snowshoeing to biking and picking berries, Swedes tend to go outside during any season. Physical activity is a hallmark of life in Sweden.

Otherwise, pensioners tend to meet in cafes, go to the cinema or attend cultural events, and cook or dine out. Dinner parties are popular among groups of friends. In larger cities like Stockholm and Uppsala, you’ll find a large expat community to connect with.

What are the best places to retire to in Sweden?

Some top places you could consider retiring in Sweden are:

  • Stockholm
  • Gothenburg
  • Uppsala
  • Malmo
  • Sandhamn

Stockholm is the capital of Sweden. You’ll find beautiful architecture, boating, seafood restaurants, art museums and historical walking tours. The pace of life tends to be relaxed, despite the fact that Stockholm is a global capital. Transport to and from the city is very easy and expats are all around. Despite its stature as a capital city, Stockholm is fairly safe. Pickpocket crimes do occur, and there are certain parts of the city you’ll want to avoid late at night. However, it’s no more dangerous than any other populated place.

Gothenburg, the second-largest city in Sweden, is a cultural center. You can easily get to the numerous islands in the archipelago from the city, and explore cliffs, beaches and outdoor bars. Gothenburg is known for its superior ice cream parlours.

In Uppsala, you’ll find universities and a historic cathedral. Although the city is home to many students, you can also find adult expats who have made a home in the city. Uppsala’s reputation is that of a very safe and secure city where you don’t have to worry much about crime.

Malmo is a cultural melting pot, with a diversity of cultural and culinary offerings. The city has a friendly vibe, but is a metropolis of an approachable and manageable size. The weather can get very cold, as it can in all of Sweden, in the winter.

Sandhamn is a small island in Sweden’s archipelago. It’s just one hour from Stockholm, and has sandy beaches and rocky landscapes. You can scooter around the island, visiting small bakeries and churches and farmhouses. There are spas and wellness centers, and many hiking paths. There’s also a great nightlife. What’s not to love?

What are the visa requirements for me?

Requirements for American retirees

Americans don’t need a visa to visit Sweden. However, if they plan to stay for more than three months, they’ll have to apply for a Schengen visa. You can apply at your local Swedish consulate or embassy. You’ll need a valid US passport, financial disclosures, fingerprints and a photograph.

Australian requirements to retire in Sweden

You can go to Sweden for three months without a visa. If you plan to stay longer, you’ll have to apply for a Schengen visa. The process is the same as it is for Americans, detailed above.

UK pensioners looking to settle in Sweden

EU nationals are allowed to stay in Sweden for unlimited periods of time. However, they must register with local authorities once their visit exceeds 90 days.

Go out there and get settled

Sweden is home to many healthy and happy retirees, both foreign and home-grown. If you can withstand the chilly weather, the payoffs are numerous. With great healthcare, wonderful food and an environment that encourages physical activity, Sweden is sure to be a good bet.

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