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PENSIONS

But what does it all mean? How to decipher Sweden’s orange pension envelope

Over the next few weeks, orange envelopes will be sent out to people across Sweden with important information about your pension. The document can feel intimidating, but here's what you need to know in order to decipher it.

But what does it all mean? How to decipher Sweden's orange pension envelope
Understanding this brightly coloured document is the first step to making informed decisions about your financial future. Photo: Jennifer Glans/Pensionsmyndigheten

The exact contents of your orange envelope (or orange kuvert as it’s known in Swedish) are unique to you. The numbers depend on things like your own salary, years spent working, and pension policy.

The first page of the document shows how your general pension and any premium pension has changed over the past year; this is your årsbesked or annual summary. 

All figures are given both for your inkomstpension (income pension, into which 16 percent of your taxable income is paid each year) and premiepension (premium pension, an extra 2.5 percent which goes into funds). The figures for the inkomstpension are almost always quite a bit higher.

Together, these two accounts make up your allmän pension (general pension), which would be added to any occupational pension and/or private pension once you reach retirement age.

The document is sent out in Swedish, but you can see an example of the pension statement in English here, which you can then compare to your own (here’s the 2022 version in Swedish). Here’s a closer explanation of what the key terms mean:

Värde 

This means value, and you’ll see a value for the amount that was in your pension at the turn of the year (2020-12-31) and, at the bottom of the table, how much was in your pension at the end of 2021 (2021-12-31). 

Beslutad pensionsrätt

This figure is exactly how much you had earned in your income pension in the last declared tax year.

Arvsvinster

Pension capital for a deceased person is sometimes distributed among their next of kin. If that’s the case, the amount goes in this row, the title of which literally means “gains from inheritance”.

Administrations- och fondavgift

These are the administrative fees you pay for your pension accounts.

Värdeförändring

Literally “change in value”, this figure is based on income changes across all of Sweden, and it’s a set percentage each year.

Summa intjänad allmän pension

This is the key line on the first page, meaning “total accrued general pension”, which adds together both your income pension and premium pension. This is the figure that’s used to make your pension forecast, which are on the second page of the document. 

Din premiepension

Also on the first page, you’ll see a detailed breakdown of your premium pension. This shows which funds you have chosen to put this portion of your pension in, and how they have developed over the past year. 

You can choose up to five different funds for your premium pension if you want to – otherwise it goes by default into AP7 Såfa, the Seventh AP Fund (National Generation Management Option). The table shows the change in value (värdeutveckling) and the fees associated with each fund (fondavgift).

Den genomsnittliga pensionsspararen

This row of the table shows a fee and total change in value for “the average pension saver” in Sweden. That gives you a starting point for deciding if you’re happy with the current funds you have, or if you would like to change them.

Beslut om dina pensionsrätter

Onto the second page, and this shows how much you have earned towards your public pension during the last declared tax year (that’s 2020, since taxes for the year 2021 haven’t been declared yet). It shows your pensionable income (din pensionsgrundande inkomst), and how much you have earned towards both your income and premium pensions.

The orange envelope does not show the occupational pension which is provided by many employers in Sweden, or any private pension you are saving towards.

If you have more questions about how you can maximise and keep track of your Swedish pension, however long you plan to stay here, check the articles below: 

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For members

WORKING IN SWEDEN

EXPLAINED: Can you negotiate a pay rise in Sweden to offset inflation?

With Sweden's central bank expecting inflation of nearly 8% this year, everyone working in the country is in line for a real-terms pay cut. We asked Gunilla Krieg, central ombudsman at the Unionen union, what scope there is to negotiate a salary hike to compensate.

EXPLAINED: Can you negotiate a pay rise in Sweden to offset inflation?

With Sweden’s central bank expecting inflation of nearly 8% this year, everyone working in the country is in line for a real-terms pay cut. We asked Gunilla Krieg, central ombudsman at the Unionen union, what scope there is to negotiate a salary hike to compensate.

How soon can I get a pay rise to compensate for high inflation? 

Probably not for a while. 

About 90 percent of workers in Sweden are covered by the collective bargaining agreements made between employers and the country’s trade unions. The last round of salary deals was negotiated at the union-employer level back in 2020, and most of them will remain valid until March or April next year.

This means that most employees in Sweden will not see their salaries adjusted to take inflation into account for at least nine months. 

“Under this special model that we have, we already have a level for the wage increases for this year, so you can’t get compensation for the inflation right now,” Krieg explained. 

You might be able negotiate a pay rise in addition to what the unions have agreed in your personal salary review, she added. 

“Of course, you have that freedom. Whether you work in a small company, or a big company, a company that has a collective agreement, or one that doesn’t, you always have the freedom to ask for a salary rise,” Krieg said. 

The only issue is that most unionised companies only offer personal salary reviews once a year, and for the majority of employees, the window of opportunity passed in the spring. 

“You have to find out when you have a salary review as part of the collective agreement you have at your own workplace,” Krieg recommended. “For most collective agreements, that is in the spring, although some collective agreements have it in the autumn.” 

What if I’m not part of a union? 

If you are among the 10% of workers not covered by a collective bargaining agreement, you can ask for a pay rise whenever you like, but unlike union members, you have no right to a pay rise. The decision is wholly up to your employer. 

Gunilla Krief is the central ombudsman for the Unionen union. Photo: Patrik Nygren/Unionen

So will the unions eventually negotiate above-inflation pay increases? 

Probably not. 

Unions in Sweden have historically been quite responsible, and understood the risk of creating a wage-price spiral by demanding wage increases that match or exceed inflation.

“Twenty-five years ago, we had a really high wage increases in Sweden, and we had very, very big inflation, so people got more money in their wallets, but they couldn’t buy anything, because inflation went up much higher than wages,” Krieg explained, putting the union perspective.

“We always take responsibility for the entire labour market, and that’s good in the long term,” she added. “There’s been much more money in the wallet for employees in Sweden over the past 25 years. That’s why we think we should we should not panic because of inflation. It may be that for one year it will mean less money in the wallet, but in the long run we benefit.” 

Can I argue for an inflation-busting pay rise in my salary review? 

You can certainly argue for a pay rise of 8 percent, or even more, but you don’t cite inflation as a reason for it. 

“Everything is individual, so you can, of course, negotiate up your salary, and there is no limit to how much you can ask for,” Krieg explained.

“If you have a job or an education for which there’s a shortage on the Swedish market, then you can get a much higher wage increase. Up in the north of Sweden, where we have [the battery manufacturer] Northvolt, and we have mines and the steel industry, they are looking for a lot of competence right now, and there you can have a much higher rise in wages.” 

But, particularly if you’re covered by collective bargaining, you can’t really cite inflation as justification, as that is one of the factors that unions and employers are supposed to factor in during their negotiations. 

What’s the best way of getting a big pay rise? 

The best way to get a pay hike of as much as 5,000 kronor or 10,000 kronor a month, Krieg suggests, is to apply for other jobs, even if you don’t end up taking them. 

“You can get offers from other companies, and then you can tell your employer that ‘I really liked it here, I enjoy this work, and I want to stay here, but now they are offering me 10,000 kronor more at another company, and if you can raise my salary like that,  of course I will stay here’,” she said.

In a normal salary interview, she adds, it’s important to be able to demonstrate your results. Look again at your job description, and what your goals are for the year, and identify concrete achievements that meet or exceed these goals. If you have any additional duties, you can cite them to argue for a higher salary. If you’ve done any courses, or learned any skills, you can cite these. 

At any time in the year, if your superiors praise any work you have done, keep those emails, or write it down, so that in your salary review, you can say, “you said that this report I did was ‘the best you’ve ever seen’,” or such like. 

Finally, you should find out in advance if there are any salary criteria being applied, so that you can argue that you exceed them, and so demand a higher raise than that agreed for the company as a whole with the union. 

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