Your finances

Last updated: 5 10 2021

About Sweden – an orientation about Swedish society.

This text is about your finances. Your finances consist of your income and your expenses. Your income is your salary and your benefits, for example. Expenses are living costs that you have, such as for rent, food and clothing.

Keeping a check on your finances is important in order for your everyday life to function. Planning your finances makes it easier to get your money to last until the end of the month. This text describes household finances, bills and the Enforcement Authority, among other things.

  • The right to a reasonable standard of living

    Everyone is entitled to a reasonable standard of living. This means, for example, that you are entitled to receive or earn enough money in order for you and your family to be well.

    You have to be able to buy food and clothes, have a home and be able to afford medical care. If you become ill or unemployed, social services have to help you achieve a reasonable standard of living. Children are entitled to social security and to a standard of living that is sufficient to ensure their development.

Gender equal working life and finances

There are different ways of getting money. The most common way of earning money is through work. Having a job increases a person's possibilities of financial security. In Sweden, almost the same number of women as men are employed. In the early 1970s, the Swedish government made several policy changes which made it easier for women to work outside the home and gave women greater financial independence. These policy changes meant that:

  • it made more economic sense for families with two adults that both of them worked, rather than that one worked and the other stayed at home to care for children.
  • parents became entitled to divide the leave from work given to raise a child. Sweden became the first country in the world where men had the right to take parental leave to be at home with their children.
  • more children could attend preschool.

Today, everyone, regardless of gender, is entitled to the same opportunities with respect to conditions of employment, salaries, and the possibility of both working and looking after their children. But working life is still not entirely gender equal. Examples of this include the fact that women and men often work in different professions and that professions which employ a lot of women often have lower salaries than professions in which a lot of men work. Other examples are that more women than men work part-time and that women use more parental leave than men. This has consequences for women's incomes. When they work fewer hours, they earn less money and get lower pensions.

In order to make Sweden more gender equal, the Riksdag has decided that Sweden must have a gender equality policy. One of its objectives is for women and men to have the same opportunities and conditions in working life. For example, both women and men have to be able to work in all professions. No-one should be hindered from doing a job by prejudices about what sort of work women and men are suited to. Everyone must be able to choose their profession on the basis of their aptitude, skills and interests.

Household economy

Your household's income and expenses are your household economy. In order to have a good household economy you should maintain a balance between the money you receive and the money you spend each month.

To get an idea about your economy you can make a simple budget. Write down all your income and expenses and use this information when you plan your budget for the coming month. That way you will get an idea of how much things cost and how much you can spend.

Expenses in a budget vary from household to household. Every year the Swedish Consumer Agency estimates a reasonable level for some of the expenses that a household has. You can use their figures as a starting point when you make your own budget. The Hallå Konsument website also has a budget calculator you can use to work out your own household budget.

If money is short, you need to prioritise your spending. Rent and electricity bills are obvious priorities. Contact those you owe money to if you are unable to pay them back.

Be careful about instalment plans or short term loans if you are going to buy something. Try to see if you can save up the money instead. Short term loans and instalment plans often mean you will be paying interest and charges that make the purchase much more expensive.

​Banks, bank accounts and bank cards

Most people have a bank account and a bank card. Using your bank card, you can make withdrawals from your account at a bank machine or ATM (Bankomat in Swedish). You can also use the card to pay for shopping in shops or online. In order to get a bank account and a bank card, you need to speak to the bank.

Most people borrow money from a bank if they are going to buy a home or a car. To borrow money from a bank, you need to have a steady income, which means an income the bank knows will arrive each month – such as a salary you get paid for a permanent job.

A hand inserting a debit card into a payment terminal by the checkout in a shop.

Photo: Pixabay

Paying bills via the internet or Autogiro

In order to pay bills (invoices) and see how much you have in your bank account via the internet, you have to first contact your bank. The bank will provide you with information about what to do.

Autogiro is a form of direct debit, this means that the money for recurrent bills is withdrawn directly from your account.

A simple way to shop or do bank business online is to use an e-ID, such as BankID. An e-ID is an electronic identity document which is comparable to an ordinary identity document.

BankID is something you get via your bank. How you order it varies between different banks. Log in to your online banking service to learn more about how to get a BankID.

Bills

A bill is a document that shows how much something costs. Bills have information about how much you have to pay. For example, you might get a telephone bill or a bill from your child's preschool and recreation centre. You can also get bills for TV, electricity and heating. Bills are also known as invoices.

You have to pay bills before their due date. Bear in mind that your transfer can take a few days to reach the recipient. Often the bill will say "Payment received by us" or "Due date" and a date. This means that the money must have reached the recipient by that date.

You can go to the bank to pay your bills, but that is sometimes an expensive way to do it. Many banks charge high fees if you go to the bank branch to pay.

You can also pay bills in shops or other places that act as agents for Kassagirot. A fee will be charged by Kassagirot when you pay bills in this way.

It is usually easier and cheaper to pay online. In order to make payments online, you need to have a bank account. Once you do, the bank can link your account to their online banking service. If you use online banking services, you can make payments from a computer.

Bills have a number to Bank Giro or Plus Giro account. You then type in the account number you are paying to via internet banking.

Incorrect and fake invoices

Sometimes companies make mistakes when they prepare and send invoices, so you receive an incorrect invoice. The whole invoice may be incorrect, or only parts of it.

When you receive an invoice for a item or service you have not ordered, this can also be called a fake invoice.

  • Always begin by contacting the company to point out the mistake.
  • Contest the invoice in writing, e g via email, and keep a copy of the email or letter.
  • Do not use the item or service that you received without having ordered.
  • Questions to think about

    Have you ever received a fake invoice?

    Have you ever been contacted by salespeople who you believe wanted to swindle you?

Debts and records of non-payment

  • What is a debt?

    A debt arises as soon as you owe someone something. In most cases, debts are about owing money, usually because of unpaid bills or loans.

  • The Swedish Enforcement Authority

    The Swedish Enforcement Authority is known in Swedish as Kronofogden. Kronofogden takes care of debts that have not been paid. If someone owes you money, Kronofogden can help you get this back. Kronofogden also work with debt reconstruction. This means that Kronofogden help people who have large debts to sort out their finances.

  • Pay bills on time

    Bills have to be paid on time. If you don't pay your bill on time, you will be in debt to the seller. This gives the seller the right to charge you a late fee and interest on arrears (the unpaid amount). These charges will be added to the bill you have not paid, and mean that your debt will grow if you don't pay. Your debt can grow quickly.

    If you have received a payment reminder, you should make sure to make the payment as soon as possible in order avoid getting into even more debt.

    It can also happen that bills do not arrive with the post. If you know that are going to receive a bill but it has not arrived, you have to contact the company that you owe money to. Ask them to send you a new bill – that way you avoid having to pay unnecessary reminder charges.

    If you still don't pay your bill after you have received reminders, the company you owe the money to or its representative will send you a debt collection demand. This means that you get one last chance to pay the bill, plus fees and interest, before the matter is handed to the Swedish Enforcement Authority.

    Companies use debt collection firms to help them collect unpaid debts. If a debt collection firm has taken over the demand for payment, you have to pay the debt to them. The debt collection company will add a fee to the debt that you also have to pay.

    If you have received a debt collection demand, it is important that you pay the bill as well as the debt collection fee, otherwise the debt may be referred to the Enforcement Agency (Kronofogden). If that happens, you risk getting a note of payment default on your credit record, as well as even higher costs that the Enforcement Agency may charge to administer your case. Notes of payment default are recorded by various credit reference agencies, not by the Enforcement Agency.

  • Payment order from the Enforcement Authority

    If you receive a letter from the Enforcement Authority, an order to pay, and you pay it straight away, no record of non-payment will be made for you.

    If you think the order to pay is incorrect you can contest it by contacting the Enforcement Authority and describing what you think is incorrect.

  • What is a record of non-payment?

    A record of non-payment is a registration at a credit reference agency that you have not honoured you payments in the past. Credit reference agencies get their information from the Enforcement Authority and other sources. If you have a record of non-payment you may have difficulties renting a flat, buying things to be paid in instalments, or getting a bank loan. In other words, ignoring your debts brings future consequences. A record of non-payment remains registered for at least three years.

  • What do I do if I am unable to pay?

    Sometimes situations can arise that make you unable to pay on time. These might be illness, accidents, or other reasons that you are not earning enough money to pay your debts. In such situations you should immediately contact the supplier or suppliers that you have contracts with or owe debts to. That way you may be able to agree on a payment plan.

Example: Reza has a record of non-payment

Reza is looking for a new flat. He finds one he wants and applies for it, but the reply from the landlord is disappointing. He cannot have the flat because he has a note of payment default on his credit record.

A while back, Reza was short of money. He was unable to pay his bills. This eventually led to his getting a note of payment default, and that is why the landlord could not rent out the flat to him.

You can get free advice about contracts, subscriptions, bills and debts

  • Interview with Davor Vuleta, the Enforcement Agency

    I came to Sweden as a refugee when I was 14 years old. We had to spend three years in a refugee accommodation centre before my family was granted a residence permit. After attending upper secondary school and then a university programme, I began working as an inspector at the Enforcement Agency in 2007. Since 2013, I've been researching the financial security of immigrants. I'm doing my doctorate, which is to say, studying for a postgraduate degree, at Lund University.

    I have difficulties paying my bills. What can I do in order to avoid being registered by the Enforcement Agency?

    There are lots of things you can do to avoid being registered by the Enforcement Authority. The most important thing is that you actively try to resolve the situation. It is important to act straight away to prioritise what is absolutely necessary to pay, such as your rent, your electricity, food or your mobile phone.

    Contact whoever it is that you owe money and tell them the truth about your situation. You may be able to come to an agreement about making partial payments, or some other solution. Bear in mind that you also have to able to pay your other recurring expenses.

    Another important tip is to open all letters you receive. If you are living with a friend and your post is sent to another address, it is important that you go there to pick up your post often. If you have online banking, you can register most bills for e-invoicing or direct debit. This means that you always have access to your bills via your online banking service. If you choose direct debit, the money for the invoice will be debited to your account automatically each month. For that reason, you need to make sure you always have money in your account so that the debit can be made.

    Is the Enforcement Agency allowed to use physical violence to collect debts?

    No. The Enforcement Agency is not allowed to use any form of violence to collect debts.

    What we do is to work out whether the debtor owns anything that we can use to pay the debts. Perhaps there is some money in a bank account, or perhaps we can take a portion of the debtor's salary to pay off the debt. We can also sell cars, real property and other things, such as watches or paintings whose sale value can pay off the debt.

    Will I go to prison if I do not pay my debts?

    No. In Sweden, it is not a criminal offence to have debts.

    If you do not pay your bills, they may eventually become registered with the Enforcement Agency. We will then investigate if you have an income or own something that we can sell. We always ensure that you get to keep enough money to pay your rent, food and journeys to and from work, for example. It is important, therefore, that you reply to our letters or phone us so that we have the correct information on what your housing costs are, for example.

    I do not understand the principle of interest. Why do I have to pay interest? Why is the interest rate so high?

    We get many questions about interest, from recently arrived people as well as from people born in Sweden. Often they are about a bill someone has been unable to pay on time, in which case the company or person who sent the bill can demand interest. If you have entered into an agreement with a company – such as when you bought a pair of shoes online – you have also agreed to pay a certain rate of interest if you do not pay on time. Sometimes the information about this can be difficult to find or it can be in very fine print at the bottom of the bill. That is why it is important to always carefully read what you are actually agreeing to when you make a purchase, for example, online.

    Can I become a Swedish citizen even though I have debts with the Enforcement Agency or notes of payment defaults with credit reference agencies?

    If you have debts, this can influence your chances of becoming a Swedish citizen. The Migration Agency decides whether you are going to become a Swedish citizen. If the Migration Agency needs to know that you have no debts, or when you paid any debts with the Enforcement Agency, we can give you an extract from our register.

    If you want to know whether you have a note of payment default, you have to contact a credit reference agency. Notes of payment default are handled by credit reference agencies, not by us at the Enforcement Agency.