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finland

Personal finance tips and tricks for Finnish university students

Overall Finland is a good country for students. We get a free education (even university is free) in one of the best school systems of the world and some really nice social benefits as a student, such as financial aid, housing allowance and a student loan that we don’t even have to pay fully. 

However, at the same time Finland is one of the most expensive countries in the world which means that as a student with limited income, you have to play your (financial) cards wisely. 

How to obtain financial advantage while studying at university? 

Usually, when people think about studying at university, they think about all that freedom enjoyed by young people, but also how expensive it is. In Finland, studying in university or in polytechnic (university of applied sciences) is generally free, but still, most people end up taking student loans and/or rely on their parents for financial aid. Social benefits for students are simply not enough for most students in Finland. 

However, students can learn valuable financial skills for the future during their university years. There are many ways how students can obtain a financial advantage while studying. I have personally been a Finnish university student. So I know from my own (and friends’) experiences some tips & tricks for how you can make the most of your studies financially.

Tip 1: Take student loan

If you are going to graduate from a Finnish university or from a Polytechnic on time (or even 0.5-1 year late), you should definitely take advantage of the Finnish student loan system. This is a no-brainer because of the student loan compensation. The student loan is a government-guaranteed loan for which you can get a maximum of €650 per month. However, I would advise to not take more than €18,000 (the maximum amount which is covered by the compensation) of student debt (unless you use it as an investment loan). 

The student loan compensation means that Kela (Finnish social service agency) pays back part of your student loan if you graduate from university in 6 years and from Polytechnic in 3.5 years. The maximum amount of compensation is €6,200 (- interest which is less than 0.5% yearly). To be able to claim €6,200 (- interests) of compensation, you need to take no more than €18,000 of student loan and graduate on time. 

Tip 2: Learn budgeting and track your expenses – and buy your groceries from big supermarkets or from Lidl

Do you know how much you spend every month? Probably not. Learn how to make yourself a monthly budget and track your spending so you know if you hit your targets or not. Here are some great tips for budgeting. There are many ways to track your expenses. You can your online bank statements, wallet apps or simply Excel. If you’re as obnoxious meticulous as some people at sulonorth, use YNAB

Food is expensive in Finland, and it is especially expensive in small, urban grocery stores. Bigger supermarkets like Prisma or the German grocery store Lidl are the best options. The more often you got to a grocery (or any other) store, the more stuff you buy on impulse. That is why it’s good to have a list and go to a grocery store only once per week if you can 🙂

Tip 3: Find a cheap accommodation

Your rent is probably the biggest monthly single expense you will have during your studies. The cost of living is rising in big cities in Finland. Luckily, every city with a university or a polytechnic has a student housing foundation. However, it might be hard to get a studio apartment in your freshman year through a student housing foundation. Dorm rooms are easier to get and they are very cost-friendly. On top of that, you get to meet new and interesting people. Outside of student houses, there are still many options for housing.

As a student in Finland, you are also entitled to get a general housing allowance that covers some of the housing costs depending on where you live and do you live alone. Note: if you move in with someone (e.g. your partner, friend), you are seen as one household (unless you have separate rental agreements, like in student dorms), thus you only get one housing allowance per household. 

Tip 4: Find yourself a part-time work or work full-time during summers

In Finland, studying at University or at Polytechnic is nearly free which means that you have plenty of free time. Of course it depends on your field of study and major, but generally, you don’t have many mandatory lectures and classes during the week. However, there are quite a lot of independent work you have on your own. 

So, you have plenty of time to work part-time if you want during your studies. If you don’t want to work during academic months, I would suggest you to at least work during the summer. But, be careful that you don’t earn too much!  If you receive a (and who wouldn’t!?) study grant (a basic financial aid for students), you have certain earning limits every year, depending on the amount of study grant you will receive during the year. For example, if you study for 9 months and receive study grant from these 9 months, your yearly earning limit is €12,498 in 2020. 

Tip 5: Think twice before buying anything new – and be careful with subscription services

As a student, you don’t have extra money that could be wasted on stupid things you don’t even need. Still, many of us fall into the trap of random shopping too often. Whenever you think about something that you would like to buy, you should ask yourself whether you really need the item that you think you need. Don’t believe commercials because only you know what you really need. 

Also, borrowing is a good way to avoid spending money on items you might only need on occasion. For example, if you plan to go play tennis a couple of times for fun, rather than buying a racket you could ask around to see if your friends can lent you one.

Other good way to avoid buying stuff are libraries. On top of books many libraries also lent out summer sporting equipment. So do check them out! There also many cheap second-hand markets in Helsinki that sell fashionable, quality clothing for a very reasonable price. 

Subscription services like Netflix and Spotify are great services, but these kind of services can insidiously increase your expenses before you even notice. 

Joonas Saloranta covers Northern Europe investing, macroeconomics and more at the Financial Nordic blog.

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education

What do Northern Europeans and ventriloquists have in common?

If you are familiar with Scandinavian and Northern European languages you might have noticed a peculiar way of speaking while inhaling. In linguistics, this is called ingressive speech

According to a research paper titled Languages with pulmonic ingressive speech: updating and adding to the list by Robert Eklund – professor in Language, Culture and Phonetics at Linköping University in Sweden:

speaking on inhalation, pulmonic ingressive speech, is well-known in Scandinavia and often believed to be unique to this part of the world.

Eklund has dedicated almost a decade to researching over 500 works that mention pulmonic ingressive speech (AKA ingressive sound). His research has shown that this type of speaking is not unique to Northern Europe but appears universally. These sounds are not even unique to humans. Other mammals – such as monkeys, horses and dogs – make them too. In human language, it is, however, unusually frequent in Northern Europe and hence often thought to be a Scandinavian phenomenon. 

Where does this type of speaking come from? 

Ingressive speech has been mentioned as a linguistic phenomenon in written texts since 1765, according to Eklund. It has also been used for thousands of years by ventriloquists to achieve the desired effect that looks like you are speaking without moving your lips. 

Why is it used in language? 

According to Eklund, ingressive speech has a specific function in language: it is often used as a feedback marker in a dialogue. In Sweden and Norway, it is mostly used when uttering a single word such as “Ja” (Eng. Yes). However, in Icelandic, Faroese and Finnish a whole sentence can be spoken while inhaling.  

Want to learn? Don’t forget to breathe out!

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finland

Helsinki’s Christmas street opens with reindeer, Santa police, & Saara Aalto

  • Opening of the Christmas St in Helsinki
  • Christmas lights in Helsinki
  • Horses are ready for Christmas
  • Women attending Christmas event in Helsinki
  • Crowd listening to Saara Aalto
  • Even dogs were dressed for Christmas

On Sunday, November 24, 2019 sulonorth was there when the Helsinki Christmas St – Aleksanterinkatu – officially opened. This is the 71st time the merry event -which included musical performances and a parade- has been held.

Christmas lights were lit and glögi heated up. Just in time too, since now there are less than seven hours of sunlight per day. Temperatures have dropped to below zero again. If you need extra help coping with the lack of sunlight, make sure you check out our tips for surviving the Nordic winter.

Maybe the weather isn’t pleasant, but there’s nothing to do except dream of a white Christmas here in Finland’s capital. Talking about White Christmas, famed Finnish singer Saara Aalto (yes, known as the runner-up in The X Factor UK 2016) performed Christmas favourites.

Even dogs and police horses were dressed for the merry occasion.

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finland

Finnish Posti (postal workers) strike reflects Finnish values better than anything

The Posti strike is still on. Finnish postal workers have been on strike since Monday, 11 November. Two weeks is a long time for a strike that has some serious effects for mail letter and package deliveries: package deliveries are late for days while delays in mail letter can be much longer. And all that in the midst of high-season, just before Christmas. 

As if the Posti workers’ strike was not enough, other workers’ unions are organizing sympathy strikes to support Posti workers. For example, the Transport Workers’ Union AKT announced a sympathy strike that would stop public transport in Helsinki region for 24 hours if the Posti strike continues without resolution. Other workers’ unions that are supporting the Posti strike with concrete actions are The Finnish Aviation Union, Service Union United, The Finnish Food Workers’ Union and Finnish Seafarers’ Union

Monday, 25 November could see major transport disruptions throughout Helsinki if Posti workers do not have their demands met. A good day to work at home? How many people can really do that?

Finland is the safest country in the world. It’s notable though that the potential action on Monday is being reported by services that warn international business travelers of delays and disruptions. Usually, Helsinki only appears on these services when Donald Trump or Vladimir Putin visits the city.

The Posti office in central Helsinki.

What is the problem? 

Finnish postal workers (PAU union) are fighting against Posti, the government-owned postal monopoly, over a new deal covering wages, terms and conditions in the sector. According to PAU union’s chairman, Heidi Nieminen:

“Posti is seeking such drastic weakening of terms and conditions that there is not really any other option but to answer with industrial action and try to get a reasonable contract on time”.

PAU union asked other unions from blue-collar confederations to support the Posti strike, and that is what threatens to disrupt daily life in Helsinki on 25 November as the strike continues for the second week in a row without an agreement.

Spending and inequality within Posti 

The Posti strike has gathered an increasing amount of sympathy among the Finnish public following media coverage of the huge wage gaps between the blue-collar postal workers and the former head of Posti, Heikki Malinen.

Malinen banked nearly one million euros in 2018. His 2018 salary included a staggering €376,841 bonus which alone is equivalent to an annual average salary of 16 postmen

Malinen resigned at the beginning of October amid rising controversy over Posti’s excessive spending on senior figures, such as himself. For example, the leaders of Posti have enjoyed expensive memberships at Sarfvik Golf Club in Kirkkonummi, west of Helsinki. The membership was proposed by Malinen in 2015 and it cost €30,000 – more than a year’s salary for the average postal worker.

In mid-August, 15 Posti board members and leadership team members travelled to California for a nine-day all-inclusive luxury trip. Posti has refused to specify the exact cost of the trip but it is estimated to be over €100,000.

Only two weeks after this trip, details of the new deal lowering employment benefits and wages were released. According to Helsingin Sanomat, PAU union has estimated that the new proposed employment contract would mean that postal workers earning around €24,000 annually are facing a 30-50% pay decreases.

Amid increasing backlash, Malinen agreed to forgo two months pay but most people felt that this was adding insult to injury considering his high salary and benefits. Following his departure from Posti, Mallinen will still gain four month’s salary.

A Posti truck on the streets of Helsinki.

The strike represents Finnish values

In a country of low income inequality, it is not a big surprise that this kind of industrial action has taken place. In Finland, rich people don’t boast with their money because that is simply against our moral values. In Finland, people get jealous very easily if someone happens to have little bit more money. 

Finnish journalists celebrate a  “National Jealousy Day” with sensational headlines once a year when the government publishes the taxable income of all its citizens. Searching for rich people’s income has been made super easy with specific “tax search engines” that are available in in every major newspaper’s website. Thank god, the tax search engine shows only the information of those who earned more than 100,000 Euros last year. 

At the same time, Finns like to show support for those who don’t have that much. Surprisingly many Finns are happy to pay high taxes in order to get nearly free education, healthcare, low-crime rates and to be just overall happy people.

For most of the 1800s and 1900s, Finland was just a tiny Northern country that nobody knew of. Of course, we had our wars and Olympics and some sports achievements. Nowadays, Finland is a relatively “rich” country, which is great, but at the same time, our moral values have not changed in the past decades. That is why most Finns have some sympathy towards these postal workers who fight for themselves in order to get adequate rights and rewards.

A Posti worker wearing their recognisable orange jackets in central Helsinki.

An end to paper mail?

Ending deliveries of paper mail be a tempting option when confronted with the Posti workers’ strike. There’s been some public discussion of this recently. Finland is a very digital country with medical, tax, and government-related documents also available online, secured by bank codes. Paper mail is still widely used, however, with accessing online documents a slow and cumbersome process, especially for the elderly, the less tech savvy, and those without strong internet connections.

Joonas Saloranta covers Northern Europe investing, macroeconomics and more at the Financial Nordic blog.

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finland

Succeed with your quest to find an affordable rental in Helsinki

An affordable rental in Helsinki? It sounds like an oxymoron to anyone who is familiar with the expensive nature of apartments and houses in this Nordic capital. Does it exist?

The bad news is that rents keep rising in Helsinki. Currently, the average monthly rent in Helsinki is €22.1 per m² meaning that a 30m² studio apartment costs on average €663 per month. If you want to live in a trendy area of the city centre you can end up paying more than €1,000 for a studio when renting through the private market.

Below are recent search results on the popular rental listing site Vuokraovi for studio apartments in Kamppi (city centre):

As you can see, Helsinki is an expensive city. There’s a huge demand for property, and there’s not enough of it.

Here are some options to consider if you want to live in Finland’s capital.

HEKA

Helsinki Council Housing (HEKA) offers the least expensive per square meter price in comparison to any other rental provider. For an apartment in the central Kamppi area you’ll pay around €12.62 per m² per month, less than half the price than that of the private market in that same location.

For people outside of Finland, Council Housing might sound like a curse word since state-provided affordable houses often have a bad reputation. In Helsinki, this is not the case. Council houses are generally well maintained and there are many newly built council houses in the city. Among these is Woodcity, which finished building two council housing apartment buildings in Jätkäsaari in early 2019. 

On the downside, council houses in Helsinki are in huge demand and hard to get. The council housing system is based on the level of urgency. They have three categories listed on their website: Extremely Urgent, Urgent and Not Urgent. You can read more about the categories here

If you are willing to move a bit outside the city centre the likelihood of getting a place through HEKA increases, but these houses are still in high demand. Many people apply for years without luck. However, it is still worth the try. 

So how to apply? If you have Finnish online banking you can fill in an application for council housing here. Apply here if you don’t have online banking yet.  

M2-kodit

Another inexpensive housing provider is M2-kodit. In their own words, they provide “the most generous square meters in the city”. M2-Kodit operates under the Y-Foundation which aims to increase equality by providing affordable housing in big cities around Finland.

The problem with M2-Kodit is the same as with council housing: the demand is huge and getting one of their apartments is difficult. The apartments are given out based on need and the value of applicant’s assets cannot be above a certain threshold.

The application is valid for three months. After that, you need to renew it if you are still searching for a place to live. You can fill in an application here. You will need a Finnish Social Security number to apply. 

Colliers Finland

Some state subsidized housing is rented through Colliers Finland. These apartments have a substantially lower rent than the private market but also different criteria when it comes to selecting tenants.

For example, there is a limit on assets and also your need for housing is evaluated during the application process. If you are interested in applying you can do it here. You will need a Finnish Social Security number to apply. 

HASO or other right-of-occupancy housing

Even cheaper than HEKA are the right-of-occupancy apartments and houses, AKA HASOs. The vastike – basically the equivalent of a rent – varies. For the newly built one bedroom HASO apartments in Kalasatama (very central) that are scheduled to be completed in 2021 the monthly vastike is estimated to be around €550. Amazing!

You will have the right to live in the house for life if you wish, unless you breach the terms of the housing contract.

The challenge with HASO houses and apartments is that you will need to get a loan from a Finnish bank or have about €50k in cash to pay for the right-of-occupancy in a central Helsinki location. You will get the money back once you move out so you won’t lose the money. But still, Finnish banks are very strict when it comes to offering loans for HASO residences despite the nearly non-existing risks.

The other issue is that if you are looking to get a right-of-occupancy inside of Helsinki, the line is huge and the likelihood of getting one depends on your number.

Yes, you’ll have to get in line.

The housing application process is based on a queuing system. You can apply for a number here. For the most popular locations (close to the city centre) you are very unlikely to get any offers unless your number is close to 20 years old! However, if you are willing to move outside the city centre or even, God forbid, to Vantaa or Espoo, you can get offers with a number that is even less than a year old.

Find right-of-occupancy houses and apartments from these websites: Haso, TA and Avainasunnot.

Private market rentals

Private market apartments in Helsinki.

Have some money and need a place to live right now? You can find rental apartments from the private market by searching Vuokraovi, Oikotie and Tori.fi

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finland

Finland’s business interest in the Arctic

Unlike Norway, Russia, Iceland, Greenland, Canada and the USA, Finland’s territory does not border the Arctic Ocean. However, the northern parts of Finland (Lapland) are considered to be part of the Arctic Region, a polar area covered in ice and snow for most of the year.

Why is this region getting more attention from business people in Finland? In this article, we’ll take a look at the Finnish Arctic strategy.

Finland’s vision is to be an active and responsible Arctic actor in the midst of change 

According to a publication from the Prime Minister’s Office of Finland, Finland declared its own Arctic vision in 2012:

Finland is an active Arctic actor with the ability to reconcile the limitations imposed and business opportunities provided by the Arctic environment in a sustainable manner while drawing upon international cooperation”.

What does this mean? Essentially, the significance of the Arctic region has increased and Finland possesses relevant expertise. Finland wants to contribute to the sustainable development of the Arctic region. At the same time, Finland is engaged in the international efforts to exploit the economic opportunities emerging in the northern region.

An Arctic railway?

One of the ways that Finland could be part of the Arctic business ecosystem is by building a railway that would connect Finland to the Arctic Sea through Norway. In 2018, the Finnish and Norwegian governments announced their plans for this kind of connected railway.

Both the Finnish and Norwegian governments see the potential for an avenue that could provide a more direct route for exporting Arctic resources, and also help a booming tourist industry in northern Europe.

Yle reported this May that tourism in Finnish Lapland increased by 3% in 1Q2019 compared to the previous year. American tourists are visiting Lapland at a particularly increasing rate and the amount of American tourists increased by staggering 66% in that period compared to 1Q2018.

Focus on Food, Maritime and Mining

Besides tourism, Finland sees much potential in the Arctic food industry as food from this region has a pure and healthy reputation globally. Especially Arctic berries are being used and sold as a superfood in powder form all over the world. Just earlier this month, a Tampere University study released promising data on the health benefits of lingonberries. We love lingonberries! The demand for these types of food products has increased in Asia, according to Natural Resources Institute Finland.

Mining is also a large industry in Finland’s Arctic region. According to House of Lapland – a publicly owned destination marketing company, Lapland counts for half of the total quarrying and mining industry volume of Finland and has more than €4 billion of investment potential. Several thousand new jobs are likely to be created in Lapland by potentially two new mines in the next few years, according to Lapin Kansa.

Another area of expertise and focus for Finland is Arctic maritime technologies. Finland has been a world leader in building icebreakers and ships for the extreme Arctic weather conditions. In May it was reported that Finland was bidding to be an icebreaker subcontractor for the USA, which is planning to update its icebreakers in the Arctic region.

The Arctic sea ice is vanishing –  New shipping routes are emerging

There’s another side to the Arctic story. And it’s not exactly all Euros and lingonberries.

You probably know the story: global warming has impacted the Arctic region more than any other place in the world. During the past decades, the Arctic region has changed radically, with higher temperatures having a great impact on the environment. As the climate has warmed steadily for decades, the Arctic sea ice has melted simultaneously, as the graph shows. 

In the future, when the Arctic summers will most likely be free of sea ice (in a matter of decades, according to experts), there will be lots more interest in this Arctic region, especially from the economic point of view.

Take the Northeast passage, for example. It has traditionally been open for sea traffic for only two months in a year. But with the help of icebreakers, it is open from July to November in 2019. The Northeast passage shortens the distances of shipping between Asia and Europe by thousands of kilometers. 

You can make money when you save money. Finland will have plenty of company up in the, previously, desolate north.

Joonas Saloranta covers Northern Europe investing, macroeconomics and more at the Financial Nordic blog.

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finland Politics

The Finns, a right-wing political party, has gained popularity among educated business people in Finland

Earlier this week, a poll showed that populist Perussuomalaiset (the Finns / True Finns) remained the most popular political party in Finland. 23% of the 3,414 people surveyed over the course of about one-month supported the Finns, while 17.3% backed Kokoomus (the National Coalition Party), the second most popular party.

So soon after the spring parliamentary polls, it’s too early to think about new elections in Finland. However, the popularity of the Finns will be of concern to moderate-minded individuals, given the party’s anti-immigrant stance and critical views of the EU. Along with these factors, the Finns’ policies towards environmentalism, for example downplaying the importance of taking action to prevent climate change, may also be concerning to some. Yet these policies are winning over voters.     

Who are the Finns? 

The Finns became one of the most popular parties in Finnish politics after their election win in 2011. In 2019 parliament elections, they were the second-most popular party (17.5 % of all votes) after the Finnish Social Democratic Party (17.7% of all votes). The SDP’s popularity has since dropped to 13.9%, according to the poll mentioned above, mainly due to frustration with a lack of concrete steps by the government

It definitely looks like the Finns party has established themselves on the Finnish political map. One of the reasons for their success and popularity is their anti-immigrant and Eurosceptic political views. Having shown their popularity during the spring elections, the Finns are now sitting comfortably in the opposition, able to critique the slow-to-perform coalition government.

Who supports the Finns?

The Finns have traditionally been most popular among more nationalist men with lower levels of education.

They’ve also been popular among those who would like to keep ‘Finland for Finnish people,’ individuals who see globalism as a threat, not as an opportunity. According to a survey that was conducted in 2016, 75% of the members of the Finns party were men, and 30% of the members had  a degree in higher education (university or polytechnic). Only 10% of Finns party voters had a degree in higher education.

As in other countries, right-wing populism has gained momentum in Finland in recent years. Perussuomalaiset (ie the Finns party) became famous after their “Jytky” (it’s how they named their election win) in 2011. After the great recession in 2008, right-wing populism has grown in many countries (see the graph below). There has also been more “Jytkys”  in the 2010s than just the Finns’ election win in 2011: the UK’s vote for Brexit and the election of Donald Trump as US president in 2016 for example.

Today, the Finns are increasingly supported by young men under the age of 25 and those who are aged 35-64.  

Business people are also starting to like the Finns party 

According to Helsingin Sanomat, the most popular newspaper in Finland,  people who voted for the Finns party in this year’s parlamentary elections were more right-wing and more educated than in previous elections. According to Suomen Uutiset, engineers, chief financial officers and ITC experts and other educated professionals share more and more of the worldview of the Finns party.

A typical example of a new supporter or member of the Finns could be Veikko Vallin, “The Trump of Tampere”, who joined the Finns party in 2017. He is a Member of Finnish Parliament, an entrepreneur and a millionaire who is against “bad” immigration and who would like to tax corporations and businesses less in Finland. He supports Donald Trump, the US president.

More and more municipal politicians have also become supporters of the Finns party after becoming unhappy with their previous party. The “Trump of Tampere” also claims that “many bankers and CEOs have patted my shoulder”.

Supporters of the Finns party are not only lower income people, at least not anymore. It will be very interesting to see if the Finns can attract more business people to support them in the future.

Joonas Saloranta covers Northern Europe investing, macroeconomics and more at the Financial Nordic blog.

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finland Investing

Nordic equity markets: positioning for a tough economic outlook

The Nordic economic outlook isn’t exactly rosy. Cue layoffs and downbeat growth expectations. Where to invest if you want a little more defense in your financial strategy?

Our bottom-line suggestion is to investigate discount retailers. Maybe Finland’s Tokmanni? If you’re really adventurous start your own company offering budget prices to deal-hungry consumers. Or are you more of a shark? Hold your cash, wait for equity prices to drop, then spend, spend, spend. 

How long will the party go on? 

Since the great recession in 2008-2009, we have witnessed a 10-year “bull run” in stock markets, especially in the United States. Other countries have witnessed similar results. Never before in the history of stock investing have we seen such a long period without a recession. Only one other bull market has lasted longer than seven straight years, and it was the bull run after WW2

(In this article, we are taking a look into the current economic situation and thinking about future decisions when it comes to retail investing.) 

So how long will the party continue? 

This is the million dollar question that no one really knows. Looking at the current equity prices (such as OMX Nordic 40 or the S&P 500), it can be tempting for individual investors to sell at least some of their shares, taking profits while they’re still there. However, by not holding  investments, or selling too early, investors can also lose some big gains that might just come to their portfolios. There is always risks and rewards, and everyone acts according to their own investing strategy.

In the past 10 years, US stocks have performed better than Nordic European stocks.

Economic growth is likely going to slow down

We have witnessed steady economic growth globally in the 2010s. Finland struggled quite badly after the great recession and the following European debt crisis. However, since 2015 the Finnish economy has recovered. According to Statistics Finland, Finnish Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has grown for four consecutive years, although the growth is expected to slow.

The Bank of Finland Forecast for Finnish GDP Growth:

  • 2019: 1.6%
  • 2020: 1.5%
  • 2021: 1.3%

It is always hard to predict the future, especially when there are so many uncertainties and factors that determine the global economy trend. As a small fish in the sea, the Finnish economy is prone to various global economic threats and risks. Finns have always relied on their export sectors which is also the reason why the Finnish economy goes hand in hand, up or down, with the global economy.

So want to know how the Finnish economy is going to do? Look at global economic outlook.

Whats should intelligent investors do?

Many of us are thinking ‘what should we do in this new situation’: equity prices are at all-time highs, everyone is talking about the next recession, but still there are not too many attractive investment options for stocks and real estate.

How can intelligent investors invest their money and equities in this kind of a situation?

It all comes down to personal preferences, investing strategy, risk-tolerance, life situation etc. Some things that every investor should consider…

Are you investing long-term or do you need the money in a few years ?

  • The sooner you need your money, the more risk you have if you invest in stocks. Stock market in general have always been a good option for long-term holders, but only those with enough time.

What kind of stocks do you have in your portfolio?

  • During tough economic times, investors should look for companies that thrive or at least survive recessions better than other companies. For example, discount retailers such as Wal-Mart or Tokmanni in Finland might be good options if a recession hits.

Should you allocate your investments into other asset classes?

  • To reduce risk in an investment portfolio, one should invest in different asset classes. Investing in precious metals, such as gold, or just having cash, might be a good option if stock prices drop. Gold price and stock prices have no or very weak correlation which is good for asset allocation. Building up a cash buffer might be a good idea during these times, because when the recession hits, equities are on sale!

Joonas Saloranta covers Northern Europe investing, macroeconomics and more at the Financial Nordic blog.

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Denmark estonia finland Norway Sweden

Nordic winter: survive (and have fun) when the temperature drops

Brrrr!!!! The cold of another Nordic winter is here. No doubt about it. Luckily, all of us here at sulonorth can call ourselves sort of experts on how to handle the below zero temperatures and the dark temperamental skies of Northern Europe. This is not our first reindeer rodeo after all. Here are 8 tips for surviving the extreme Nordic winter conditions.

1. Hygge (do it hardcore)

If you have not heard the Danish word “hygge” you have probably been living under a rock. Basically it means taking cosiness to the extreme. We are talking about candles, smooth lightning, cosy home decor, comfortable sitting areas, fuzzy blankets and hot drinks. These all make “hygge”. You will be spending a lot of time inside during the winter. So make your home as “hygge” as possible. Good lighting is key to achieving this during the dark months. You cannot spend too much on scented candles, herbal teas, mulled wine or hot chocolate at this time of the year. Also, cosy warm robes (or better yet blanket robes, Google it, and thank us later) and wool socks are a must for anyone living this far north!

2. Force yourself out

This can be seen as counterproductive since we just told you to invest a small fortune on good lighting and cosy pillows. It’s important though to try to get out during daylight hours whenever you can. Better yet, try one of the crazy Nordic outdoor activities like cross-country skiing, sledding or skating. Who knows, you might just fall in love with it. Spending time in nature is an extremely important step for winter survival because it undoubtedly reduces depression and anxiety. If you live in Helsinki, we strongly suggest a walk in Lauttasaari. If you drive anywhere make sure you have your winter tires!

Bright sunny day and snow piles in Helsinki
Piles of snow in Helsinki!

3. Warm clothes

The importance of wearing warm attire in Northern Europe is clear during the winter months. You will be miserable without it. It is good to invest in some proper winter clothes so that being outside and taking the longer walks recommended in Step 2 won’t feel so extreme. Outdoor activity won’t be enjoyable if you are feeling you are freezing your ass off the entire time. Also, pro-tip, take a thermos full of your favourite hot drink with you to enjoy at break time while taking in the beautiful winter scenery.

4. Invest in energy-giving light therapy lights 

Light therapy really works. 30 mins a day is all is needed. Turn it on as you wake up and have your breakfast. Your energy levels will immediately go up. Ströme Energy lights are what we use.

5. Discover a new hobby or interest even if just for the winter

Start to try new food recipes or get into building miniature trains. Anything you can do indoors when it is already dark at 4pm. Something you might not have done in the summer since you didn’t want to waste time indoors. Now it is time to try it. Bonus points if you take a course at a university or community centre away from home. Also, now it is the perfect time to start reading those classics you always wanted to but never felt you had time for or had better things to do outside. Maybe learn about P2P-lending.

6. Explore the indoors outside your home

There is a lot of things to do indoors. There are many museums throughout the Nordics. If you are in Finland, wintertime is a good time to invest in a museum card that gives you free access to hundreds of museums around Finland. Many museums are also kid friendly and have kid play areas. Also, malls often have nice kid areas for those with tiny humans. Other fun indoor activities could be movies, theatre and bowling. 

Snow at Töölönlahti in Helsinki Finland
Snow covered Töölönlahti in Helsinki.

7. Fun and games

A cold Nordic winter is the perfect time to get hooked on games or start binge-watching a new addictive show. As it happens, Apple released its mobile game subscription service Apple Arcade just recently. Though still a work in progress, Apple does grant a one month free trial to all new users. Winter is the best possible time to take advantage of this deal. The games can also be played on the Apple TV with a PlayStation game controller. For those more into traditional games, there are many fun board games to spend those cold winter days with family or friends indoors.

8. Eat well and exercise

Maybe it’s a cliche but remember to eat healthy and exercise. To survive the dark and cold make sure you get all the vitamins you need. The best way to do this is with help from a varied diet. It might also be useful to take D Vitamin supplements if you don’t consume any dairy products. Some dairy products are fortified with D vitamin in the Nordics to make sure people get enough with the lack of sunlight. 

(9. Finland bonus: sauna time)

Three words: Weekly sauna shift! Utilise it! Most people in Finland have easy access to a sauna, either there is one in your own apartment/house or there is a shared one in the apartment building you can book once a week for yourself. A Nordic winter is the perfect time to start using it. While at it, experiment with different sauna oils and scents to take your relaxation to a whole new level.

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Companies finland Investing

Our top 5 Finnish Tech Companies

Nowadays, Finland is one of the most advanced countries in the world when it comes to technology innovations. Based on data from sources including the World Bank, IMF and OECD, Finland was the 3rd most innovative country in the whole world in 2019. Only South Korea and Germany were more innovative than Finland.  

Finland would not be so high on the list without its great education system, researchers and skilful people. When high-quality education, innovativeness and advanced technology skills are combined, some great success stories are likely to happen, such as Nokia Cell Phones in the early 2000s, the famous mobile game Angry Birds or the world’s leading startup and tech event Slush

Here is our list of the top 5 Finnish tech companies:

Nokia

Nokia, with a market value of more than 20 billion USD, is a Finnish telecommunications and information technology company that became famous in the early 2000s with its cell phones and Nokia tune. 

Nokia’s history started already in 1800s, but it became a global success story with its cell phones. However, since 2007 Nokia has not been able to compete with Apple’s iphone and suffered badly ever since. Currently, Nokia operates in the fields of multinational telecommunications, IT and consumer electronics.

Rovio

You might not have heard about Rovio, but you have heard about Angry Birds, the famous mobile game (and a movie). 


Rovio Entertainment Oyj is a Finnish game developer company that was founded by 3 engineering students in 2003. Rovio published its famous Angry Birds mobile game in 2009 which was a success: in just 5 months, Angry Birds became the most downloaded app in Apple App Store. Rovio was able to capitalise on Angry Birds with several game extensions, spin-offs, movies, animated series, merchandize and even activity parks.

Another, originally Finnish gaming company, is Supercell. Their most popular mobile game is Clash of Clans. Chinese Tencent bought Supercell in 2015.

Polar

Polar Electro does well in the field of sports technology. They are particularly known for developing the world’s first wireless heart rate monitor. Polar’s gadgets are being sold in 80 different countries across the world.

Their most well known products are currently activity bracelets and sport watches, such as this new “fitness watch”, Polar Ignite which costs around 220 USD. 

Another, very similar Finnish company is Suunto.

Kone 

Kone Oyj is a Finnish company that operates globally in 60 different countries employing 55,000 people. Kone is a global leader in the elevator and escalator business: it builds and services elevators, autowalks, escalators as well as automatic doors & gates. Kone is one of the most valuable corporations in Finland.

Neste  

Neste is one of the biggest and most valuable companies in Finland and the largest producer of renewable Diesel in the whole world. Not necessarily a tech company, but they apply advanced biotech in their business


Neste has been a phenomenal success story: Harvard Business Review selected Neste as the 12th on the list of The Top 20 Business Transformations of the Last Decade. That is something that Finns should be proud of. Luckily, the Finnish State owns 35 % of Neste’s shares.

Joonas Saloranta covers Northern Europe investing, macroeconomics and more at the Financial Nordic blog.