Prize-linked Savings as an Approach to Financial Security 

We live in a world full of opportunities for entertainment. Music, movies, games, cars, restaurants, resorts; the list goes on and on. Especially this time of year, we are bombarded with media images and mass marketing campaigns promoting all things ‘necessary’ for an exciting, happy, luxurious life. Seemingly almost by the minute, our entertainment options get bigger, flashier, newer and as we are told, ever more advanced. And of course, we continue to shell out money to buy the latest and greatest forms of entertainment. Really, who wants an iPhone 4 when you can have a 4s?? Siri is totally worth it.

In the asset building and financial empowerment world, we often cringe at the thought of how much encouragement and pressure Americans face every day to spend their money. Even worse, we hate to hear examples of individuals’ fiscal irresponsibility. How does a person who might not make rent blow their tax refund on a 40” flat screen TV?

No matter how you slice it, entertainment is irresistible. And realistically, how many people want to live a life where you only experience the ‘necessities’ and the rest of your income goes to the bank? Middle and upper income earners make purchases every day on material luxuries and exciting or relaxing experiences. Is the right to spend money on fun just something low income people must give up in order to follow a perfect budget because they don’t have much excess income?

I think we all deserve some entertainment in our lives. And as the saying goes, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” If people will part with their hard-earned money (and lots of it) to buy entertainment, then perhaps entertainment can incite people to put that same money toward more financially secure purposes. Is it possible to make good financial behaviors and choices – like saving – fun and exciting? Could saving be a form of entertainment?

The Doorways to Dreams Fund, the Michigan Credit Union League and individual credit unions across the state of Michigan have answered both questions with a resounding, “YES!”

These entities put their heads together to develop and launch the Save to Win savings product, available at participating Michigan credit unions since 2008. Save to Win is a one year Certificate of Deposit (CD) that offers savers chances to win $100,000, and other smaller cash prizes, every time they save $25. The account successfully weds entertainment with savings. Account holders get to experience the excitement of the opportunity to win large amounts of cash, while at the same time accumulating savings for future expenses, emergency needs, or even to be used as a stepping stone to longer term savings vehicles or purchase of an asset.

What’s more, Save to Win is fair and exciting for people of all income levels. The product is inclusive – it requires a minimum initial deposit of only $25 – and includes provisions that prevent people with more money from skewing the chance to win – savers are limited to 10 raffle entries per month. Through analysis of savings data from the product’s initial years, Save to Win has proven to reach and result in real savings accumulation by low-income earners, the un- and under-banked and other population groups often disconnected from the formal financial services sector. Save to Win provides a chance to save that is appealing to people whose needs and preferences are not often taken into great consideration in the design of formal financial products.

Save to Win shows that it is possible to experience an element of fun while saving. With a little innovative thinking, financial products can be designed to provide savers entertainment, while at the same time increasing their financial stability. Prize-linked savings models are a win-win for fun and financial security!

-Megan

*For more information about Save to Win, visit www.savetowin.org.

**Save to Win fits into a larger national movement surrounding Prize-linked Savings opportunities. More and more organizations and individuals are recognizing the potential to encourage strong financial behavior through entertainment, specifically with the chance to win prizes. Doorways to Dreams hosted the first ever Prize-linked Savings Summit in Boston on November 18. You can view resources and information presented at the summit.

If you have questions or would like further information, please contact email me.

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