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How to have fun saving money

Adam Moelis

Previously worked at Goldman Sachs and YipitData. Graduated summa cum laude from Wharton with a degree in Finance and Accounting.

Americans love the chance to win big. So much so that they’ll often play games that have a chance to win something despite knowing the odds are they’ll lose money.

A perfect example of this is the lottery. Americans spend over $80 billion every year on the lottery. That’s over $640 per household. For most, this is money thrown in the garbage. The odds of winning the PowerBall jackpot are 1 in 292 million, and on average you lose 52 cents for every dollar you spend on lottery tickets. 

This means the average American household loses around $330 per year just from playing the lottery. At the same time, according to the Federal Reserve, 41% of Americans can’t come up with $400 in an emergency. Saving enough for a rainy day is a struggle for many.

Having enough money to set aside is hard enough in the first place. On top is that, saving is boring, interest rates at big banks are basically 0%, and you only see the benefit of saving when something bad happens. And by then it’s too late.

Prize-linked savings accounts are a way to motivate people to save by making saving fun, giving people chances to win prizes with no potential for loss.

What is prize-linked savings?

“Prize-linked savings” refers to a savings account where instead of getting interest, depositors get the chance to win prizes. 

Imagine two banks, Basic Bank and Prize Bank. Each bank has 1 million depositors who each have $1,000 saved at each bank, for $1 billion in total deposits. Each bank pays a 0.10% APY, which equals $1 million in interest per year for all depositors.

Basic Bank is a traditional bank, so they pay every depositor the same amount on their savings. At Basic Bank, every depositor earns $1 per year, no matter what.

Prize Bank does things differently. They think $1 isn’t very motivating for savers. So Instead of paying everyone the same $1 amount, they take the total $1 million of interest and pool it together, to be won via prizes by a subset of lucky depositors. 

Of the $1 million up for grabs, Prize Bank might allocate $500,000 as the grand prize for one lucky winner. They might allocate $100,000 each to two more lucky winners. And 10,000 more people could win $30 each, which covers the full $1 million that was pooled together. 

Rather than get $1 guaranteed like they would have at Basic Bank, at Prize Bank each depositor gets the chance to win either $500,000, $100,000, or $30.

It like a lottery, but you can’t lose anything. Even if you don’t win a prize, you still have your savings, which is never at risk.

This is prize-linked savings.

History of Prize Linked Savings

The concept of a prize-linked savings account isn’t new. Over twenty countries have used prize-linked savings as a mechanism to incentivize people to save for many years. This includes Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Germany, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Oman, Pakistan, Spain, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and Venezuela

The first prize linked savings program dates back to 1694, used by the British government to pay off war debt. In the 1950s, the United Kingdom launched Premium Bonds, the world’s largest prize-linked savings program. Every month, 3 million prizes are won through a raffle. Prizes range from £25 all the way up to the £1 million jackpot. 

Today, Premium Bonds are the number one savings vehicle in the UK. Over 22 million people deposit into Premium Bonds (33% of the UK population), and the program has over $100 billion in deposits. ~$1.4 billion is given out in prizes every year. 

Prize-linked savings accounts in the United States

Prize-linked savings offerings are relatively new to the United States. The first prize-linked savings program was run by credit unions in 2009, called Save to Win. From 2009-2018, credit union members opened over 82,000 prize-linked savings accounts and saved over $190 million. 

Since then, a few other prize-linked programs that have emerged. Yotta Savings is the most recent one of the bunch and offers a fully digital experience. 

With Yotta, you get 1 ticket into weekly contests for every $25 saved in an FDIC insured account. With each ticket, you choose 7 numbers. Yotta draws 7 winning numbers randomly for that week. You win prizes based on how many of the winning numbers match numbers on each of your tickets. 

Prizes range from $0.10 all the way up to the $10 million jackpot. Even if you don’t win, Yotta still pays you a monthly bonus on your savings that is over 2x the national average, so your cash grows quickly no matter what. It’s a win-win. 

To sign up and check it out, head to withyotta.com and download the app through either the App Store or Play Store. It’s 100% free. There are no fees and no minimums.

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