Sunday, November 24, 2013

Do You Want to Play the Lottery and Never Lose?

Who doesn't like to play the lottery?  But how often do you actually win something? Oh, maybe you win a few dollars here and there.  And don't you just hate it when you lose  What if I told you that there is a lottery that you can enter that you never lose?

The answer lies in something called Prize-Linked Savings Accounts. What, you have never heard of them? You are not alone, neither have most people.I discovered them recently when I came across a reference to them in the editor's note to the December 2013 Money Magazine.  Intrigued, I did a little research and was quite astonished how simple and useful they are as savings mechanisms and as a means of satisfying that inner voice that insists that the next time I play the lottery, despite all the evidence to the contrary, I will win big.

Prize linked savings accounts are savings accounts offered by banks, credit unions and local and national governments which pay little or no interest, but which are eligible for participation in a lottery, where the   proceeds of the lottery are paid from earnings on the deposits. In other words, the savings portion of the account is never touched, but if lucky enough, you may win money with absolutely no risk of losing any of your savings. Sound too good to be true?  Well, in Europe and elsewhere, they have been offered since at least the mid 1950s.

In Great Britain, which was one of the first countries to adopt the accounts, it has been shown to have substantially increased the amount people have saved. It is estimated that more than 25 billion pounds have been saved by people in Great Britain since the program was initiated there.

While many states in the US consider these accounts to be a form of illegal gambling, four states, Michigan, Nebraska, Washington and North Carolina permit these types of win-win lotteries.Consideration is being given in other states as well to allow these accounts including Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, Mississippi and Maryland.

I don't know about you, but it seems to make a lot of sense to permit these types of accounts. After all, most states now permit certain types of lotteries and many allow casinos. With the personal savings rate in the US an  abysmal 2 to 3 percent, the Prize-linked savings account may just be the motivation needed to improve that rate. This step not only gives the state's residents a chance to win money, it guarantees that none of the money deposited will be lost.

Sources:  Money Magazine, The Financial Brand

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