Washington News Service
SEATTLE – It may be fun and exciting, but the trouble with Powerball is that there are millions more losers than winners. A half-dozen credit unions around Washington offer an alternative with a lot better odds.
The Save to Win program was launched in 2009 to encourage people with low to moderate incomes to develop better savings habits. For every $25 deposited in a Save to Win account, they earn one entry into cash prize drawings – up to 10 chances a month.
Lynn Heider, vice president for public relations and communications at the Northwest Credit Union Association, said the prizes range from $50 to $5,000.
“The prize pools that the credit unions are supporting do not come out of your savings account,” she said. “So, every penny that you deposit in that savings account stays right there, while you’re building your personal wealth and perhaps winning a chance to pick up some extra money.”
Nationally, the program has awarded $1.7 million in prizes and helped credit union members save more than $100 million. Washington is one of only seven states that allows these “prize-linked” savings programs, but Oregon will join the list later this year, and at least a dozen others are considering it.
A high percentage of Save to Win participants are considered financially fragile, a population that tends to spend more on lotteries than those who are well off. But credit union membership includes financial education, and Heider said managers are surprised at how many prize winners don’t use their windfalls as “mad money.”
“A lot of them say that they’re either putting all or a large portion of it right back into the account,” she said, “because when you think about people coming into the program not having had any savings experience before that, and they’re watching it grow every month, it’s a great feeling. They love it.”