Got an idea to raise the savings rate?

It’s a pretty ambitious move by TIAA-CREF but a courageous one too. Today TIAA-CREF, which  is probably the largest financial services organization that you’ve never heard of (they have $414  billion in assets under management), launched a crowdsourcing Facebook contest to help raise the savings rate in America.

Problem
Here in the US the personal savings rate is just under a measly 4% compared to China where it averages 38% for example. There’s no question that the country faces a significant challenge – for people to be more financially secure they need to be saving a much higher percentage of their incomes. They’ve got to be encouraged to save more.
Solution
Motivate college students and others around the country to brainstorm ways to raise the savings rate. The contest is straightforward. It is open to everyone around the country to participate individually or in teams. The best idea for raising the saving rate up to 10% over two years wins a grand prize.
Rewards
$50,000 for the winner plus a trip for two to South by Southwest. There are other prizes including $1,000 for nine finalists and $15,000 for the people’s choice. And a $25,000 endowment for the college that has the most submissions. The first three hundred submissions also get a free t-shirts.
Winning Criteria
Four factors will dictate who wins. Innovation – is the idea unique and fresh enough. Feasible – can the idea be implemented whether that be by the government, a business or an individual. Effectiveness – will the idea lead to enough Americans changing their savings habit. Clarity – does the idea make sense and it is easy to understand.
Judges
The impressive panel of judges include Roger Ferguson, the CEO of TIAA-CREF; Maria Bartiromo, co-host of the CNBC program “Closing Bell”;  Aaron Patzer, founder of Mint.com; and Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational.
What’s in it for TIAA-CREF?
TIAA-CREF want to position its brand distinctively in the market as progressive thought-leader and trusted advisor that promotes financial literacy for the greater good. And with this contest, especially if it produces an idea that truly changes the savings rate, they certainly would have done that.

Visit the Facebook page to learn how you can participate and tell me what you think of the contest in the comments section. You can also watch video clips of people discussing their savings and publish tweets of yourself saving using the #savewin hashtag or the #savefail one when you do not find a savings and instead spend more than you should.

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