MADISON, Wis. (2/2/11)--American consumers have a hard time saving. But they love to play the lottery. Credit unions across the country are taking advantage of consumers’ passion for “that one chance to win big” and enticing them to save at the same time. Credit unions are offering lottery-type drawings for groups of members who make the sacrifice to sock their money away. The concept is straightforward: Members put money in a savings or certificate of deposit account for a chance to win monthly prizes and a grand prize. The more they save, the better their chances of winning. The trend began in the U.S. in Michigan in 2009 with the “Save to Win” program, an idea conceived by finance professor Peter Tufano of Harvard Business School. Through Doorway to Dreams, a foundation that seeks innovative ways to bring financial services to lower-income families, Tufano joined with the Michigan Credit Union League and the Filene Research Institute to pilot the program with eight state credit unions. Members who put $25 or more into a Save to Win one-year CD were entered into a monthly raffle for prizes up to $400, plus one annual drawing for a $100,000 jackpot. Participants could save a maximum of $250 a month--or 10 chances at winning the raffle drawing In 2009, the program attracted more than 11,600 savers who saved $8.6 million. Since then, eight additional states have moved forward with plans for prized-based savings programs. In 2009, Rhode Island, Maine and Maryland enacted laws that allow financial institutions to offers savings promotion or lotteries to boost consumer savings. Legislation is currently pending in five other states: Nebraska, Iowa, Mississippi, New Mexico and Washington. The economic meltdown was hard on consumers' retirement accounts, home equity and cash savings--the three major ways that Americans typically save money, said John Annaloro, the Northwest Credit Union Association's chief executive. Americans' personal savings rate was recently pegged at 5.3 percent. That's a major improvement from 2006 and 2007, when the rate turned negative for the first time since the Great Depression, but still far from the 10 percent saved in 1985 (Associated Press Jan 30). The programs are a “win” for states and consumers. Nebraska State Sen. Amanda McGill, in introducing the bill in her state, noted that the average American family spends $540 on lottery tickets (News NowJan. 25). Through savings raffles a state’s consumers are more financially stable. Consumers save more money--and still satisfy their urge to take a chance on winning big.