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Best Way Not to Lose Powerball? Save the Money Instead

Save to Win, a program at credit unions, offers a chance to win without throwing money away.(Wikimedia)
Save to Win, a program at credit unions, offers a chance to win without throwing money away.(Wikimedia)
January 13, 2016

RICHMOND, Va. - The massive Powerball jackpot has people rushing to buy tickets and dreaming of life on Easy Street, but many in Virginia still struggle to afford basic needs.

For some a credit union program is helping to build nest eggs and also offers a better chance to win much smaller prizes. "Save to Win" was developed in 2009 as a way to encourage low to moderate-income residents to develop better savings habits. They earn entries into monthly cash prize drawings for every $25 they deposit in a Save to Win account. Jessica Thelen is the project manager.

"When you buy that lottery ticket or a scratch-off, that money's gone, like if you were to go to the casino," says Thelen. "With a savings account, regardless of the drawing outcome, the winner is going to have that savings account, plus interest. "

To date, the program has awarded more than $1.7 million in prizes, while helping credit union members save more than $100 million. Save to Win is currently offered at a Chesapeake credit union, with one in Norfolk coming on line this spring.

A high percentage of Save to Win participants are considered financially fragile, a population Thelen says tends to spend more on state lotteries than those who are well-off. While the odds of winning with Save to Win are much better, she says the prizes aren't meant to compete with Powerball or other lottery jackpots.

"Use Save to Win as an alternative; instead of throwing your money away, invest it in yourself," says Thelen. "Even though it's not a million dollars, $5,000 is still enough to change someone's life."

Legislation that would permit this type of program is currently pending in at least a dozen other states. More information is online at SaveToWin.org.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - VA