Contest: $50,000 for Best Idea to Get America Saving More

Last Updated Jul 11, 2010 11:02 PM EDT

Come up with a way to convince Americans to save more and you could find yourself $50,000 richer. That's the grand prize TIAA-CREF is ponying up for the best idea to boost the national savings rate to 10 percent within two years. The challenge is a big one, considering that the last time the savings rate hit double digits was May 1985. Currently we're hovering around 4 percent. Clearly creativity is gonna be needed here.

Source: BEA


Got an App for That?
You have until September 20th to submit your idea to the Raise the Rate contest. It can be a killer mobile app, a tweak (or overhaul) to government policy or just a darn good idea. According to the official rules, you'll want to focus on: recommendations that impact: savings accounts, mortgages, investment products, and retirement accounts.
Behavioral economist Dan The Upside of Irrationality Ariely is one of the judges, so outside-the-box is definitely in play. Developers interested in the contest should be sure to check out Allan Roth's recent MoneyWatch post that explains Ariely thinks a Sims City type game might be a compelling way to nudge us to better financial decisions. CNBC's Maria Bartiromo and Mint.com's Aaron Patzer are also judging, along with TIAA-CREF's CEO, Roger Ferguson, Jr. I'll leave it to you to figure out the best way to pander to their interests.

Here's what the judges will be looking for:

25% Innovation The idea must be original or use existing tools in a completely new way.

25% Feasibility The idea must be possible, as in a government, a business or an individual could realistically implement it.

25% Effectiveness The idea needs to work if it became a reality; i.e., the idea would get enough Americans saving to raise the US Personal Savings Rate.

25% Clarity The idea needs to answer the question clearly, directly, and in an organized fashion and make sense.

Play to the Masses, Win $15,000.
In addition to the $50,000 grand prize, there will also be a $15,000 People's Choice award (to be voted on via Facebook) as well as 9 runner-up payouts of $1,000 each. The college that submits the most legit ideas will receive a $25,000 endowment; last I checked George Mason University was in the lead. Winners will be announced December 16th.