Raise the Rate – Ideas to Improve Savings Performance

Asset manager TIAA-CREF is sponsoring a Raise the Rate contest on Facebook, and a first prize of $50,000 should spur performance.  The prize goes to the best idea for improving the personal savings rate in the United States.  Judges include Maria Bartiromo, but  her judicial duties do not include a date with the contest winner, so you will have to be satisfied with the cash and recognition.  Second prize goes to anyone who knows what TIAA-CREF stands for.

Here's my entry:

First, the obvious, sponsor a contest on Facebook (and/or Justmeans) for the best idea to raise the savings rate.  Will be very surprised if TIAA- CREF does not love this idea, may have already locked up first prize.

Second, encourage immigration from China, Japan and other countries that have consistently maintained high savings rates.  Probably much simpler to import some savings performance than it is to reeducate the shop til you drop crowd.  The hard part with this solution is to ensure the imports aren't contaminated by their exposure to American consumer culture.  All visas are contingent on monthly attendance at three day seminars designed to re-immerse the immigrants in their native culture of saving.

Third, shoot a documentary that hammers home the perils of reaching old age without savings – the “Blood on the Highway” of the 401(K).  “Alpo at Eight” or “Cardboard Condo” might inspire some savings performance.

Fourth, increase maximum allowed IRA and 401(K) contributions, eliminate minimum withdrawals and eliminate or reduce any income tax imposed on remaining balances that are distributed to a non-spouse on death.  Sorry, there is no joke in this item.

Fifth, get Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner to explain, in prime time,  in  plain English, with repeats available on YouTube,  why social security faces a demographic dogfight that will require constant chipping away at retirement age and COLA adjustments in order to stay solvent.  Then let a Tea Party representative respond.  Resulting loss of confidence in political system sure to inspire savings.

Sixth, require each entrant on last comic standing to announce his or her net worth and plan for retirement.  Then give the other comics an hour to ridicule each retirement plan.  Edit down to a series of one minute spots and release them as public service announcements.

Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association – College Retirement Equities Fund  - At least I get second prize. 

Photo Credit: Alan Cleaver