WAMU 88.5 : Freakonomics Radio

Freakonomics: Is A 'No-Lose Lottery' The Answer to America's Savings Problem?

A recent Harvard survey found that half of all Americans, if faced with an emergency, couldn't come up with $2,000 in 30 days. We have a famously low savings rate. Most people would rather spend than save -- and one of our favorite expenditures is playing the lottery. Last year, we spent more than $58 billion on lottery tickets, or roughly $200 per person. As entertainment goes, the lottery is pretty cheap - a dollar and a dream, and all that. But as an investment, it offers a dreadful return, which is why the lottery is sometimes called "a tax on stupid people."

This episode of Freakonomics Radio examines a little-known financial tool that might help people save more money while still giving them the thrill of the lottery. It's called a Prize-Linked Savings (PLS) account, and it pools a sliver of the interest from all depositors and pays out cash lottery prizes. It combines the thrill of the lottery with the safety of a savings account - thus, a "no-lose lottery." In places like England and South Africa, millions of people have been coaxed into saving money via a PLS plan, but state and federal officials in the U.S. aren't very interested. Why? Here's a hint: guess who runs (and profits from) the lotteries in our country? Also in this episode, we discuss financial literacy - or, really, financial illiteracy. In general, Americans aren't very good at the basics of saving, investing and retirement planning. So Freakonomics Radio wants to know: How do we improve our grade? We'll hear ideas for putting financial literacy in school curriculums, and from someone who thinks we shouldn't even try to learn it. And if we can't, can the solution be found in a Los Angeles hospital? Guests also include two members of President Obama's economic team and National Book Award-winner Sherwin Nuland.

NPR

Chinese Dissident Artist Ai Weiwei Restricted To 20-Day U.K. Visa

Ai says he was denied a six-month visa because U.K. officials said he didn't list a criminal conviction in his application. Ai was imprisoned in China, but he notes he was never charged with a crime.
NPR

Humans Aren't The Only Ones To Go Ape Over Diets: Chimps Detox, Too

A group of Ugandan chimps has found a great way to boost their mineral intake and neutralize bitter compounds in their diet: by eating clay.
WAMU 88.5

The Politics Hour - July 31, 2015

Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies, and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.

NPR

In Michigan, A Testing Ground For A Future Of Driverless Cars

Automakers and researchers are using a 32-acre fake city at the University of Michigan to simulate a real-world environment for autonomous vehicles. How will such cars affect urban planning?

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