In this post on EconLog, Arnold Kling suggests and describes a “rent-n-save” program as an effective alternative to wrecking the economy to convert renters to homeowners.
To mimic the automatic discipline of mortgage payments, create a program where your monthly rent payment includes an extra 10 percent that the landlord deposits in a saving account for you. Again, the saving account can only be used for some long-term purpose.
This suggestion reminded me of a product idea I had while ago and I thought I’d capture it here. I’m sure this has been tried or is available in some form or fashion. Please let me know if you’ve heard about it.
In this age of computers, I’m surprised our banks have not developed ways to allow us to segregate our savings accounts into sub-accounts that we can define for specific purposes.
So, instead of just keeping all of your savings in one lump in an account, you could identify specific purposes, set savings goals and automate your savings to achieve those goals.
For example, you have $20,000 in savings today.
You have several goals you’d like to save for. Maybe you’d like $15,000 for an emergency fund, $30,000 for a down payment on a home, $5,000 for your next vacation and $20,000 for your next vehicle purchase.
First, this product would allow you to go into your existing savings account and set up sub-accounts to match with the goals. You could seed each of those goals with the $20,000 you have today. So, you might allocate $10,000 toward the emergency fund, $1,000 for the home, $3,000 the vacation and so forth.
Then, you could set up an automated deposit into each of these accounts each month. So, instead of depositing $500 into general savings each month, you could put $250 in emergency fund, $100 into the home down payment, etc.
You could set up the deposits to automatically divert to other goals as previous goals are reached. For example, if you reach your $15,000 emergency fund goal, you could then tell the system to put that $250 per month toward the car or split it among several other goals.
If you run into unexpected expenses and need to re-prioritize your goals, you can easily move money between sub-accounts.
I can foresee an abundance of other tools that could be integrated into such a system to make it useful.
Maybe you want to make a contribution to some sub-accounts once every other month or once a quarter. No problem.
It could have a tool to graphically display in a stack bar your planned deposits over the coming 12 to 18 months and you can drag and drop the elements (each representing a savings goal) around the months however you wish.
You can enter your goal and the date you would like achieve the goal by, and the system would suggest an amount and options (e.g. per month, every other month, etc) to get you there.