# Is money rotation a profitable game?

Some of my colleagues are insisting me to join a group of 10 colleagues (namely, A, B, C,..., J) in a money rotation game. Each member has to deposit Rs 10,000 per month into a money pool. Amount deposited in the pool for each month will be Rs 1,00,000 and this amount will be credited to the account of one of the members based on lottery. Suppose, A wins the lottery for the first month then Rs 1,00,000 will be deposited to the account of A. The candidate A will not participate in lottery for the next 9 months but he will continue contributing to the pool. And so on. I have no idea as how to invest this amount so that we could get the maximum benefits out of this game. On other hand if I don't participate in this game and deposit Rs 1,00,000 in FD for one year, I will earn an interest of Rs 6,500. What is the maximum possible profit I can get from money rotation game?

• I think this should be moved out of the meta and to the general discussion board. It also seems more like a math problem than a personal finance problem if you're including the stipulation that your investment return is 6.5% Nov 14 '19 at 22:13
• Sounds like gambling, which would make it off-topic. Nov 15 '19 at 0:12
• @Chris W. Rea In fact, it is not a gambling, but more like a recurring deposit, where every one will get their own money back without interest. The maximum time it will take to get one' s own money back is 10 months.
– gete
Nov 15 '19 at 1:52
• What guarantee do you have that each winner will actually continue to play? And if such a guarantee holds, what is the point of playing? Nov 15 '19 at 20:23
• @chepner The OP is describing a "rotating savings and credit association" (ROSCA), an important form of informal banking in parts of the developing world. These associations are based on social trust in tight-knit communities.
– Flux
Jun 10 at 7:42

There is a big risk:

The other participants might stop once they win, thus if you don't win early the game might stop before you win a month. If it goes six months without you winning and then then stops you have spent 60,000.

There can be legal issues if it is viewed in your jurisdiction as gambling, and that form of gambling is illegal. It might even involve money laundering. Making large cash deposits in some countries can be problematic and trigger additional scrutiny.

There can be tax issues.

Even ignoring all of this, the best way to maximize the return is to win early and hope that others lose interest before you have contributed as much as you have won. If the games goes to completion then those that won early make more interest than they would have with a lump sum, those that win late make less money, but as a whole it evens out.

You appear to be describing a rotating savings and credit association (ROSCA) (references: Wikipedia, Investopedia). These are not usually set up as a "game", but as an informal financial institution that acts as an alternative to banks (ask your colleagues to ascertain this). In effect, the winner of the lottery is given a loan (not a lottery prize or free money).

ROSCAs are useful in communities that have limited access to banking services (e.g. remote areas, places with underdeveloped banking systems, etc.). These associations are based on social trust. Note that lotteries are not a necessary feature of these associations. The recipient of funds could be chosen using a circular queue, or based on submitting a loan application, or using a lottery, etc.

Is money rotation a profitable game?

i.e. How much money can I earn from my "deposits" in a ROSCA?

First, let's prioritize the preservation of capital instead of the potential for profit. ROSCAs are based on social trust among the association's members. If you don't trust the other members, then don't join. If you intend to scam the other members by deliberately stopping your contributions once you get your "loan", then please don't join. If you have access to reliable banking services, then putting your deposits in the bank may be a much safer choice.

If you want to get higher interest on your deposits, you will need to evaluate the situation of ROSCAs vs banks. This is highly dependent on the rules and members of the ROSCA in question. You will need to balance the risk of loss of principal (presumably higher in ROSCAs) vs the interest rates offered. There's no point in accepting a minuscule increase in the rate of return if the risk of loss of principal becomes unacceptably high.

On other hand if I don't participate in this game and deposit Rs 1,00,000 in FD for one year, I will earn an interest of Rs 6,500. What is the maximum possible profit I can get from money rotation game?

For the ROSCA described in your question, if you play fairly, the maximum profit is zero because no interest is paid. Since you are looking for profits, you will be better off with the FD.

• one feature of this arrangement is to help those who don't have the ability to save up for 10 months. (A partner might take the money for alcohol, parents might demand it for their own support, or the person might just be impulsive.) They can part with a small amount of money for a game, and when it's their turn for the large amount of money it makes a big difference in their lives. You can say they should have "just" saved it themselves, but not everyone can do that. Jun 10 at 13:45
• Good answer; could perhaps be improved somewhat by delving in just a tiny bit towards why a 'loan' like this would be valuable - ie: if it was used for a specific productive purpose [to secure housing, to start a business with reliable ability to pay back the loan, etc.]. It is implied but not directly stated that due to lack of interest being offered, the benefits of having access to the cash on your 'turn' is not to earn investment income, but to otherwise improve your situation. Jun 10 at 13:58