Is a Sou Sou right for you?

Also, what is a Sou Sou?  So some of you may have heard of this before but most of you haven’t.  I first heard about it from Planet Money a few months ago and I found it pretty interesting.  You see, a Sou Sou (or sou-sou) is an informal savings group.  Every month or week or other indeterminate length of time, you and your friends put an equal amount of money into a pot, after which the money all goes to one individual in the group.  The order in which everyone gets the money is already set so you know when you’ll get your money.  If there are 12 people in a group and they each save $100 a month, then that means that each one of them will get at least $1200 during one month of the year before the order starts over again.

I may have rushed that explanation a little bit but seriously, I find this savings method fascinating.  It developed in West Africa and the West Indies ages ago and people continue to use it to this day.  Interestingly enough, while doing a little research on it, I found that most young people use it to help pay for going to Carnival, quite possibly one of the most awesome and amazing looking things ever.

 

Definitely a good use of the Sou Sou.  Definitely.

Definitely a good use of the Sou Sou. Definitely.

But back to the reason I find this fascinating.  See, one of the main problems most people have with trying to establish their financial independence and even with trying to build good habits is a lack of self control and accountability.  What a Sou Sou does is it makes saving a group activity.  If you don’t put in your payment one month, you let down your friends and family and screw them out of their payday.  You break their trust they have in you.  This guilt alone should keep every member of the Sou Sou from letting bad savings habits creep into the mix.

While you’d be better off putting the money into a savings account or an indexed mutual fund and using compound interest to help build your cash, I can completely understand people utilizing this.  First off, it would be sweet to get a nice lump sum amount every once in a while.  I mean, what if the 12 people put aside $100 a week, instead of a month.  That means that every 12 weeks you would get $1200 put in your pocket.  That lump sum right there is amazing!  And you’ve built a good savings habit.  If you take that cash and sock it away somewhere, you’re good! You may have missed out on the interest but the fact remains, you’ve taken control of one aspect of your life and you’re helping others do it as well at the same time.  That’s not just great, that’s admirable!  One of the things I strive for is to help people get their finances under control and begin to take back their lives when it comes to money.  A sou sou can do more for a group of people than I ever could!

If you want to do a Sou Sou, I suggest getting together with close friends and family and putting one together.  Start out with people you trust.  If you want to really branch out there, there’s actually a website you can check out (http://sou-sous.com/home/) that is a sort of online community to help keep you accountable.  In the long run though, you’d probably be better off sticking with your close friends and family.  Trust is always going to be the most important thing when money is changing hands.  If you don’t trust someone, then you probably shouldn’t do a sou sou with them.  Or do business with them.  And definitely don’t tell them embarrassing stories about that time at that place. You know the one I’m talking about.  Definitely don’t tell them that.

So, in other news, I’m really looking for more interesting and innovative DIY finance tricks and tips, like the sou sou, that can help me and others improve themselves in their financial goals.  If you read or hear about anything, drop me a line!  If you’d like to write about it, let me know and we can absolutely feature you on the site.  Until next time!

3 thoughts on “Is a Sou Sou right for you?

  1. I have never heard of this before. I have a question and a concern about this. My question is, what are the repercussions if you don’t pay in? Do you lose your chance of your payday? It wouldn’t be fair to be able to skip a month or two and then when it comes your turn to collect the pot.

    My concern is related to the above. If you have 11 friends and you are getting the pot in month 10, what happens if you pay in for the first 9 months and then others make bad financial decisions and stop contributing when you are to get paid? Personally, I don’t like to mix money with friends and family so I don’t think this would work for me.

    • Jon,

      Those are serious concerns. Basically, if you don’t pay, you lose your payout. But even worse, you lose the trust of the people in the Sou Sou. Your friends and family simply won’t trust you anymore.

      I completely understand why you may not be willing to mix money with friends and family. For some people, it works. For others, bad past experiences would completely taint this idea (myself included there). That’s why a Sou Sou runs on trust. Like I said, if you don’t put money in then you won’t get your payout AND you will lose the trust of your friends. I think the peer pressure alone tends to keep most people honest about contributing. And if they’re people that can’t contribute, don’t let them into the Sou Sou! It’s not simple but it can definitely work.

  2. So I’m confused. If there are 12 people and, well Is one individual putting in $100 every month? Then everyone would have put in $1200 per year. If I have to put in $1200 then I get $1200 what do I need the others for? Especially if I’m 12th on the list? And when does it end? Would I have to put funds in indefinitely? Or is it based off a year cycle? Is it really a distribution cycle of say instead of waiting for 12 months to get $1200 you get the $1200 in 3 months if you are number 3 on the list. It’s timing.

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