Nobel Prize Winnings Slashed 20 Percent

Disappointing investment returns have the Nobel Foundation paring down prize winnings.

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Now more than ever, those vying for a Nobel Prize aren't in it for the money.

Thanks to a sluggish economy and unstable financial markets, the Nobel Foundation is being forced to tighten its belt a bit, announcing Monday it would pare down cash prizes awarded to Nobel Prize winners.

The foundation, which awards the prestigious Nobel Prize in numerous academic fields and for humanitarian work, will slash prize winnings by 20 percent to around $1.1 million, the Associated Press reported, the first time the organization has done so since 1949.

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Prize winnings, awarded in Swedish Kronor, were the equivalent of about $1.4 million last year.

The organization cited concerns about maintaining adequate funds in the long term for the pullback in prize winnings, saying returns on the foundation's investments had fallen short of operating expenses in recent years. The foundation's investments, which totaled about $419 million as of the end of last year, were down about 8 percent year-over-year, according to an analysis by Catherine Rampell of the New York Times.

According to Rampell, a committee has been established to identify better investment opportunities. The Foundation also said it is re-evaluating administrative costs, as well as the expense of related Nobel festivities, which take place each year in Stockholm and Oslo.

"The Nobel Foundation is responsible for ensuring that the prize sum can be maintained at a high level in the long term," said Lars Heikensten, executive director of the Nobel Foundation, in a statement. "We have made the assessment that it is important to implement necessary measures in good time."

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But despite a smaller cash reward, the money isn't what really motivates potential Nobel Prize winners.

"The money itself is a windfall. It probably wouldn't matter what the amount is, although it's nice to have," Dale T. Mortensen, an economics professor at Northwestern University who received the prize in 2010, told Rampell.

Meg Handley is a business reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can reach her at mhandley@usnews.com and follow her on Twitter.