I love windfalls. The idea of stumbling on money you didn’t know you had sure seems pretty appealing. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t be happy with a little extra money that they come upon unexpectedly. According to some estimates made by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (that’s some government body, I gather), there’s a huge amount of money out there that’s unclaimed. $33 billion in fact! People are leaving this dough on the table by forgetting they have the following items to their name:
- old employment checks
- utility refunds
- trust distributions
- rebate checks
- stock certificates
- savings accounts (or other bank accounts)
- certificates of deposit
- stuff in safe deposit boxes
- bond securities
and so much more.
Image from Moneywise
So what is it that defines “abandoned property” or “missing money”? If you haven’t had any activity or contact with an institution or company in over 3 years and they’ve been holding your money, your funds are turned over to (and held by) the state where you’ve last resided. The state holds on to your property and money until you or your heirs decide to claim it. So if you’ve been investing in stocks and bonds, make sure you check that you’ve got all your funds accounted for! A preventive measure is to use a personal financial tool like Wesabe or Microsoft Money software to keep track of your accounts in an organized fashion.
But you may want to double check what you’re missing anyway. So what should you do to find out if you’ve got money out there waiting to be claimed? Here’s a handy list of resources you can use to check!
How To Claim Your Property and Find Missing Money
Find your hidden, missing money and unclaimed property over here:
This is the official database of the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators. It contains data, information and records on unclaimed property for most states. It’s definitely the first thing I’d check for money or stuff of value that you believe is missing.
Check out the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s site to find out if you’ve got any funds in some old or lost bank account. First thing to do? Determine if your bank is still operational by searching FDIC.gov for this information. If your bank is no longer in business or has failed, and you haven’t had contact with them in over 18 months, you may want to contact the FDIC to inquire about your missing account. Get in touch with the FDIC as soon as you can or you’ll lose your money for good.
It’s pretty easy to misplace a savings bond certificate; just move to a new home and you’re likely to lose some important documents if you’re not careful! It’s been reported that there’s around $15 billion missing from people’s pockets in the form of lost savings bonds. Why not try out TreasuryDirect.gov and their “Treasury Hunt” feature to find out if you’ve got any bonds issued in your name? Good thing there’s no deadline here to claim your savings bonds from the government (no statute of limitations in this case).
One more thing that usually slips through the cracks? Unclaimed pension funds. In fact, there are $133 million worth of funds waiting for their rightful owners. If you’ve got a missing pension fund somewhere, check the PBGC’s site for possible leads.
As far as I know, these are the free ways you can try to peg down your missing money. If you decide to use an asset locator service to track down your bucks or your property, be prepared to pay up to 10% to 20% of the recovered loot as payment for their help. Take note that such a service will be doing the very things you can do on your own anyway, so why not just DIY?