The other day I went to one of my favorite establishments of fine dining, Wienerschnitzel, to feast on a couple of chili cheese dogs. When I got to the counter to pay for my food I opened up my wallet and, to my pleasant surprise, what did I see hiding behind some business cards but an old $5 gift certificate!
You know, I am happy anytime I am inside a Wienerschnitzel restaurant with a couple of yummy chili cheese dogs sitting in front of me. So anytime I can give the lady behind the counter some currency with the face of Wiener Dog on it rather than honest Abe Lincoln you know I am going to be absolutely ecstatic!
That little event was like finding five bucks I didn’t even know I had, and who doesn’t like finding money they didn’t know they had?
You can bet I’m not the only person with money hiding right in front of me, just waiting for me to claim it.
According to MissingMoney.com, approximately 1 in 8 people in the United States have some missing money waiting to be claimed. Fortunately, every state in the Union has enacted unclaimed property laws that instruct companies to turn forgotten funds over to a state official who is charged with making a diligent effort to find you or your heirs.
The National Association of Unclaimed Property Adminstrators (NAUPA), notes that $1.754 billion was returned to the rightful owners in the Fiscal Year 2006 from 1.929 million accounts. They further note that at least $33 billion is currently being safeguarded by state treasurers and other agencies for 117 million accounts.
Some of that money might even belong to you!
How to Determine If You Have Unclaimed Money
“Okay. So how do I go about finding it, Len?”
NAUPA’s website provides a search engine to help you determine if you have any money in your name waiting to be claimed. At the site, you’ll see a map of the US and Canada; simply click on the state or province you think might have unclaimed money waiting for you. Depending on which state you choose, you may be directed to either a website specifically devoted to unclaimed funds (such as in the case of Minnesota), or to the applicable state controller’s office (as in the case of California) where you may have to dig a little deeper to find the right link for claiming your funds.
MissingMoney.com has a better, more direct, site for checking for lost money. This excellent site is free of charge and is endorsed by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators. The one drawback to this search engine is that there are a handful of states that are not covered by the database, including California and all of the Canadian provinces except for Alberta.
To use it, simply enter your name and the state you live(d) in and the search engine will check for unclaimed bank accounts, safe deposit box contents, stocks, mutual funds, bonds, and dividends, uncashed checks and wages, insurance policies, CD’s, trust funds, and even utility deposits and escrow accounts. Remember to check all of the states where you ever lived — not just your current home state.
Within a few seconds it will return possible matches including the full name, last known address, original source of the unclaimed money, and the amount in non-specific increments such as “over $100.”
To broaden the search and get an idea of what kind of money is out there, I purposely entered my last name only – I got really excited at first when 12 people with my surname came up.
Then I reviewed the list and saw that none of them were me. I felt worse than the Arizona Cardinals going into the locker at halftime after they gave up that 100 yard fumble recovery for a touchdown on the last play of the second quarter during Superbowl XVZL (or whatever that number was).
Don’t Forget to Check for Unclaimed Pension Money
Retirees should also make sure they check out this site for unclaimed pension money from companies that went out of business or ended a defined plan.
How to Avoid Having Unclaimed Funds
Experts suggest that if you want to avoid having unclaimed funds, you should always:
1. Cash your checks promptly.
2. Keep accurate records of your bank and savings accounts.
3. Keep a record of all utility deposits.
4. Prepare a notification checklist of all your monetary accounts for when you change addresses or your name changes for any reason.
Oh, and by the way… of the 12 Penzo’s who have money coming to them, six had windfalls of more than $100. Nine lived in Florida, two lived in Texas, and one in Maryland. So if your last name is Penzo and you happen to live in one of those states, don’t forget to send your 10% finders fee to yours truly.
You know what? On second thought, just buy me a chili cheese dog from Wienerschnitzel and we’ll call it even.
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