Untapped Strategies: Potential Money Sources to Fund Your Investment Program
Do you know that sometimes you can collect dollars instead of pennies by becoming a more knowledgeable consumer? By using the strategies that follow, you may be able to add large sums of money to your family’s savings and investment program. Throughout the country, billions of dollars remain in accounts that have been abandoned or forgotten. These accounts include checking and saving accounts, pension benefits, and insurance benefits. How could anyone possibly forget about something of value? Well, maybe....You neglected to retrieve a security deposit after moving out of an apartment. Perhaps dividends on a stock or mutual fund have been going to the wrong address. Maybe you switched banks and failed to close out all your old accounts. Or you changed jobs frequently and previous employers don’t know where to send pension benefits. Perhaps you are entitled to benefits of a life insurance policy or cash left by a relative who has died. In any event, you might be entitled to unclaimed property held by your state or the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. Or you might be the beneficiary of a long-lost insurance policy. Fortunately, receiving your just rewards is not extremely difficult if you know how to proceed.
To locate missing bank accounts and other unclaimed cash, contact your state’s unclaimed property office or visit the Web site www.missingmoney.com. In most states, owners can recover their cash whenever they learn about it, no matter how long it has been in the state fund. About half of the states pay interest on money left in interest-bearing accounts. Instead of waiting for a state to find you, which is unlikely, you can contact the state’s unclaimed property office.
When you write or call about abandoned property, give your name (maiden or former names, if necessary), Social Security number, current address, and all previous addresses while you lived in the state. If you are applying for property that was held in someone else’s name, provide his or her Social Security number and former addresses. States normally take 2 to 3 weeks to write back saying whether there is property waiting for you. If you are due a windfall, they will send you an abandoned-property claim form to complete.
Return the completed form with proof that the cash belongs to you. If it’s in your name, you will need to supply only a current ID, such as a copy of your driver’s license, and any document that links you to the money (e.g., a pay stub, savings passbook, or utility bill). For property that belonged to you when you lived at an earlier address, you must provide proof that you lived there. A copy of a tax return will do. Expect to get your check in about two months.
From time to time, you may see advertisements of asset finders, people who offer to find lost property for you. Beware of such ads. If you decide to hire such a firm, pay no more than 10% of the assets recovered and check out the firm with the Better Business Bureau. According to one state property fund director, "If you ever get a card or letter from a company offering to find your money, take that as a tip that the firm knows you have money waiting. So call or write to the state fund yourself. Then you’ll get all the money you’re due."
According to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), more than 7,000 people in the United States are owed uncollected pension benefits. The PBGC, a federal agency, has launched a nationwide search on the Internet to find workers who are owed benefits and who could not be located when pension plans closed. To check if your name is on the list of hard-to-find beneficiaries, log onto the Pension Search Directory at www.pbgc.gov/search. The directory identifies about 1,000 companies mainly in the transportation, machinery, retail trade, apparel, and financial services industries. If you do not have a computer, check for availability at a public library or libraries at high schools, community colleges, or universities. If you are not able to access a computer and you feel you are owed benefits, write to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, Missing Participant Program, 1200 K Street, NW, Suite 930, Washington, DC 20005. Include the participant’s or beneficiary’s name, address, daytime telephone number, Social Security number, date of birth, and the name and location of the employer.
Another place to look for lost cash is the Internal Revenue Service. Yes, the IRS has more than $68 million in unclaimed tax-refund checks that were returned because of an incorrect address or other delivery problems. The average check amount is $690. If you think you are owed a tax refund, but have not received it, visit www.irs.gov or call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040.The last place where you might look for ready cash is lost insurance policies, yours or those of relatives where you might be the beneficiary. If you think there is a lost policy in your family, send a stamped, self-addressed business envelope to the Missing Policy Service, American Council of Life Insurers, 1001 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20004-2599. The Council will send you a tracer form to complete and return and has information about searching for missing policies. For additional information, see www.acli.com.