There’s something attractive about the idea of buried treasure. You find a map, follow the directions, have a few adventures and end up rich. What’s not to love?
Unfortunately, this tip isn’t about how to find buried treasure. However, it is about another type of unclaimed money that’s just lying around waiting for you to find it.
And, unlike buried treasure, you don’t have to race other treasure hunters to get this stash. The money already has your name on it because it’s yours.
Before we tell you about it, however, we do want to give you a warning. A lot of scammers and scam websites use the idea of finding unclaimed money as a way to trick you.
They’ll try to charge you a fee to run the search, or they’ll say they’ll need information like your Social Security number.
Every place we’re sending you is free to search and free to get any money you find. If you do have to give out sensitive information, it will be to the government, and it will be information they already have. If you somehow find yourself on a site that’s asking for money, you’re in the wrong place.
With that said, let’s get you some money.
1. & 2. Unclaimed property
Right now, there’s an estimated $41.7 billion currently held in government unclaimed property programs, and some of that unclaimed money could be yours. Maybe you forgot to get that deposit back from the electric utility when you rented your first apartment. An insurance company may have issued you a refund on a policy but couldn’t find you. You might have been enrolled in a pension plan that was discontinued.
In addition to utility refunds and insurance payments, unclaimed property includes abandoned savings or checking accounts, stocks, uncashed dividends or payroll checks, refunds, traveler’s checks, trust distributions, unredeemed money orders or gift certificates (in some states), annuities, certificates of deposit, customer overpayments, mineral royalty payments and contents of safe deposit boxes. Whew!
By law, companies can’t keep that money. And if they can’t find you, they must turn it over to the state for safekeeping. You just need to claim it.
That’s where the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators comes in. NAUPA links to every state’s unclaimed property database. From the NAUPA site, you can also visit the MissingMoney.com search site. It lets you search more than one state at a time, but doesn’t have as much helpful information about what to do after you find your unclaimed money. So you’ll want to use a combination of the two sites.
3. The IRS
There are two ways the IRS could owe you money you didn’t know about. The first way is if you made too little money to file taxes, but your employer withheld money from your paychecks anyway.
You need to file a return with the IRS within three years to get that money. So, currently, you’d need to file a 2015, 2016 or 2017 return. Even if you didn’t have taxes withheld, you might get a refund of your Earned Income Tax Credit.
The second way is if you moved without informing the IRS or the Post Office and the IRS sent your refund check to the wrong address. You can go to the IRS “Where’s My Refund?” page and put in your updated address. It will send you the check if it’s within 12 months of when you filed.
4. Treasury Bonds
Do you or someone in your family own treasury bonds? Those bonds might have matured without you realizing it. You might not have claimed it, or the Treasury might have sent you a payment that didn’t reach you.
The Treasury gets back 25,000 payments a year and has billions in unclaimed bond money. Visit TreasuryDirect’s Treasury Hunt page to find out if some of that is yours.
5. Retirement benefits
If you were part of a company that had a retirement plan and you left before you were able to claim your money, it could still be there. The National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits lets employers post the names of employees’ due retirement benefits that they can’t find.
As an individual, you can search the database to see if you have money being held by former employers. Click here to get started.
6. Pension plan
Similarly, if you were in an organization with a failed pension plan, it was likely taken over by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. You can search its site to see what benefits you have available.
Search for our pension plan by name, an eight-digit case number you may have gotten from the PBGC or the company name. Click here to get started.
7. Life insurance
Did you know between one-quarter and one-half of all life insurance policies go unclaimed by their beneficiaries? That’s worth around $2.4 billion annually. Makes you want to run out and buy life insurance, doesn’t it?
Often the family members don’t notify the insurance company on the policyholder’s death, and insurance companies aren’t very interested in hunting down beneficiaries to pay out. Many beneficiaries also don’t know they might be entitled to Demutulization Compensation.
Demutulization Compensation is when a life insurance company transitions from a mutual life insurance company to a publicly traded company. Policyholders and beneficiaries could be entitled to stock options and more. For example, when they went public, John Hancock, Prudential and MetLife all had trouble contacting hundreds of thousands of policyholders to let them know their options.
Beneficiaries might also be eligible for National Life Insurance Settlement Payments, even if they did get an insurance payout already. These payments come from a government audit of 21 life insurance companies that showed they were still deducting payments even after they knew policyholders were deceased.
If you believe you may be owed money or shares from demutualization, contact the insurance company or its successor directly. If demutualization happened more than five years ago, you might have to visit your state unclaimed property office. Click here to start your state search.