How to Find Hidden Money You Didn’t Realize You Had

Are you low on cash or looking to get out of debt faster? Maybe you’ve considered getting a second job or selling your valuables to boost your finances.

Have you ever thought about looking for unclaimed money? There could be extra money hidden away with your name on it, you just have to know where to look. It may take the form of a few dollars from a refund check you never received, or even an old 401(k) worth thousands.

Knowing where to find unclaimed money can be tricky. But once you start digging, you could find a treasure trove of money to help improve your finances.

6 places to look for unclaimed money

1. State government offices

When your money goes unclaimed or undelivered, it most likely goes to one central spot — your state’s treasury. According to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administration, nearly $41.7 billion in unclaimed money is being held by US states and territories.

This is because many state laws require that organizations such as banks and businesses turn over money that can’t be given back to the owner. For example, if a bank closes down and a bank account holder doesn’t come forward to claim their money or property, it goes directly to the state.

To find this money, you’ll need to contact your state’s treasury or missing money office. This means contacting any state you may be associated with. If you grew up in Illinois, studied in New York, and currently live in Florida, you’ll want to check in all three.

Additionally, if you want to take the search for unclaimed funds a step further, check in with any states associated with deceased family members and businesses you worked with. Even the smallest amount of money is collected by the state on your behalf free of charge.

2. Your parents’ bank

Often times unclaimed money is held by the bank because an account went inactive, or “dormant.” The bank will either send your money to the state or hold on to it for you for a specific period of time.

If you had checking accounts set up on your behalf by your parents through school programs or child banking initiatives, you may be surprised to see that those accounts still exist. Giving banks a call only takes seconds but could lead the way to unclaimed money in potential accounts.

But you shouldn’t stop there! Your parents and family members may have also invested on your behalf in accounts such as a savings bond.

Treasury Direct reports that every year, 15,000 savings bonds are returned to the U.S. Department of the Treasury because it is undeliverable. That is a whole lot of money that could go to paying down your student loan debt!

3. Old employers

When you got your first job in high school or college, you may have been completely unaware of all the benefits you were signing up for.

These benefits may have included a pension or retirement plan opened on your behalf. Unclaimed funds from these accounts can be rolled over into a current retirement plan or an IRA. If you’re looking to find unclaimed money from past retirement plans, check out the National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits or ERISA

Not sure if you have any pensions? The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, a U.S. government agency, is a great place to start.

If you have a retirement account open, you’ll need to do a bit more work. Start by calling your old employer’s Human Resource Department and asking them to do some digging on your behalf.

Or, if your former employer is no longer in business, take your search to the IRS and ask for tax document 5500. This is filed on behalf of the majority of 401(k) accounts.

4. Deceased relatives or friends

You may access some unclaimed money because you’re the beneficiary of a life insurance policy.

Many life insurance policies never get updated. A relative or family friend may have listed you years ago as their beneficiary, so money may be owed to you when they pass. In other cases, a person may not even know or have kept records of owning a policy.

Most unclaimed funds from life insurance policies go directly to the state. However, more recent deaths may still be held by the insurance provider. If you feel that you may be a beneficiary, try calling the lawyer or executor of the will to see if they can ask on your behalf.

Other insurance companies, such as MetLife, allow you to search an online database based on the policy holder’s information.

5. Past and current addresses

Like many recent graduates, you probably spent every year moving from your childhood home to the dorm room, to an apartment, to an overseas hostel, and beyond.

Having so many different addresses can make it difficult for you to get important money mail like class action suite winnings, tax refunds, and even paychecks.

Most checks and unclaimed funds will go straight to the state it came from (not necessarily the state you lived in at the time). However, the check may have also been returned to the sender. If you feel you are owed money, now is the time to reach out and ask for help.

If your past address includes a parent or family member’s house, you may also want to give them a ring. That pile of mail sitting on your childhood desk may be full of checks you ignored for the last few years. Now does opening the mail sound more exciting?

6. Online service sites

So far, you may have noticed that you have to do a lot of legwork to get that money back. But here’s a secret: many government and private organizations actually have websites where you can track down your money with just a few questions and clicks!

Here’s a short list of where you can start:

In addition, there are paid services you can use to find money on your behalf. But with websites like these making it so easy to do, paying for someone to search your name is just not worth it unless you’re expecting a ton back.

Finding missing money you’re owed

Unclaimed money may be just waiting for you to find it.

So much money may be held by the state and federal government, potentially right under your nose. Take the time to search and inquire about it. You’ll find it’s so worth it for the potential payoff — no treasure map required.

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