An MSN article in July 2013, cites over 41.7 billion dollars of unclaimed property, as reported by The National Association of Unclaimed Property.1 Those assets range from basic savings accounts, insurance payments, to abandoned brokerage accounts and other investments. With a population of 317.8 million2, that works out to a rough estimate of $130 for each U.S. citizen.
There are a variety of reasons why people don’t claim money that belongs to them. Those reasons range from moving and job relocation, trustees or family not knowing where a loved one’s accounts may be, to poorly drafted wills etc. Another reason is people simply forget about the old bank account from 10 or 20 years ago. In many cases the amount held in a bank or savings account may be so small, and so many years have elapsed, people can’t be bothered to close an account for the effort. However, with compounding interest, those small amounts add up!
Although each U.S. State have their own statues on unclaimed property, there is no time limit or expiry. For many countries the statutes on unclaimed property are the same. In Canada, all unclaimed property over 10 years is held by The Bank of Canada. The Bank holds all balances over $500 indefinitely3, and reports its oldest unclaimed account dating back to 1900.4
It’s Not Only Bank Accounts
The same is also true for registered retirement funds and pensions. Many people are unaware of the pension earnings or funds accumulated for them by an employer. It’s hard to believe, but after years of working with a company, people simply don’t know the monies that are entitled to them. They may not even know how much they have earned, or how to transfer funds from one pension to another. More often than not, these pension assets may be from a passed loved one. Regardless, pension and retirement funds on a global scale remain unclaimed.
In Australia, as an example, many people have unclaimed superannuation (called super for short) from their employment. Insurance companies like Suncorp helps find lost super. What they do is search for money someone may have left in old retirement funds and may have forgotten about. They consolidate these funds into one account. This not only makes it more convenient to track funds, it also helps maximise growth. In addition the larger lump sum incurs a higher interest.
How to Locate Unclaimed Property
If you have even an inkling you might have a dormant bank account, or wondered what happened to a family member’s assets, it’s worth looking into. It’s also important to stay with large reputable insurance companies and banks. Avoid dealing with small or unknown companies which may be fraudulent or scams. Always check with the BBB (Better Business Bureau) if you are unsure.
For Canadians, the Bank of Canada provides a free online Unclaimed Balances Search database for unclaimed bank balances.3
Readers, have you searched for unclaimed property or dormant bank accounts?
2. From the U.S. and World Population Clock, on April 3rd, 2014. Provided by the United States Census Bureau, http://www.census.gov/popclock.
3. Unclaimed Bank Accounts in Canada, by Susan Munroe, on About.Com. http://canadaonline.about.com/cs/personalfinance/a/unclaimedaccs.htm
4. The Bank of Canada, Unclaimed Balances. http://www.bankofcanada.ca/unclaimed-balances.