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The following post comes from Mary Pitman, author of The Little Book of Missing Money: A Quick and Easy Guide to Finding Money that is Rightfully Yours.
Nearly every day, there are articles online and commercials on TV explaining where to search for the $33 billion held by the unclaimed property offices in various state governments.
Isn’t this backwards? Shouldn’t we be focused on preventing our money from going to the government?
Here are nine tips you can use right now…
1. Keep in contact with your accounts
This is the most important thing you can do to keep your accounts from getting turned over to the state. The key is “customer-initiated” activity. Just because your savings account is earning interest doesn’t mean it has customer-initiated activity. Don’t forget your children’s accounts.
Once a year, call and check on the balance. Make a deposit or withdrawal. The dormancy period begins with the last activity on the account. I do this on my birthday as a present to myself.
2. Your stocks need your attention too
Don’t rely on someone else to do this for you. Like bank accounts, you need to have customer-initiated activity. Your proxy vote doesn’t count toward this. The state of Washington just enacted legislation that will allow the state treasurer to sell the stocks as soon as they come into state possession, regardless of what the market is doing. The high-dollar listings held by the states are stocks.
In November 2011, a woman in Missouri received $6.1 million from a stock claim. New York returned $4 million to an individual from a stock claim. Pay attention to when you are supposed to get your dividends. If they don’t come when expected, follow up.
3. Update your beneficiary information
This is often overlooked. Call today and make sure the beneficiary name and contact information are correct. In addition, tell your beneficiary about the policy and who it’s through. FindYourPolicy.com allows you to enter the name of your life insurance company for free, in case your beneficiary forgets the name. There’s a small fee for them to access the information – with a portion going to cancer research.
4. Ask for utility deposits to be refunded now
If you’ve been current with your utility payments for at least one year, ask about getting your deposit for electricity, water, and gas refunded. If they say it happens automatically, ask when you can expect to see it. In fact, request that it be credited to your account – which is even better because there’s no chance of the check getting lost.
5. Make sure you get your final paycheck
This sounds obvious. But if the last day that you work is the first day of the new pay period, you’ll have two paychecks coming, not one. If in doubt, check with your human resources department about your final check. Should you pick it up or will they mail it? Make sure they have your correct address.
6. Change your address
Notify everyone you do business with (including those who send you online bills or you bank online with) of a change in name or address. The change-of-address service from the Post Office is only good for one year. Notify your employer even if you’re leaving the job. In addition, change your address with your retirement plan administrator and all of the employer-sponsored benefit plans – health, dental, vision, and life insurance. Your employer is not responsible for doing this.
Notify the IRS too. Don’t laugh. Tax refunds are not forwarded. The IRS is holding $153 million in tax refunds that were returned because of a bad address – covering nearly 100,000 people. You have three years to claim it – or they will keep it. If you’re missing yours, go to the IRS web page “Where’s My Refund?” You’ll need your Social Security number, filing status, and the whole dollar amount you were expecting.
7. Cash every check
How many times have you stuck a check in a drawer to deposit later? It gets shoved to the back and then outdates. Eventually, it ends up in unclaimed property.
8. Don’t forget your digital assets
These are things like a Paypal account, an Ebay or Amazon store, and credits on Party Poker or iTunes. In addition, there’s value to domain names you own. Marc Ostrofsky, author of Get Rich Click says, “Domain names are the real estate of the Internet.”
Online digital photos may not have financial value, but they can be priceless.
If your family doesn’t have your login and password information, money may wither away in limbo until it gets turned over to the state. They may not be able to renew valuable domain names – and that can have disastrous consequences for an established business.
9. Make a list of your financial assets
Make a list and make sure someone knows where to find it. Don’t forget to include not only a safe deposit box, but also the bank and branch, plus the box number and where the key is located.
Follow these simple steps to keep your money in your pocket where it belongs and out of state hands. Check your state unclaimed property site for free on this site. Check at least once a year as new listings are continually added. And never, ever pay for an online search.
For more, check out Finding Unclaimed Cash.