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One great way to reach your financial goals faster is simply to bring in more money. Side hustles, one-time freelancing gigs, selling gently used items on Facebook Marketplace – all of these are great ways to boost your income. But one very simple way to give yourself a little bonus income is to check whether you’ve left any money on the table in years past through unclaimed money.
[Disclaimer: This quick post is especially for readers in the US. Other countries may well have similar systems, but I can’t speak to those.]
What is unclaimed money?
Essentially, unclaimed money is property that belongs to you, but which for some reason never actually got to you. Examples include money from old accounts that had been closed, uncashed paychecks, unredeemed gift certificates, refunds, security deposits, and more.
It may seem a little gimmicky at first, but I assure you it’s a real thing. In the US, unclaimed property is tracked by each state government. This means that to recover your property, you just need to search unclaimed property website for each state that might be relevant in your case.
You can simply google “unclaimed property” plus the name of your state, or use this website to navigate directly to the relevant sites in any states you would like to search. From there, it’s a simple matter of searching for your name and looking for a match.
- Do a search in any state you’ve lived or worked.
- Search using any previous names you’ve used.
- Feel free to conduct a search for your family members as well. They’ll need to claim the money on their own, but might appreciate you letting them know.
Words of caution
- Don’t use any website that isn’t an official government website. Missingmoney.com seems to be one exception, as it is endorsed by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators.
- Be careful when sending in your information. You’ll need proof of your identity, as well as some other documentation if your name or address has changed. If you can submit this information online rather than by mail, do so.
When I did a search last year for unclaimed property in my name, I really wasn’t expecting to find anything. Imagine my surprise when I found $380 in New Jersey that had been patiently waiting for me since 2009!
Turns out that back in 2009, when I was in the middle of a move, a paycheck must have gotten sent to an old address before I had address forwarding set up. So that paycheck never got cashed. It ended up sitting in the New Jersey Treasury Department until I happened to do a search in 2021 and found it.
All I had to do to receive the money was prove that I was indeed the intended recipient. That meant providing my ID and proof that I had lived at that prior address. (I also ended up having to provide documentation supporting a name change and showing my current address, since a lot had changed in the 13 years since that paycheck was issued!)
It took nearly two months for New Jersey to process my claim and send out a check, but that paycheck had been sitting there for over 12 years, so what’s another two months? The money is allowing us to make more progress toward our retirement savings goals than we otherwise would have been able to make this month. We’re pretty happy about that.
Go for it! Do your search. And if you find something, send me a note so I can celebrate with you!