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4 Ways to Track Down Lost or Forgotten Assets

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If you are retired, you may already be enjoying the benefits of your pension, 401(k), or other retirement funds, but did you know that you may be leaving money unclaimed? According to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA), nearly 1 in 10 people has unclaimed money or property.

Thankfully, there are ways to determine if you have rights to such property and to claim it. In 2020, NAUPA found and returned almost $2.8 billion to its rightful owners across the country. Think you have something to claim? Here are a few ways for you to find out and possibly benefit!

Pro Tip: If you’re looking to make the most of your retirement funds, then it might be time to move to one of the states that don’t tax retirement income.

1. Check your state’s website.

A good place to start finding unclaimed funds is with your state government’s website. Many of the programs that NAUPA and others work with are federal, and the FDIC has a directory of unclaimed money programs by state, linked here.

Your home state’s page will present you with a variety of options to start, including contacts if you’re not quite sure what to do. States will vary in specifics, but all pages offer a “map” of unclaimed funds that help you start your search.

2. Check out MissingMoney.com.

If you’re confused by the state-level red tape, then try MissingMoney.com, the only web portal for lost funds that is also endorsed by multiple state governments. The front page of MissingMoney offers a simple search based on family or business name, as well as location. From this page, MissingMoney then aggregates results from multiple states and sends them to you in an email.

If you find something, then filing a claim via MissingMoney is free and automatically goes through state agencies. Before filing, note that MissingMoney does not operate in California, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, or Pennsylvania.

3. Search for money from a former employer.

Sometimes, the last paycheck you receive isn’t necessarily your last. If you think you have unclaimed funds from a former employer, there are two ways to find out.

The Department of Labor’s (DOL) Workers Owed Wages program can track them via your employer’s name and home state. Note that the DOL keeps records for only up to three years. If you’re tracking unclaimed pensions, the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation can find it for you. Just call the toll-free number and provide the necessary information for yourself and your former employer.

FYI: These days, many retirees are choosing to pick up side hustles. To learn more, read our guide to side hustles for seniors.

4. Find accounts from failed banks.

As scary as it sounds, local banks and branches can suddenly shut down, taking your account information with it. Luckily, there are two federal programs to help you reclaim those funds, even if the bank no longer exists.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) allows you to search failed institutions by name, location, and check number. Once your institution is found, simply follow instructions to file a claim. Funds from liquidated credit unions are handled through the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). You can search the NCUA’s listings of currently held funds or use the verification form if you’re unsure about your institution. To file a claim, you will need to fill out forms to verify and process it; these are found on the NCUA website as well.

The importance of rolling over money

Once you locate your unclaimed funds, you may want to collect or withdraw them immediately for use. However, it can be beneficial to roll them over into an IRA instead. IRAs not only provide more diverse investment options, but also exempt them from being taxed as income.

Though you may have to wait to use the funds, your retirement account can grow untaxed. Remember that unclaimed money wasn’t going anywhere until you found it, so there’s no point in spending it all at once!

To learn more about ways to manage your money, read our helpful guides:

ryan-molloy
Written By
Ryan Molloy

Ryan has years of experience researching and testing products that help people successfully age in place. After years of working for various publications such as Boston Magazine and The Believer, he has found his home at The Senior List, writing about all things related to caregiving and senior healthcare.