Free Money: Too Good To Be True?

What would you say if I told you that there are not just thousands, but billions of dollars of what some would call “free money”? It sounds too good to be true right? In some ways it is, there is not just a giant pile of free money out there for anyone to claim. Unbeknownst to many however, there are billions of dollars of unclaimed money held by local, state, and even the federal governments. While this money is “free” in the sense it does not cost anything to receive, it is not as simple as anyone walking up to the government and holding their hand out for their share of “free money”.

In reality, this “free money” is actually unclaimed assets of various forms that are held by the government. Broadly the term refers to any asset or property left unclaimed after a life event. These unclaimed funds are from an assortment of sources. One of the most common ways this happens is when someone dies and an heir to an asset is not clearly defined in the will. When no one else from the family claims it, the asset often goes to the state government to be held. Typically someone, or even multiple people, have a legal claim to the asset but they either did not know about it or did not bother with the hassle of claiming it. Rather than allowing someone else to take the asset the government holds on to it for safe keeping, until someone with a legal right to it can claim it. Another common way for this to happen is when individuals change companies or move out of state. Anything from pensions, 401k accounts, or even the check for the last period of work can be forgotten in the move and turned over to the state for safe keeping.

While this does not seem much unclaimed money would accumulate this way the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administration (NAUPA) estimates that there are at least $41.7 billion of unclaimed money on the state level. Additionally, a recent article reported over $58 billion of unclaimed money combined between states and the federal government combined, with an average claim per person of over $800 (not including those who did not have any money to claim). What does this mean for you? Well, it certainly would not hurt to spend a few minutes to find out more information on any unclaimed assets you may have in your name. A great place to start is the NAUPA’s website. On here you can find more information about the topic, including state specific policies, and even search many states to see if you have unclaimed money. It takes minimal information, only a couple minutes, and is free. Some other sites will offer to do these services for a “small” fee. Since the information needed to find if someone has unclaimed money in their name is so minimal some company will search to find individuals with unclaimed money and then contact them. If someone contacts you claiming to be able to find “free money” for you chances are you were contacted because there is some money in your name.  Instead of letting them doing it for you and paying their fees do the searches yourself! Your time and effort may come up empty, but who knows; maybe you will get your slice of $58 billion.

Sources:, NUAPA

Stephen Padgett

Stephen Padgett

Stephen Padgett is a current junior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is working toward a BA in Economics and Political Science and plans on graduating early in December of 2012. Although he does not know what he wants to do for his career, he is looking forward to an opportunity with Credit Suisse’s Operations Team this summer in Raleigh.

Financially Stephen grew up in a family that preached saving and living below your means. That, in part, translated to his interest in Economics, especially how economics can affect individuals’ financial lives. Through his financial markets class in the fall of 2011, he furthered this interest by analyzing macroeconomic events. Stephen believes that finance, personal finance in particular, is a subject severely left out when it comes to public schooling in this country, and it is a problem that has manifested itself and contributed to many of the problems seen today. He also believes that education is the key to improvement and hopes that through his writings he will be able help people learn about finance, macroeconomics, and how to be financially savvy for the future.

In his free time Stephen enjoys playing and watching sports, wakeboarding, sailing, and country music. At UNC he has participated in Strive for College, UNC Dance Marathon, and UNC Relay for Life.
Stephen Padgett

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