It’s hard to pinpoint which personal finance site I dislike the most. There are so many tone-deaf mansplainers and pyramid schemers to choose from!
… But The Penny Hoarder is way up there.
I see their ads everywhere. And I’ve read more than a few of their articles, thanks to their scientifically-engineered-for-maximum-clickbait titles. But they are so utterly and embarrassingly saturated with affiliate referral links promising “quick” and “easy” money that I feel the strong need to shower afterwards.
Ugh. I just really hate that kind of crap.
Spoiler alert, kids: almost nothing worth doing can be done quickly or easily. By definition, people only seek quick and easy solutions to long and hard problems! “One cool trick” ads ain’t out there saving lives.
- If there were miracle exercises that gave you Jason Momoa’s body with only ten minutes of weekly exercise, there would be no highly compensated personal trainers in LA, and everyone would look like Jason Momoa. (And what a lovely planet that would be!)
- If there were miracle diets or supplements that could really change the shape of your body quickly and easily, we’d’ve discovered them millennia ago, because there is nothing on this green earth that a human being hasn’t shoved in their pie hole. The only truly new food we have invented in the last ten thousand years is Velveeta, and in my hands-on experience, eating Velveeta initiates a slow process of becoming Velveeta.
- If there were some miracle product that could eliminate acne, there wouldn’t be 2.5 aisles full of hundreds of different skincare products at Target. We would just use The One!
The same is absolutely true for money as well. If it could grow on trees, there’d be a fuck ton more arborists. Alas, currency is a scarce commodity that’s difficult and time-consuming to accumulate by its very nature.
I say all of this so that you understand how shocked I am to be writing an article with this headline… and meaning every word of it.
I just made $1,900 very quickly and very easily. And you may be able to make money in the exact same way—but it only works if you are as irresponsible and disorganized as I am.
Intrigued? Mwa ha ha! … good.
What is unclaimed property?
“Unclaimed property” is a blanket term for any money that’s been sitting inactive with a business or financial institution for a length of time. (Guidelines vary, but usually it’s one year.)
It could be…
- Checking or savings accounts
- Uncashed checks
- Stock dividends
- Trust distributions
- Unredeemed money orders
- Refunds for customer overpayments
- Security deposits
- Insurance payments
- And more!
How does it work?
Let’s say you move into your first apartment and plop down a $500 security deposit.
Years pass. You eventually get a new job, move to a new city, and leave your old apartment behind. And you didn’t provide your old landlords with your new address, so the rental management company has no idea where to send your $500 check.
By law, the rental company can’t just keep your money. They must turn it over to the State Treasurer. The Treasurer keeps a record of to whom the money belongs. If that person reappears and proves their identity, the Treasury will cut them a check for the missing money.
How common is this?
Uh, real common! About one in ten people have unclaimed property.
When I started searching for unclaimed property, I plugged in the names of about thirty of my closest friends and family members. Almost half of them had something waiting for them!
It’s not too unusual when you consider how many people spend their twenties moving from dorm to dorm, apartment to apartment, part-time job to part-time job, across different cities and states. Of course it’s easy to lose just one piece of mail!
The money may not even be yours! If you’ve inherited an estate (from the passing of, say, a parent or grandparent), your deceased family member could have unclaimed property. As their heir, you’re entitled to it.
So wait—how do I know if I have unclaimed property?
Y’all. It’s so fucking simple I kinda wanna cry…
You go to the official website of the Treasury Department of your state. Then you type in your first and last name, and hit search.
Last known addresses, towns, or counties are usually provided to help differentiate between people with similar names. Also, the search function likely won’t tell you how much money it is.
You can Google your state’s name, plus the term “unclaimed property.” Or check out this handy list from Unclaimed.org.
WARNING: be extra careful that you’re actually clicking on a legit link! It really doesn’t help that 100% of these websites are suspiciously ugly and badly designed. And although some have very legit-sounded URLs (like Nevada’s NevadaTeasurer.gov or Missouri’s Treasurer.MO.gov), others have extremely suspicious-sounding names. I have no idea what Florida’s “FLTreasureHunt.gov” or New Hampshire’s “NewHampshire.FindYourUnclaimedProperty.com“ were thinking! Where’s the .gov hustle, Granite State??
So always follow the link directly from a reputable source.
What happens if I DO have unclaimed property?
It differs slightly from state to state and account to account. But for me, the process was extraordinarily simple.
I clicked “submit a claim” for the two accounts that appeared to be me. Filled in a few easy fields and hit “send.” Within a few minutes, I got an automated email asking me to do three things:
- Sign and upload a document that basically says “I promise I’m not lying about who I am to do you A Bamboozle.”
- Upload proof of your identity, such as a photo of your driver’s license.
- Upload proof of your social security or tax number, such as your social security card or an copy of a past year’s tax filing.
Once I uploaded those three documents to their online portal, a check from the Treasury Department appeared about a week later. I cashed it this very morning.
Wait, you really made $1,900 this way?
I am not proud to admit this, but, yes.
I found two unclaimed properties. One was a prorated refund from an auto insurance policy I’d canceled. So that was about $20. “Hey, cool, $20 buys a lot of Skyr!”
Side note: Do you think Icelandic Provisions wants to sponsor the next season of our podcast? Because I will talk for hours about the firm, velvety texture and tangy-yet-sweet flavor of their extremely perfect fermented dairy product, but my inner capitalist says “Don’t do it, what if Chobani or Dannon want to sponsor you one day?!” But honestly, I already know that I have too much integrity to ever hawk such SAD, SLOPPY, FLOPPY YOGURTS. That shit is mad unacceptable.
Skyr ’till I die. No, Skyr from beyond the grave. When I die, brick me up inside a pharaoh’s pyramid with six hundred cartons of Coconut Skyr. Thank you for coming to my TED Talk and all but what was I talking about before this…?
Yes, I’m scatterbrained. This isn’t an “I’m perfect, be like me” blog. It’s an “I’m often lazy and disorganized, plz don’t be like me” blog.
So, uh, the other account was for $1,872.
Evidently, when I started at my first-ever Big Girl corporate job, I had opened an HSA. I’m sure I just followed whatever prompts I was given as I worked through a mountain of paperwork in my first week! I put $50 a month into that HSA, apparently. It quietly accumulated without my knowledge over the two to three years I worked at that company, then sat unclaimed, waiting to be rediscovered.
I’m pretty embarrassed that I could lose track of nearly $2K that easily. It just goes to show you how right Piggy was when she wrote about the magic of rounding up! I didn’t miss such a small amount of money per paycheck, but it had one helluvah glow up.
Also, read some of those papers you’re signing, I guess? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Can anyone beat my record?
Alright, readers. Here’s your call to action. Go to Unclaimed.org, click on your state, and do a quick search for your name and the names of a few close loved ones, including anyone whose estate you’ve inherited.
If you find some money, tell us how much in the comments below!
And if anyone is able to beat my $1,894.61, I will prostrate myself on the ground at your feet and hail you as The One True Queen of Disorganization, Wearer of the Jewel-Encrusted Crown of Perpetual Tardiness, Bearer of the Royal Scepter of Lifelong Undiagnosed ADHD, Keeper of the Golden Keys of Where The Fuck Are My Keys, Ope, There They Are, They Were Exactly Where They’re Supposed To Go, Which Really Threw Me Off.