I was talking to my friend the other day and it turns out that she doesn’t entirely know where all her savings and investments are. Now, while this is usually a bad thing, it’s not the worst thing in the world for her. She’s still young and is an expat, so it’s not terrible for her to have someone else managing her US based investments and taxes while she is abroad. But even then, she should probably have some idea where her money is, as should us all.
For many of us, our parents managed our money when we were kids. They co-signed the accounts, set up any investments, etc. While this wasn’t necessarily the best option, as it didn’t teach any of us financial responsibility on our own, it did manage to keep money safe from crazy teenage spending sprees. The problem is now, as is the case for my friend, we may not know where the money is anymore.
Another situation is that as we grow older, we simply forget where things are. I know plenty of people that have a 401k somewhere. That’s the extent of their knowledge. They have a 401k somewhere. Maybe it’s with Fidelity or John Hancock, who really knows?
Well, HR knows. But that’s besides the point. The point is that we need a series of action steps in order to find all our damn money! So let’s put some stuff on paper.
1. If you’re younger and have just left the house, ask your parents. Have them put together a list of all your accounts, bonds, cds, precious metals, whatever!
2. Contact the HR department of any old employees. You may have an old 401k account that you could rollover into an IRA and don’t even know it! I know way too many people that don’t pay attention to this.
3. Check with National Association of Unclaimed Property. Eventually, if you don’t touch your accounts, the bank or investment firm is going to report this to the state. Eventually the state will just take the money and hold onto it, making sure that your bank doesn’t claim the money as its own. Each state does this and each state has its own way of searching, so please look for whichever state you think works best.
4. Now that you’ve found all of your money, consolidate it! If you can, put it all under one roof (USAA is great for this). If you can’t do that, at least try to keep it in no more than two different institutions.
It’s not all that hard to find your money. What it really comes down to is a conversation with your parents about money (always awkward) and calling the HR department of the place that may have fired you (definitely awkward). At least when you’re searching the unclaimed property registry you’re just dealing with an internet search. Although, if they actually have something of yours, you’ll probably have to talk with someone from your local government (also awkward). So yes, this will be an awkward and rewarding process. But mostly awkward. Good luck everyone! If anyone finds something ridiculous (insane secret inheritance held by the state? Hell yeah!) let me know! I’d love to hear some good stories related to this.