Saturday, October 1, 2016

Claim It or Lose It

Massive amounts of money (app. $41 billion) are declared unclaimed and ready for cash-strapped state governments to absorb!

Did you move several times? Have you found all the accounts your deceased parents ever held? Did you ever cash out that mutual fund you opened as a kid? You may be pleasantly surprised by going to, the website for the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators.

Stocks, bonds, bank accounts, insurance policies all fall under unclaimed or abandoned property. States use the cash and investment earnings as general revenue. These funds have become so critical to state budgets that recent changes result in your losing your assets even faster:

1. Seven years, the time in which you had to claim your property, has now been reduced to five and in some states three years!!

2. The definition of abandoned property (the return of undeliverable mail) has been changed to lack of contact. Even if you have been receiving statements your property is considered lost if you have not contacted the financial institution for a certain period of time!

Contact means:
1. calling
- speaking with a rep - automated lines Do Not count.
2. emailing
3. returning a proxy ballot
4. written correspondence.

Direct deposit, direct withdrawal, payroll deduction or reinvesting dividends Do Not count as contact!

Financial institutions typically ask for updated personal information every three years or so. Even if nothing has changed, make sure you respond. If you have not had contact with a company for some time, make the effort to verify or update your present address and phone number.

Be $ Smart - stay in touch with all your financial institutions to demonstrate you have not abandoned your accounts.

Happiness Quotient

You may have heard of the term wealth effect - it is the idea that when the value of stock portfolios, IRA's, 401k"s, rises due to escalating stock prices, investors feel more comfortable about their wealth, allowing them to spend more.

We now have the happiness quotient as determined by studies in the UK where a group of social scientists measured the "happiness" of bank clients through multiple surveys. They found that overall wealth was not the factor. What produced a true sense of happiness and well-being was the amount of available cash in personal checking or savings accounts.

Invested money or a pension felt either abstract or inaccessible whereas their large ATM balance evoked a sense of security and importance.

The thought of surplus cash not invested as losing value (due to inflation, lack of growth) misses the human psychology element. The premise is how you maximize your well-being over maximizing your financial benefit.

Ways to increase your happiness
1. build your savings i.e. your emergency fund,
2. save for vacations before you take them,
3. live within your means (aka spend less than you make),
4. buy experiences not things,
5. give money to causes that feed your spirit.

Be $ Smart: Enlarge your cash buffer to increase your sense of personal power, security and happiness.

Out of touch...

Once upon a time at the end of the work week, men and women would stand at the payroll window and receive an envelope of cash as payment for the hours they worked at any given job.

Some would go out and celebrate, some go shopping and some would go home where they would parcel out the cash into a series of envelopes: food, rent, doctor, gas & electric, telephone, emergency, vacation. One wouldn't dare touch the rent money! If there were any money left over, it was spent on fun.

We have lost touch with money.
Direct deposit of paychecks, credit cards, wire transfers, etc. all have removed us from the physical touch of money. We're not sure how much we make nor are we sure of what we spend. Money has become ethereal and elusive.

Try these two exercises to put you more in touch:

The next time you plan to eat out, take only the amount of money you intend to spend that evening. NO CREDIT CARDS - $35, $65, $100 As you order be aware of the cost of each item and factor in the tip. Can you "afford" another glass of wine, a second dessert or a cappuccino? With your credit card you wouldn't have a second thought and often spend more than you intend.

For two weeks track your ATM withdrawals.
On the back of each ATM receipt write down every purchase you make with that withdrawal - to the dollar! You might find you are suddenly aware of how you spend your money.

Once you get back in touch then you can make wise $ decisions.