Paul Clitheroe
Paul Clitheroe

$677 million in lost money - some of it could be yours

I RECKON it's nothing short of amazing that there is a $677 million pool of unclaimed money sitting in government coffers. What's even more remarkable is that the mountain of lost money has grown by more than $40 million from 2011.

As we head into the festive season, a bit of extra cash would come in handy. So it's worth checking to see if some of the unclaimed money belongs to you. Last year a total of $56 million was reunited with its rightful owners.

The 'lost' money I'm referring to can be a forgotten bank account, shares or a matured life insurance policy. And it's not nickel and dime stuff either. As hard as it is to believe, there is one unclaimed Commonwealth Bank account in NSW worth a handy $811,677. A Westpac account in Victoria contains $358,677 waiting to be claimed.
 
These examples are just the tip of the iceberg. All up there is $677 million in lost money spread across 1,008,253 different account holders. Some of it could be yours.

You could have unclaimed money if you've moved without leaving a forwarding address with your financial institution, or if you haven't made a transaction on a cheque or savings account for over seven years. Or you may have a life insurance policy that you stopped making payments on. You could be owed money from a deceased estate or there may be dividends owed to you on forgotten shares.

Checking to see if you have any lost money costs nothing and it only takes a few minutes. I recommend taking a look today.

Just visit ASIC's MoneySmart website (www.moneysmart.gov.au) to get started. Go to 'Quick Links' and click on 'Unclaimed Money', then simply type in your name. You can even search under any previous names like a maiden name, or check if family and friends have unclaimed money.

If it looks like there is some lost money that could be yours, you will need to prove the cash belongs to you or that you are the beneficiary. Information on how to make a claim is also available on the website.

Even if you draw a blank with the MoneySmart database, it's worth checking to see if any unclaimed cash is held for you by your state or territory government. State governments hold a variety of unclaimed money including deceased estates, proceeds of sale and more. Visit the unclaimed money section on the website of your state or territory revenue office.

You could also have unpaid wages being held by the Fair Work Ombudsman. You can check this by visiting the Ombudsman's website at www.fairwork.gov.au or just follow the link from the MoneySmart site.

Round off your search for lost money by checking the SuperSeeker database on the Tax Office website (www.ato.gov.au). There is $17 billion in unclaimed super and there's a reasonable chance some of it could go towards your retirement.

Paul Clitheroe is a founding director of financial planning firm ipac, chairman of the Australian Government Financial Literacy Board and chief commentator for Money magazine. Visit www.paulsmoney.com.au for more information.



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