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$23 billion up for grabs: 6 places to find free money

·5-min read
Where to find free money. Source: Getty
Where to find free money. Source: Getty

If you are struggling to make ends meet right now, you may be pleasantly surprised to find you actually have money you don’t know about.

More than $20 billion has now been lost – yep, lost – by Aussies across super thanks, bank accounts, insurances, shares and dividends. You may even have an inheritance you don’t know about.

Here’s what’s on offer and how you can research – and reclaim – any slice that belongs to you.

Super – $21bn up for grabs

Dipped into your super – under hardship provisions – to tide you over last financial year or this one? Then it’s great news there is so much money lost or unclaimed here. It could even compensate you for your drawdown.

Better still, this is probably the easiest category of funds to lose track of – as in, it’s likely that you have done so.

This is because a superannuation fund is classified as lost in these totally common circumstances:

  1. You are uncontactable and you haven’t made a super contribution for 12 months or

  2. Your account is inactive and you haven’t made a contribution for five years.

Your old super funds have this money.

For a year now, any small (less than $6,000) or inactive (no activity for five years) lost super account has had to be transferred to the ATO.

These are known as unclaimed.

Think about how many super funds you have opened in your working life. Do you know where they all are, or might they be classed as lost or unclaimed?

In the most recent year for which figures are available, 2018, 23 percent of us held two super funds, 8 percent held three and 3 percent held four. One-in-eight Aussies held three or more super accounts.

All that means there are now 2,816,968 lost or unclaimed accounts hiding an average of $6,554.

By far the most accounts have been lost, or are unclaimed, in New South Wales, at more than 889,000 worth slightly above the average at $6,852 each. This is followed by Queensland, with 644,000 worth $4,356.

However, if you have ever lived in Victoria, it has the highest average account value: $7693 waiting for 622,000 account holders.

You can look up your postcode – and, importantly, any previous postcodes – here, to see just how much money people are reclaiming on average.

Then, to find out if some belongs to you, go to your myGov account, access ATO online and then click on the superannuation section.

Alternatively, you can call the lost super search line on 13 28 65 (with your tax file number and all previous addresses handy).

Bank accounts and life insurance policies – $1.2bn up for grabs

Once again, it’s moving that usually causes monies to be forgotten.

Let’s take accounts first. Unless you remember to update your details with your bank or financial institution, these are designated as unclaimed after seven years of being inactive. As in, if you haven’t deposited or withdrawn so much as one cent over that time.

There is no time limit on when you need to claim and you’ll be paid interest on the money, albeit at a paltry rate, that ASIC has held since July 2013.

The watchdog’s annual report shows that in financial year 2019, almost $10 million was reclaimed.

Life insurance is a very similar deal to bank accounts. Life insurance policies are designated as unclaimed if the policy has matured seven or more years before and was not claimed.

I wrote about this years ago and a reader contacted me with a heart-warming story about how she did the search I recommended (see below) and found a life insurance policy that her dear, late mother had taken out for her on a birthday as a child.

It was worth a few thousand dollars, but also so poignant for that lady as to be priceless.

ASIC reports that in financial year 2019, over $4 million was claimed in lost insurance. The previous year it had been $13 million.

To find out if you have any such money – and there are 1.5 individual listings, taking the average potential claim to $800 – go to ASIC’s central register of unclaimed money here.

Inheritances – An unknown amount up for grabs

Now you might think this one is far-fetched, but if someone dies what’s called interstate – which means they haven’t done a will – their money gets distributed by a formula. Next of kin get a designated proportion that differs by state… and you may not even know that you may have been inadvertently bequeathed a bit!

You can search for this with your local state government’s Public Trustee. The full list of web addresses is here.

Shares and dividends from shares – More than half a billion dollars up for grabs

There was a huge raft of what’s called demutualisation’s in the 80s and 90s. This is when life insurance or mutual organisations floated on the stock market and the members of those organisations were allocated shares… and they may not even have realised it.

The Australian Shareholder’s Association says more than 150,000 small investors have forgotten about $451 million worth of shares.

The three share registry services you can contact to find out are here. And an ASIC lost money search might turn up more money too.

Meanwhile, it’s possible you have some unclaimed dividends from any shares of which you’ve lost track. Income payments that are usually made bi-annually, see if you have bonus bucks at the relevant website in your state.

Would money you don’t even know about, help right now?

Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon is the author of How to Get Mortgage-Free Like Me, available at www.nicolessmartmoney.com. Follow Nicole on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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