This blog contains some simple tips and advice from two regular guys. We're not accountants, financial advisors, or brokers, so follow, ignore, or discuss our ideas as you see fit.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Found money!

Posted by Matt

Anyone who currently owns securities knows what I mean when I write about investments "losing" money; the money isn't misplaced, their investment has simply gone down in value. We do what we can to protect ourselves against that by educating ourselves and being conservative.

Unfortunately, financial losses sometimes result from plain old human error. Most of us keep a pretty close eye on our various financial instruments, but it gets more difficult as we diversify our holdings in more and more types of accounts. I was reminded of this today when I got a phone call from someone I know who told me they just "found" a large sum of money (5 figures!) for their retirement that they had either forgotten about or never knew they had.

This person made the discovery when they received a statement from the retirement plan administrator of one of their former employers. I don't know if the statements were a new offering or what, but it came out of the blue. As it happens, I worked for this same employer long ago, so I decided maybe I should give the benefit plan a call. I knew I wouldn't be receiving a statement, given that I had moved four times since leaving the employer in question.

After 5 minutes of navigating voice menus, I spoke with someone who informed me that yes, I ALSO had money in an account with them: $283.06, to be exact. Not exactly the treasure chest that my friend discovered, but "better than a sharp stick in the eye", as my mother always said. I was really shocked that ANYTHING was left. When I changed employers, I executed a rollover from my 403b account into my new employers 401k, but there was money left behind somehow. The rep I spoke with couldn't explain it, but did promise to send me the appropriate forms to roll the remaining money over. With any luck, I'll get it all out this time.

Is there a moral to this story? It was a new situation for me, so the lesson I learned is that I should always make sure I get a closing statement showing a zero balance whenever I move money out of an account. I recently closed a credit union account that I was no longer using and received a receipt on the spot, but obviously some transactions bear watching a little more closely.

As for my friend, that's a lesson on an entirely different level. Get a file cabinet, get a spreadsheet, do whatever you have to do to get all of your financial information into one place and keep track of it!

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