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Claim your share of Australia's 'missing' money

Analaura Luna

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If you've ever dreamed of striking it rich, then this one is for you ... Australia has billions of dollars in 'lost' money waiting to be claimed, and finding out if any of it is waiting for you is quick and easy!

Imagine bringing in the mail one afternoon, and finding a letter from a solicitor hidden in among all the bills and junk mail. It says that you are the only heir for an ridiculously rich, long-lost relative, and they just left you their entire fortune in their Will. You’re a bit sceptical at first, but it all checks out – and now you’re ridiculously rich, too! It’s a nice dream, isn’t it?

Even when we’re doing all the right things to build our wealth, the idea of a financial ‘shortcut’ can be very attractive, but unfortunately, there just aren’t enough rich relatives to go around! But if you’re like many Australians, you may have a windfall waiting for you after all – not from a rich relative, but from a younger you! That’s right … there are billions of dollars in ‘lost’ money just waiting to be claimed by its rightful owners, and you could be one of them!

According to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) the government is ‘babysitting’ around $610 million from ‘lost’ bank accounts, matured life insurance policies and dividends. And when you add in the reported $12.9 billion in lost super and the millions of dollars in unclaimed lottery winnings, the resulting figures are staggeringly high.

If you’re interested in finding out if you’ve got a windfall out there waiting for you to find it, there are three main types of ‘missing’ money you should search for:

Unclaimed money

This comes from ‘lost’ bank, credit union and building society accounts, matured life insurance policies and company dividends. You can search for unclaimed money through either the ASIC website, or its companion site Fido, and there’s no time limit regarding when money can be claimed. It’s quick and easy to search and it doesn’t cost anything if you use the government sites (some other websites will try to charge you to search, so beware of them). All you need to do is prove that either the money is yours, or that you are the legal beneficiary. In NSW alone, $230 million is waiting to be claimed, and the largest sum of unclaimed money as of last year was around $1 million in an account in WA – and if that’s waiting for you to find it, wouldn’t it be worth doing a quick search to get it?

Unclaimed or lost super
On average there’s one lost super account for every two Australians. There are a couple of ways superannuation can get lost in the system: If you've changed jobs, your name or moved house and forgotten to notify your super fund it may become classified as ‘lost'. All super funds are required to report lost members twice a year to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). The ATO records the details of all members that have been reported as lost on the Lost Members Register. Unclaimed super is slightly different, but funds are also required to report and pay unclaimed super to the ATO twice a year. Unclaimed super usually belongs to one of five groups:

•   members who are 65 years of age or older
•   non-member spouses
•   the estates of deceased members
•   former temporary residents
•   members with small and/or insoluble lost member accounts.

You can use your tax file number to search for lost super on the SuperSeeker website, contact the tax office by phone or post in a hard copy of the ‘searching for lost super’ form, also available on the tax office website.

Lottery winnings
This is the big one, right? The little ticket we all secretly dream could change our lives forever. But despite our big dreams, some winners aren’t cashing in, or aren’t even aware that they’ve won. Millions of dollars in unclaimed prize money is in state lotteries across Australia – the SA lotteries website (for example) states that there’s around $3 million in unclaimed prize money in South Australia every year! State lotteries are all regulated individually, with different claim regulations and timeframes – so check your local competition’s website to find out what you’re able to claim. If your prize is more than six months old, it may be in the custody of your state government, but competition websites will often have information about whom you’ll need to contact to claim your prize. Still think it’s not worth it? Australia's largest unclaimed lottery prize was $23 million and went unclaimed for 2.5 years – and that kind of money is definitely worth checking for old tickets in that sock drawer!

Think back to that life-changing letter from your rich relative’s solicitor – you’d definitely take a minute to read it, right? So why not take a few minutes to find out if you’ve left yourself a little financial legacy? The results could be almost as exciting, and there’s a fair chance that the ‘dream’ windfall could be real!


If you enjoyed this article you might also be interested in these articles about money management:

How to benefit from a strong Aussie dollar

Born to be financially free

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Author's Biography

 

Analaura Luna is an author, wealth adviser and founder of Your Family Your Money. Your Family Your Money’s goal is to simplify traditionally complex financial strategies, demystify financial jargon and debunk common financial myths, becoming every family’s first stop for financial advice, information and inspiration.

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