Few things can bring a quicker smile to one's face than finding lost money ... that is, until you wonder why it was ever lost.
My brother loved finding "lost" money. He used to hide $50 bills in his suit pockets and then forget, all so he could enjoy discovering money. He gave up this habit after I learned how to get quick spending money for trips to Atlantic City.
This week I enjoyed finding "lost" money courtesy of the NY State Comptroller. As documented in the New York Times, banks, insurers, utility companies and others have surrendered to New York State more than $13.3 billion. New York State holds this fortune due to people "neglecting to claim dormant bank accounts, back wages, dividend checks, utility and rent security deposits, rebates, safe deposit box contents and estate proceeds."
Yesterday I went to the comptroller's website. It took seconds to enter my name into the comptroller's website and then scroll through the matches to find a record with my former address and my former employer. After completing the verification form, I began wondering about my found money. Could it be a missing paycheck? Could it be a missing tax reimbursement?
I smiled as I dreamed about how much it could be. But then it dawned on me: There was no reason for this money to ever be "lost"?
I had moved from my previous New York address four years ago and had left my previous employer 10 years ago. If NY State wanted to connect me with my money, they could have simply traced the mail forwarding from the post office. I file federal and NY taxes. If NY State wanted to connect me with my money, they could easily have linked my tax filing to the unclaimed funds and sent me a notification letter.
Finding money feels nice until you realize that the money was "lost" due to either willful negligence or gross incompetence. The NY State Comptroller is taking a pathologically passive approach to retaining other people's money. They are choosing to ignore the information they have readily available to connect people with their rightfully due money. A minimal effort on the Comptroller's part would result in thousands of people being reintroduced to assets that NY State has been sitting on for years.
The comptroller needs to revise their current policy to one where they actively seek to connect people with their money.