Whilst there’s no such thing as free money, it can be just as exciting to find that there is some owed to you when you aren’t expecting it. According to ASIC, there’s about $1.5 billion in lost money that hasn’t been claimed in Australia. This amount is gathered from forgotten bank accounts, shares, investments, and life insurance policies.

What is unclaimed money? 

Unclaimed money is money that sits in bank accounts or life insurance policies that have been inactive for a certain period of time. This often happens when people move house or go overseas, where they might forget to inform their bank and other financial institutions of their new contact details.

Bank accounts are classed as ‘unclaimed’ after seven years of inactivity. Likewise, life insurance policies become unclaimed seven years if the policy matures and is not claimed. This unclaimed money is received by ASIC and is then transferred to the Commonwealth of Australia Consolidated Revenue Fund.

How do I check if any of this unclaimed money is for me? 

There are a few ways that you can check whether there is any unclaimed money in your name. The first is by utilising a company that specifically traces unclaimed assets and seeks to reunite them with their owner. You may have even been contacted by one of these companies in the past offering such a service. Just note, these companies usually seek a ‘finder’s fee’ in the form of a percentage of the recovered value of your ‘lost’ assets. For many people, they are willing to accept this charge, given that it will be extracted from an asset they didn’t remember they had, or thought was gone.

The other, cheaper option is to utilise resources such as the Department of Treasury and Finance’s database. This free tool allows you to track down any unclaimed money that may belong to you, and then offers advice on how to claim this should you have some. 

What’s next? 

If this scenario arises for you, consider your options. After all, unclaimed assets are still yours, and they are working for you – whether through accumulation of value on the share market or interest gained through a savings account. 

Interest is even paid (since 1 July 2013) to you when you reclaim your lost cash at the rate of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) (note: terms and conditions apply).

What about Superannuation? 

Another common asset that can go ‘missing’ is superannuation. As people move jobs, it can be easier - or sometimes required - to register for the company’s preferred Superannuation fund. When this happens, it can be easy to forget that you have a fund started elsewhere, sometimes in two or three other accounts. 

To help with tracking this money down, the Australian Taxation office (ATO) have a number of resources dedicated to assisting people find their ‘missing’ super. Recent law reforms aim to make it more difficult for super accounts to get lost, and consolidating your funds is now considerably a much easier task. The sooner you do this, the better. The investments and interest accrued with super funds means that a few extra years of this higher consolidated amount could equal to thousands of extra dollars at your disposal in years to come. Therefore, while you may not receive this money in your bank account today, your future self will thank you for it when the time comes to access this money. 

For further information on budgeting, saving, or to learn more about the home buying process, try HomeStart’s free Home Buyer Ready Program. Whether you’re starting out or starting over, with HomeStart it’s home time.