It’s a good idea to search for unclaimed money for older friends and relatives. After all, they’ve lived longer, so they’ve had more chances for their money to go missing. My guest has been searching for unclaimed money for seniors for years and wait ’til you hear how much he’s found. Gabriel Geiger is Director of Financial Services for Lifespan of Greater Rochester New York. (lifespanrochester.org)
First explain what Lifespan does for its clients.
We offer different programs to help older adults. We help people when they are 60 or older. Our programs help them with budgeting and bill paying. We have clients that cross the spectrum from indigents to middle class to affluent.
How did you first get the idea to search for unclaimed money for your clients?
Many of our clients, who are indigent, they need every penny they can find to live and pay for food. We have people who lose track of assets over time and our goal is to leverage the assets that clients have that maybe they don’t know they have.
Where do you look for unclaimed money for these folks?
We’ve been doing this for over 15 years. We utilize the NY abandoned property website and look at specialty ones for teachers.
I’m not familiar with special unclaimed property sources for teachers. Tell me more!
Actually, there are many websites for a variety of sources of abandoned property!
NY State Teachers Retirement System, checks other states as appropriate
any health insurance company
abandoned property in NY State, check with each state
Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp, missing participants pensions, 401k’s
National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits
You have another unclaimed money strategy I find fascinating. Explain what you look for in regard to people’s bank accounts and FDIC insurance.
I, myself and many of my colleagues here are former bankers and we know that it used to be FDIC insurance was fairly low. The chart below demonstrates how it has increase gradually over time due to inflation, etc.
FDIC gradually increased deposit insurance from
1934 $ 2,500
1950 $ 10,000
1966 $ 15,000
1969 $ 20,000
1974 $ 40,000
So, to protect assets, consumers would open accounts at a variety of banks to maintain funds within insurance levels. Over time, people move, get busy with life and sometimes forget about some of their accounts at different financial institutions.
In addition to unclaimed property, you’ve been able to find benefits for people. What kinds of benefits?
It is very simple. You just need to know to do it. As people age they don’t know what they don’t know, so we are here to help them figure that out. Besides helping them find abandoned property – we help them find benefits too.
We utilize www.benefitscheckup.org which is sponsored by the NCOA – National Council on Aging. This is an excellent tool which will identify benefits (medications, health care, income assistance, food & nutrition, housing & utilities, tax relief and much more) that people may be eligible to receive and more importantly how to access it.
The unclaimed money you’ve found for older people… what kind of difference has it made in their lives?
Because we find money for them, someone was able to continue living in the community. We are helping people in our programs. They are able to buy a tv set or buy furniture or take their kids on a trip, funeral arrangements and much more.
Any specific stories of happy seniors you were able to help that you can share?
You’ve also made some of your own family members very happy through your unclaimed money expertise, I am right?
I search unclaimed property sites for myself all the time and I always check for my family members too. Recently found some for my niece from a former employer. She was able to recover those funds. She said ‘thanks a lot Uncle Gabe.” It was around $600.
OK, here’s the question my Easy Money listeners have been waiting for me to ask: How much unclaimed money do you estimate you’ve recovered for your clients in all?
We have been able to collect a lot of money for our clients over time. I would estimate about a million plus. We are talking about 100s of clients over the last 15 years.
What have some of the individual windfalls been like?
We have found from a couple of dollars to 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 or more for people.
When you share the good news, do your clients believe you? I myself have had many friends and family think I was pulling their leg.
Of course they believe me. You have heard of Honest Abe. I am Honest Gabe so they believe me! But really, when they see the check that our staff has collected for their respective clients, the clients are quite appreciative and many times can get something special with the proceeds – like a tv or furniture.
What is your advice to my Easy Money listeners who may have searched and not found any unclaimed money?
Don’t search once and be done. We search quarterly for our clients. This is part of our assignment. Search the abandoned property, at least on a quarterly basis. We may find money now or not find any but maybe in 3 months there will be money that is reported.
You also suggest searching old addresses or states where you used to live, right?
People move and lots of unclaimed money comes about from that.
And what about searching the names of deceased loves ones. Is that worthwhile?
People move or die and we have clients whose family members have passed and we locate money that way too.
And, finally, what would you say to encourage people to search for their older relatives who are still living, just like you do?
Often times, this is just found money that can demonstrate to relatives their genuine concern and even a bigger difference for whom the money is found because then they can get something special or just increase disposable income.
Gabe Geiger of Lifespan of Greater Rochester, thank you so much for being my guest on Easy Money.