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10/02/17 Insurance #

8 Places to Find Free, Unclaimed Money

8 Places to Find Free, Unclaimed Money

Finding a dime on the sidewalk or a $10 bill stuffed in an old coat pocket can add a smile to your day. They’re both found money, possibly unclaimed money. While the dime won’t buy you much, it could be a sign of good luck.

But there are other ways to come upon good luck.

Unclaimed assets may be sitting somewhere in your name, waiting for you to find and claim them. With some simple online searches, you can look for unclaimed money in seconds and possibly find a windfall.

Unclaimed money can also come from a family member who has died. They may have a life insurance policy, retirement benefit and other policies you may not know about that are legally yours as an heir.

Here are some resources to finding missing, unclaimed money:

Where to start looking for unclaimed money

Two websites offer free, multi-state searches for unclaimed property:

  • National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, or NAUPA.
  • Missing Money, a service endorsed by NAUPA.

Both are simple to use. You only enter your first and last name, and state where you live, and a free governmental search for missing money in your name is done in seconds.

Missing Money is a database of governmental unclaimed property records. They include bank accounts, safe deposit box contents, stocks, mutual funds, unwashed checks and wages, insurance policies, CDs, utility deposits and escrow accounts.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. has a free database to search for bank accounts or safe deposit boxes in your name or the name of a loved one who has died. Continue reading

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09/28/17 Investing , Travel # ,

Why Spend Christmas in Spain? To Play the Lottery

Why Spend Christmas in Spain? To Play the Lottery

I’d love to travel to Spain someday, especially for Christmas. The gothic architecture. Beaches. Tapas. A sanctuary city for abandoned beach inflatables. Museums. The lottery.

Yes, the lottery.

As a longtime opponent of lotteries for many reasons, I’m changing my mind on Spain’s lottery — and not just because it was for $2.4 billion last Christmas.

Why to hate lotteries

Lotteries are used by governments to raise money, though most of the money raised by lotteries doesn’t go back to the states or education — one of the biggest beneficiaries promoted by state lotteries.

They also increase gambling addition, prey on the poor to play more, and have lousy odds of winning. You’ll likely get hit by lightening before winning the lottery.

But the dumb reasoning that “You can’t win if you don’t play,” along with the easy fantasy of what you’d do with the winnings are enough enticement for millions of people.

If you want to become a millionaire, do it the boring way by saving and investing the money you’d spend on the lottery. And if your fantasy is to spend a month in Tahiti drinking mai-tais for days (OK, that’s mine), then save your money and do it. Continue reading

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09/21/17 Children #

Parents of Boys Put Greater Priority on College Than Parents of Girls

Parents of Boys Put Greater Priority on College Than Parents of Girls

Just because she’s a girl, I expect my daughter to have to face more problems in life than boys. A lower wage, less encouragement in math and science, and not arguing are some of the things she’ll have to fight through in life.

I have every confidence she’ll beat them all.

I can’t control many of those obstacles. But like many dads who only have daughters, I pick my spots and do what I can.

One thing that I can control is giving her some financial help to afford to go to college. It’s an area that I never expected bias on from parents who only have boys, but it’s one I’m questioning after seeing a recent survey by T. Rowe Price.

It found that the parents of boys are saving more for their kids’ college education than the parents of all girls.

As the father of a daughter, that’s not how it is in our house. Continue reading

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09/18/17 Work # ,

How Much is Your Time Worth?

How Much is Your Time Worth?

My time is worth more than $1.25 an hour. Everyone’s time is worth more than that.

Yet that’s how much I was paid to go through a jury selection process at my local courthouse a few weeks ago. I didn’t get on the jury — for a murder trial that’s still taking place — or the pay rate of $7.50 a day for six hours of jury duty each day would have turned out to be less at an hourly rate.

I was only at the courthouse for two days, earning $15 for jury service and $2.38 for mileage. Others had been there for a week before a jury was selected. Some received full pay from their employers for their time in court. Others, like me, are freelancers who don’t earn money if they aren’t working.

I don’t mean for this to be a rant on how to improve the jury selection process or the importance to society of volunteers for jury service. It’s a key part of a working democracy.

Value your time

What it got me thinking about was how we value our time. I’ve written here about how to set rates as a freelancer. It’s not rocket science. If you want quality, you pay for quality.

The same goes for jury service, I believe. Again, without going too far on a tangent about jury selection, do you really want jurors who are in a jury box against their will because they can’t get out of jury duty? Who have employers who can pay them for a month or more to miss work? Continue reading

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09/06/17 Sharing Economy , Work # , ,

Week of Lyft Doesn’t Offer Hope for Sharing Economy

Week of Lyft Doesn’t Offer Hope for Sharing Economy

I’m a fan of the sharing economy. After a week of riding Lyft, however, I’m not so sure about it — at least for those doing the sharing.

The service was great and I was happy with the cost and speed of the trips I took. But from the standpoint of the drivers and the money they make to push driving for Lyft into a viable job — even part-time work — I don’t see it as a long-term solution to helping people improve their incomes much.

I used Lyft regularly for a week because my car was hit by a hit-and-run driver and it needed to be in the repair shop for a week. My insurance company offered me a rental car or up to $200 in free Lyft rides, with more money for Lyft rides available if I needed it. I work from home so I only needed it to run a few errands, and I only used about $100.

Here are some of the surprising things I learned about Lyft and the sharing economy from drivers, and from a ridesharing expert I interviewed:

Fulltime driving isn’t enough

My first driver was a DJ, about college age, who told me he drives 60 to 80 hours a week for Lyft. He didn’t earn much money, he said, and the driving takes away from his passion of making music.

This led to a college-age discussion about how much money you need, and if working in a job that doesn’t fulfill your passion is worthwhile. His goal was to find ways to turn his musical interests into earning money, and to drive less.

The value of a driver’s time didn’t seem to be computed on many levels by Lyft, though I got differing opinions on the value of driving for Lyft when working 40 hours or more per week.

Bonuses are key

Another driver, a former fulltime taxi driver in San Francisco, told me that working 40+ hours per week only allows him to earn money to live on if he meets Lyft’s bonus goals. The more trips a driver makes, the closer they can get to earning a Lyft bonus. That makes short trips more profitable, he said.

Lyft explains its Power Driver Bonus in detail on its website. It has various requirements, including giving rides at peak times, having a 2011 or later model car, a high acceptance rate and bonus tiers.

For people who driver 40 to 50 hours per week for Lyft, the bonuses are accessible and equate to providing 60 rides per week, says Harry Campbell, owner of The Rideshare Guy, a blog and podcast about ridesharing and a driver for Lyft and Uber. Continue reading

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Hi, I'm Aaron Crowe. Welcome to CashSmarter. I'm a personal finance freelance writer who enjoys spending my money wisely and using minimalism to make my money last longer while increasing income.