Learning lessons from lost property

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

What would you think if you suddenly found out you were $60,000 richer than you thought?

It would be a nice problem to have. Ten heirs of Sara Field are finding out what it's like.

State Treasurer Shane Osborn is using the case to encourage Nebraskans to search the Unclaimed Property Division of his office to see if they have something coming, but there are other lessons to be learned.

Field's money, nearly $600,000, was the largest single sum in the state's pool of homeless money, according to a story by The Associated Press.

It seems Field long ago purchased shares in what is now Exxon Mobil Corp., and when she died, the shares fell through the cracks.

It wasn't like the state didn't try. It's been trying to find a home for the money for six years, and a researcher finally pored over geneaology reports and death certificates to track down a great-nephew in Massachusetts.

For one obvious lesson, it's worth your time to periodically search the state treasurer's site to see if you have anything coming.

You can do so by logging on to http://www.treasurer.state.ne.us.

Officials were at the Red Willow County Fair to encourage residents to do just that.

Over the past five years, $26 million in unclaimed property has been returned to the rightful owners. But, counting Sara Field's Exxon Mobil stock, there was still $85 million looking for a home.

For another lesson, the story shows the power of long-term investment in the stock market, despite recent "corrections" in the Dow Jones averages.

Most of us could use a reminder to put a little money away for the future instead of spending it on the latest gadget or fashion.

We don't know how much Field originally invested, but we're sure should would have been shocked at the amount to which it has grown.

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