By Treasurer David McRae
Last year the Unclaimed Savings Bond Act became law as part of the annual federal funding bill. This will help Americans claim over $29 billion in matured, unredeemed savings bonds currently held by the U.S. Treasury, including an estimated $215 million belonging to Mississippians. Matured bonds are those that are no longer earning interest.
U.S. Savings Bonds helped finance our victory in World War Two and for decades provided risk-free investment opportunities for American families. Only about one percent of all matured savings bonds have not been redeemed, but that still amounts to a substantial sum of money owed to our citizens. The bonds were issued on paper until 2002 when the government launched electronic versions that redeem automatically at maturity. The government stopped issuing paper bonds altogether in 2014. The ones issued on paper cease earning interest when they reach maturity, but they never expire, and there is no deadline to redeem them.
The Unclaimed Savings Bond Act was championed by the National Association of State Treasurers and other organizations to give states the power to make owners of matured savings bonds aware of the fact they have these assets and are able to redeem them. The vast majority of these bondholders are unaware they have them or do not know how to redeem them. In other cases, owners have lost the physical paper bonds or feel they have insufficient information to claim them.
For years Treasury has taken no meaningful action to proactively alert holders of matured bonds about how to redeem them. It’s understandable that after decades the actual physical paper bonds might become lost. In cases in which bonds are not physically possessed by their rightful holders, only the Treasury has the names and addresses of the original bond owners. The Treasury also has the serial numbers needed to claim the bond proceeds.
Under the new law, Treasury will be required to provide states with information about matured and unclaimed bonds so the states can use unclaimed property programs to help find the owners or heirs of the original owners and help them redeem their assets. Unclaimed property programs exist in all 50 states with the mission to protect consumers by ensuring money owed to our citizens is returned. In Mississippi we have returned over $65 million in unclaimed money since January of 2020. With this new law we will be working with Treasury to add owners of matured, unredeemed U.S. Savings Bonds to our unclaimed property list.
It’s important that these funds are returned to the rightful owners. Not only is it your money, not the government’s money, but Americans can use the economic stimulus now more than ever. The government does not hesitate to track you down when you owe tax dollars. Yet, it has taken years to get Treasury to be proactive about paying owners of matured savings bonds.
As our team travels the state holding unclaimed money events and helping people claim money that is theirs, I have seen the impact it has on families to have their money returned to them. And Americans could use the economic stimulus now more than ever. While we are working to gain access to U.S. Treasury data under the new law, you can check the Treasury Hunt website at https://www.treasuryhunt.gov/savings-bonds/ to see if you or loved ones have matured U.S. Savings Bonds. As always, be sure to also check our website at Treasury.MS.gov to check for unclaimed money as well.
Mississippi Treasurer David McRae is the 55th Treasurer for the State of Mississippi. In this role, he helps manage the state’s cash flow, oversees College Savings Mississippi, and has returned nearly $65 million in unclaimed money to Mississippians. For more information, visit Treasury.MS.gov.