As a child I often found money. That was an era when children predominantly played outdoors with other children instead of slouching over electronic devices. Spring in Wisconsin revealed lost items as snow melted–mittens, cars, papers, litter, and coins. Lots of coins. Money doesn’t come as easily these days. As an adult this spring, I generally earn money through writing and editing, but last week money found me.
It wasn’t from Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes, or another lovely royalty check from Amazon, or the Florida Lottery, or even that Nigerian Prince who keeps emailing to ask for my bank account number. It was a letter from an attorney that explained an unclaimed insurance refund of $1500 was owed to us and for a fee of $150, the attorney would process the claim and send us a check. Yeah, sure. I’ll tell the Nigerian Prince . . . but after calling the insurance company named in the letter, it turned out to be true. The insurance company refund was over six years old–involving a corporation my husband owned and closed–so the undelivered refund had been idling all these years with the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators.
The money would have gathered more dust there, but for the enterprising law firm that hunted us down. The lawyer earned a nice fee for his work and we applied the long-lost money toward our daughter’s wedding. But the story doesn’t end there. No. I became curious about the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators; curious enough to go to their website http://www.unclaimed.org and enter my name to search for more. I found another claim in my name and filed the requested paperwork–copy of Driver’s License, copy of utility bill that shows my address, and the claim form. For the price of a stamp and a few minutes’ time, I became another $55 richer.
So, gentle reader, consider my friendly advice to visit the Unclaimed.org website and put in your name, put in your parents’ names, put in your children’s names and see if money is looking for you. Another website MissingMoney.com also has links to unclaimed tax refunds and other property.
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It is human nature to want things. It is human nature to want more things. It is also human nature to want more things immediately. For me, this urge to acquire things manifests itself as books stacked three deep on shelves. Books bring me insight, knowledge, and yes, joy. I enjoy the heft, the smell, and the substance of them.Sure, we can call it retail therapy, but in truth it is greed. I have more books than I can read. Hubby and I reached an agreement–for every book brought into the house, one must leave. And then he bought me a Kindle.
Possessions, belongings, objects, collections, things. Stuff. How much life is spent searching for, finding, selecting, buying, collecting, sorting, cleaning, repairing, maintaining, arranging and getting rid of stuff? Why devote so much time to stuff?
I have fallen for the lie that things can make me happy. Advertising tells me that if only I have thing shiny new thing, all my problems will fade away and bliss will ensue. Our culture promotes the concept that he who dies with the most toys wins. Lottery fever entices us with greed-based fantasies at the potential of instant wealth. Who hasn’t entertained the fallacy that all problems can be solved with enough money? Ah, but what is enough? Donald Trump hasn’t stopped working yet.
The Pharaohs tried to take their treasures into the afterlife by stockpiling them in their tombs. How’d that work out for them? And how many lottery winners declare bankruptcy within two years of their wins?
I have looked upon people who subsist on what they carry with both pity and envy.
While some people live with only the things they carry, others hoard stuff until their living spaces become hazardous. In our materialism we obsess over objects, collecting them, owning them, displaying them. Ever visit the House on the Rock in Wisconsin? It is the ultimate hoarder’s dream. A reality television show called Hoarders features owners with homes so packed with belongings that family and friends intervene. We collect stuff in galleries and museums and warehouses and attics and basements.
Witness the urge to collect stuff at weekend garage sales and flea markets, discount malls, second-hand stores, and mega malls. Thanks to the internet, we can troll for things to buy without leaving home.
Whether collecting salt and pepper shaker sets or vintage airplanes, though we prefer to believe we own stuff, at some point stuff owns us.
Possessions consume our time—the most precious measure of life. Time spent on possessions is subtracted from time spent with people, time spent exploring the world, and time spent forging a legacy worth remembering.
I daresay that a combination of greed and impatience has led to the near economic ruin of our country. We could blame Congress for fueling our greed—they promise more than they can deliver to get elected and then tax us to try to make good on their false generosity. I say false generosity because giving away someone else’s hard-earned money is closer to theft than generosity. The moment a politician gives away his own hard-earned money could be considered generosity, and a miracle.
The Bible declares that the love of money is the root of all evil. Money itself isn’t evil, but the love of it is, because when we value money above all else, we place it above family, friends, and God. I have yet to meet a dying person who says he wishes he spent more time earning money. Dave Ramsey, author of The Total Money Makeover and host of The Dave Ramsey Show, teaches debt reduction and money management. Of his Ten Financial Commandments, he warns: Thou shalt not try to acquire happiness through material things.
If granted a giant do-over for the last ten years of life, would you change the amount of time spent on your possessions? How would you spend that time?