The happenings "inside" the Wisconsin State Treasury and across the street at the State Capitol

Archive for February, 2012

Things Found in Safe Deposit Boxes

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We are going through this years’ batch of safe deposit boxes turned over by Wisconsin banks. By state statute, banks are required to turn over the contents of abandoned safe deposit boxes after 5 years of non-payment of rent. We hold onto the contents for 3 more years before selling items of value on E-Bay.

We normally inventory about 400 to 500 boxes a year – a long process that has us going through lots of personal papers, photos, financial statements, jewelry, coins, etc. It’s amazing what some people consider valuable compared to others. Some items are family heirlooms, some are pieces of jewelry that the owner thinks are worth money, some are coins that people think might gain value over the years. We also find pictures people probably thought no one else would see as well as letters sent to family members that no one thought a stranger would read. We just put those items in plastic bags and don’t look or read them after the initial inventory. Pictures and papers are destroyed after two years of sitting in our vaults.

I do like to remind folks to let family members know you have a safe deposit box…and to be sure to pay rent on it, or it comes to our office!

The owners of the boxes we got this year will find their names in the unclaimed property database within the next few weeks. Be sure to search!


The Economy & You #23: How Technology Affects Employment

When the Industrial Revolution first began in England in the 19th century, a group of people feared that new technology (the mechanized loom) would take away their jobs and their way of life.  The mechanized loom allowed for textiles to be made by cheaper and relatively unskilled labor, which would result in artisans who currently made the fabrics to lose their jobs.  This group, the Luddites, responded to this threat by destroying these machines.

An article by David Talbot in Technology Review outlines how technology is reducing the need for certain jobs faster than new jobs are being created. Our society has continued to witness this process of the elimination of jobs due to technology and innovation while at the same time creating new kinds of work that result in more productivity and higher prosperity, all with little effect on employment.

With the U.S. facing an unemployment rate that is still over 8 percent, and people struggling to find work, many are wondering what role technology plays in all this.  There are several factors that explain changes in the labor market including outsourcing, but according to the Talbot article, automation and technology may be playing the biggest role.

Research indicates that improvements in workplace automation are being utilized at a faster and faster rate which makes it even more difficult for workers to adapt.  More and more jobs that were once handled by a front-line worker are now being accomplished by a machine or software program.  The welding and painting of automobiles are now performed by robots. Complex calculations by engineers and accountants are now being done through software programs.  More and more work is being done by machines.  This has caused worker productivity to continue to rise steadily even with the economic downturn.  The improvement in productivity means that fewer workers are needed to complete a specific task.

This progression can be seen throughout multiple industries.  We are very familiar with the mechanization of agriculture that transformed our society.  In 1800, 90% of Americans were employed in agriculture. In 1900 that number was 41% and today that number is 2%. Still, there are other examples: ATMs have replaced bank tellers, online shopping (EBay and Amazon) has replaced retail sales clerks, and customer support can be done solely through the phone without speaking to a live person.

Because of this automation and advancement, some researchers believe that jobs prospects are disappearing from the middle and migrating to the two ends of the wage spectrum.  Those who have few of the needed modern day skills will only find work in the lower wage positions.  Those in the higher wage bracket will possess professional or technical expertise.  For production workers, sales reps and those in typical middle class jobs, those positions will see slow growth or even a reduction in the labor market because these jobs are the easiest to replace, fully or in part, by technology. The result is that technological advancements are eliminating jobs faster than they can be replaced by new industries.  So unless the economy generates new high-quality jobs, the people in the middle will face the prospect of low-skill, menial job whose wages will actually decline as more people compete for them. In the short run, the old set of skills that once created a lot of value is not useful anymore.

Like the Luddites, we cannot destroy the advances in technology that threaten our present day jobs. Therefore, governments (local, state and federal) need to invest substantially in human capital.  The problem we face is that a large segment of our labor force is not adequately educated in new technologies that will allow us to take advantage of these advances and develop the new and undiscovered industries that will employ our nation’s workers and help sustain our way of life.

Becoming Financially Literate

For most people, understanding how the economy works and how it affects your finances is not easy. Eyes glaze over, people get distracted…too many numbers.

But, becoming financially literate doesn’t have to be that hard. Asking yourself , “How much of a mortgage can I afford?” or,  “What do I need to retire comfortably?” or, “Can I buy that new car?” are questions that should be asked but are many times ignored.

We are going to attempt to help! We added a menu item on the top of the blog called “Financial Literacy” and will be updating it periodically with games, videos and other information to help you make the right decisions about your finances. Make sure to check back  – we will also mention when something new has been added!

Treasurer’s Top 5: Dodge County

Well another weekend gone so it must be the Treasurer’s Top 5. Today we have the top 5 people in Dodge County who have money/assets that they don’t know about! Click here to start your search for cash, stocks, bonds, etc.

Dodge County

Violet Baughman – Watertown

Lawrence Echard – Waupun

Harold Gogert – Beaver Dam

Paul Klug – Beaver Dam

Ryan Vande Berg  – Waupun

 If you or someone you know is on this list, please let them know they need to make a claim with the office. They can also call us at 855-375-CASH

Initiatives that Work

Image representing YouTube as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

Nice story from NBC 15 on our program reuniting Veterans with their lost cash!

We have lots of stories on our YouTube Channel as well as information from the Treasurer on his initiatives. Check out our YouTube menu bar on the top of the blog for some videos as well as a link to our YouTube Channel!

A Big Push to Return Cash

We are making a huge push right now and for the next 5 months to make sure people search for their names or names of family and friends in our unclaimed property database.

We have recently added new names turned over to our office at the end of last year. Our office received more than $38 million more in unclaimed assets at the end of last year. The irony – we returned nearly $34 million in 2011 but now have $4 million more! In total, we have around $411 million to return to current and former Wisconsin residents.

Last week, we took part in an event at the VFW in Oneida with veterans who had received unclaimed property from our office after we teamed up with the Wisconsin Department of Veterans’ Affairs to find them. We have 3,500 vets with money totaling more than $700,000!

Tonight, NBC 15 in Madison will be talking with a Sun Prairie Veteran who just got his money back!

WAOW in Wausau profiled a veteran as we returned his money to him a few weeks ago and spoke with a Wausau woman who claimed her cash just before Christmas.

WSAW in Wausau has been taking a look at out Top 20 from our website and is trying to locate the folks in their television market on that list to let them know they have money coming to them. They also discovered the Marathon County Treasurer’s Office had money coming back…but there’s an interesting twist to that story!

On April 1st, we will start publishing all the new names of people who have unclaimed property. The names will appear in newspapers in every county from April through June. Be on the lookout or search today at our website!

Another Legislative Victory

For those of you following the bills that would update Statute 177, the Unclaimed Property Statute, Tuesday was a very good day. AB 419 passed the full Assembly 94-0, making it the 2nd bill to pass the full Assembly. Below is a summary of where each piece of legislation stands.

AB 417 – Scheduled for Executive Session in Assembly Committee on Judiciary and Ethics – March 1.

AB 418 – Passed by the Assembly Committee on Homeland Security and State Affairs and the full Assembly.

AB 419 – Passed by the Assembly Committee on Homeland Security and State Affairs and the full Assembly.

The 3 companion bills (SBs 294, 295, and 296) are awaiting an Executive Committee hearing in the Senate Committee on Judicary, Utilities, Commerce, and Government Operations.


2/17 – Update 6, Legislative Update

2/09 – Update 5, ABs 418 and 419 Earn Unanimous Approval

2/02 – Update 4, Testimony on AB 417

1/26 – Testimony on SBs 294, 295, and 296

1/24 – Update 3

1/18 – Testimony on AB 419

1/18 – Testimony on AB 418

1/17 -Update 2

12/01 – Update 1

What would these bills do?

AB 417/SB 294 establishes a uniform review process in the event that an unclaimed property claimant disagrees with the administrator’s decision regarding the status of a claim.

AB 418/SB 295 requires heirfinders to submit a copy of their agreement with the unclaimed property owner to the Unclaimed Property Program for purposes of legal verification.

AB 419/SB 296 allows the Unclaimed Property Administrator to assess a 12% interest penalty on unclaimed property holders who willfully neglect to turn over unclaimed property to my office. The statute used to require the administrator to assess an 18% interest penalty. The added discretion this statute gives to the Unclaimed Property Administrator will allow my office to increase compliance with holder reporting laws through education, without penalizing businesses who found themselves in violation through ignorance of the law.