In an age when practically everyone seems to have a credit card and a lot of us make purchases and pay bills online, it might seem puzzling that anybody actually amasses enough physical cash to lose a sizable sum. One sign of the times: The Salvation Army reported in 2014 that contributions to its Christmas kettle program had fallen off 10 percent from between 2012 and 2014, which one official attributed to the fact that people carried fewer bills and coins in their wallets [source: Schmidt].
The truth is, though, that cash is far from dead. About 65 percent of Americans prefer to use it instead of plastic for purchases of $5 or less, according to a recent survey. And that preference gets stronger with age. While millennials are slightly more comfortable using credit or debit cards for small payments, 82 percent of people 65 and older prefer currency [source: Merzer]
Additionally, many of us don't completely trust the cashless economy — or, for that matter, banks. A 2015 American Express survey found that 29 percent of Americans are keeping at least some of their savings in paper money and coins, and a little more than half of those people have stashed the money in some secret location. According to another study, the most popular place to hide money is in the freezer (27 percent of cash hoarders), with another 20 percent using the sock drawer. A further 11 percent use the stereotypical mattress, and 10 percent prefer the cookie jar [source: Grant].
The problem, of course, is that people sometimes forget where they've stashed their savings. In 2013, a woman forgot that she'd stashed $98,000 in cash in a desk, and mistakenly sold it on Craigslist. Fortunately, she sold it to a rabbi, who found the money and returned every cent of it to her [source: Shaw]. On the other hand, in 2009, an Israeli woman replaced her mother's mattress, not knowing that $1 million was stashed inside. She searched three landfills but did not find that old mattress [source: Associated Press].
Author's Note: How much money do people accidentally throw away every year?
This assignment was a perplexing one to me, because there really isn't any good data on how much money people lose. But even so, I found that there were plenty of interesting anecdotes to relate. Also, I think that I'm going to start buying used furniture, in hopes that I'll find some secret wealth stuffed into the cushions.
More Great Links
- America Saves. "Test Your Savings Knowledge." Americasavesweek.org. Feb. 23-28, 2015. (June 22, 2015) http://www.americasavesweek.org/for-individuals/test-your-savings-knowledge
- Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. "Revised 2014 Currency Print Orders." Federalreserve.gov. Sept. 5, 2014. (June 24, 2015) http://www.federalreserve.gov/paymentsystems/2014_revised_coin_currency_orders.htm
- Carrns, Ann. "Banks Where You Can Still Count Your Change." The New York Times. June 2, 2011. (June 22, 2015) http://bucks.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/06/02/banks-where-you-can-still-count-your-change/?_r=0
- Chappell, Bill. "After Finding $40,000 In Thrift-Store Couch, Roommates Return Money." Npr.org. May 16, 2014. (June 22, 2015) http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2014/05/16/313118337/thrift-store-couch-yields-40-000-roommates-return-money
- Codd, Carey. "BSO Says Alert Deputy, Good Sam Returns Thousands To Homeless Man." CBSlocal.com. June 9. 2015. (June 22, 2015) http://miami.cbslocal.com/2015/06/09/bso-alert-deputy-good-sam-returns-thousands-to-homeless-man/
- Coinstar. "Help Center." Coinstar.com. (June 22, 2015) https://www.coinstar.com/CoinstarFAQ.aspx#A
- Elder, Jay. "Viewpoint: Lots of Cents Out There for Taking." Numismatic News. Aug. 29, 2013. (June 22, 2015) http://www.numismaster.com/ta/numis/Article.jsp?ad=article&ArticleId=27183
- Esure. "We're a Bunch of Losers." Esure.com. March 21, 2012. (June 22, 2015) http://www.esure.com/media_centre/archive/wcmcap_100800.html
- Grant, Kelli E. "Under a mattress, in the freezer: Why so many are hiding cash." CNBC. Jan. 29, 2015. (June 22, 2015) http://www.cnbc.com/id/102377632
- HG.org. "Found Money — What Are My Legal Obligations?" (June 22, 2015). http://www.hg.org/article.asp?id=31615
- Holland, Kelley. "More money than you think is hiding in that couch." CNBC. Nov. 21, 2013. (June 22, 2015) http://www.cnbc.com/id/101218244
- Irby, Kate. "Bradenton man donates $21,495 that he found in spare change over 10 years to local animal rescue." Bradenton.com. Oct. 1, 2014. (June 22, 2015) http://www.bradenton.com/2014/10/01/5388421_bradenton-man-donates-21495-that.html?sp=/99/100/&rh=1
- Jogia, Rekha. "Lost wallets: only one in five returned, research says." Guardian. Aug. 18, 2010. (June 22, 2015) http://www.theguardian.com/money/2010/aug/18/lost-wallets-one-in-five-returned-cpp-research
- Merzer, Martin. "Poll: Cash or Card for $5 Purchases?" Creditcards.com. (June 22, 2015) http://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/poll-small-purchase-card-vs-cash-1276.php
- News.com.au. "Tin cans filled with $10 million in gold coins found buried in California." News.com.au. Feb. 27, 2014. (June 22, 2015) http://www.news.com.au/world/tin-cans-filled-with-10-million-in-gold-coins-found-buried-in-california/story-fndir2ev-1226837801851
- Omer, Sevil. "$13,000 stuffed in suit accidentally sent to Goodwill." NBC News. Nov. 29, 2011. (June 22, 2015) http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2011/11/29/9099138-13000-stuffed-in-suit-accidentally-sent-to-goodwill
- Ortiz, Erik. "Los Angeles laundromat seeks customer who accidentally dropped off bundle of bills." New York Daily News. July 2, 2013. (June 22, 2015) http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/laundromat-seeks-customer-dropped-bundle-bills-article-1.1388315
- Reddy, Sumathi. "Why We Keep Losing Our Keys." Wall Street Journal. April 14, 2014. (June 22, 2015) http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304117904579501410168111866
- Schmidt, Gregory. "The Cashless Society Meets the Loose-Change Economy." The New York Times. April 1, 2014. (June 22, 2015) http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2014/04/01/the-cashless-society-meets-the-loose-change-economy/
- Shaw, Alexis. "Rabbi Returns $98k He Found in Desk Bought on Craigslist." ABC News. Nov. 12, 2013. (June 22, 2015) http://abcnews.go.com/US/rabbi-returns-98k-found-desk-bought-craigslist/story?id=20862464
- United States Mint. "Circulating Coins Production Figures." Usmint.gov. 2015. (June 24, 2015) http://www.usmint.gov/about_the_mint/?action=productionFigures&allCoinsYear=2014&reportSelected
- Vigeland, Tess. "Picking up loose change makes sense." Marketplace. Jan. 2, 2009. (June 22, 2015) http://www.marketplace.org/topics/life/picking-loose-change-makes-sense