It would be so nice to get a call that we had somehow "missed" some of our money, and that we would soon be receiving a check.
For some people, it's reality.
For one of them, it's a $6.1 million reality.
A payout of unclaimed money in exactly that amount—the largest in history—was distributed on Wednesday in Missouri to a recipient who chooses to remain anonymous.
How did it become such a large sum? Because she had time on her side.
What Is Unclaimed Money?
Unclaimed assets are those that have become detached from their rightful owners over the years and have gone into custody of the state.
In this case, the unclaimed money originated from investments her ancestors made in an obscure company generations ago; the amount has grown since, but the stock did not pass from generation to generation as planned.
Insurance companies, investment and utility companies and other entities are often legally required to hand inactive accounts over to the state, so most states have coffers of money and property whose owners are MIA. New York State, for instance, has $11 billion in unclaimed assets.
The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators even has a website where people can find out how to pursue money or property that might belong to them.
How You Can Give Yourself an 'Unclaimed Money' Payout
So, we hate to break it to you, but the average person probably doesn't have long-lost "unclaimed money" out there. But, you can give yourself your own unclaimed money payout. There's another name for it: retirement.
Money left on its own in your bank account won't appreciate quickly enough to keep up with inflation. So, even if you saved a whole entire year's salary now for your first year of retirement, by the time you retired, the value of that money would have shrunk to less than one year's worth of living expenses.
The key to getting money to outpace inflation is to invest it well and let it grow for a considerable amount of time.
The idea that thousands of dollars in unclaimed money might be patiently waiting for you in the manner of Prince Charming is appealing, to say the least. But most of us are more like Cinderella's mice, diligently working away on amassing emergency funds and setting aside money for retirement.
Until our fairy godmother shows up to help us boost our retirement accounts by $2,500. (You know about our contest, right?)
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