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A Note From The Treasurer of The State of Illinois

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spring cleaning at my house. Well, I’m not sure that is exactly the right term. I still had a lot of unpacking to do from our move last year. The twins were born right around that time, and some unopened boxes just didn’t seem as important as the two new packages that arrived.

My closets already were mostly full, so I had to make some room for the “new” things I was attempting to put in there. I realized that if I hadn’t used some of these things for nearly a year, I probably didn’t need them at all. I plan to donate some of my old clothes so they can have a second life.

I also spent a lot of time sorting through piles of personal papers that had been hastily shoved into boxes after the twins arrived nearly two months early, time I thought I would have to sort and pack. This happens in life. Things get put away in a closet, a cabinet, a junk drawer, or some box, and eventually are forgotten. Or at least we forget where we put them.

A plaque mounted on wood, with words that say Club de Espanol, Mike Frerichs, Tesorero, 1989-90

Here’s one of the things I found while spring cleaning. It’s a plaque from when I served as treasurer, or “tesorero,” of my high school Spanish Club.

U.S. Savings Bonds are a good example of this. Many of us have received them as a kid for a birthday, baptism, confirmation, bar mitzvah, graduation, or other milestone. I remember opening up a birthday card and being excited about the amount of the bond — and a little less excited that I couldn’t redeem the bond for a long period of time. Perhaps my aunts, in addition to helping me financially, wanted to teach me patience.

Although I remember receiving these bonds, I don’t remember cashing one. They are difficult to keep track of, and I am sure that many of them were lost over the years.

I am certain some of my bonds were lost, and that I am not the only one who ever lost them. There are more than $30 billion in uncashed U.S. Savings Bonds that the federal government is aware of. This is $30 billion in promises made to people for future payment that were never kept. It is almost like the federal government sold these bonds knowing a decent percentage of them were unlikely to be cashed, and that they were just a way for Uncle Sam to bring in some money.

“There are more than $30 billion in uncashed U.S. Savings Bonds that the federal government is aware of. This is $30 billion in promises made to people for future payment that were never kept.”

As State Treasurer, I am in charge of returning missing money to Illinoisans. We audit banks, credit unions, corporations, and other financial institutions to make sure they are returning money that doesn’t belong to them, but the federal government has exempted itself from these laws.

I think that is wrong.

And that is why last Thursday, I held a news conference with U.S. Rep. Danny Davis of Chicago to draw attention to this problem. We have worked together on this issue for several years, but I intend to turn up the heat in my new role as President of the National Association of State Treasurers.  

I don’t believe that any grandmothers or aunts ever bought a savings bond to help with the national debt. They purchased them to help a loved one financially in the future. I want to see that their wishes are honored.

I can’t compel the federal government to turn over uncashed savings bonds to state unclaimed property departments by myself. But Congressman Davis and I are urging the U.S. Treasury to make it easier for states to facilitate their return.

The Treasury Department proposed a rule that would undermine our efforts to publicize the information through the states’ unclaimed property systems. We hope that the Treasury will modify its proposed rule to follow the letter and spirit of a law Congress passed to assist the states in returning these assets to bondholders or their heirs.

If you agree with me that these bonds should be cashed by their intended recipients, and not held forever by the federal government, I encourage you to reach out to your member of Congress and ask them to support Rep. Davis and me. You can find your member of Congress here.

Working together, we just might nudge them to do the right thing.



Michael W. Frerichs

Illinois State Treasurer

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