By South Carolina Treasurer Curtis Loftis
Our nation’s military members know what it means to serve. They are selfless individuals who have committed themselves to safeguarding our country, its values and freedom. The significant sacrifices our service members make are usually not made alone. They are shared by those that support them the most – their families.
November is Military Family Month, a national observance that recognizes and honors the many contributions military families make for our communities and nation. In South Carolina, these contributions are especially substantial. With eight major military installations across the state, one of the largest active duty and reserve service member populations in the nation and a statewide economic impact that accounts for more than 190,000 jobs and $25.3 billion annually, our military community is an integral part of the Palmetto State.
As our military community and their families serve our state and country, it’s equally important that South Carolina does its best to serve those who serve. That’s why I want to share information about three important programs administered by the State Treasurer’s Office that can provide value to our service members and their loved ones.
Unclaimed Property Program
Approximately one-third of military service members and their families experience a permanent change of station each year. As they move to new communities, they may inadvertently leave behind utility deposits, dormant bank accounts or uncashed checks that eventually get returned to the state as unclaimed property. For those who have been stationed in South Carolina, the State Treasurer’s Office Unclaimed Property Program holds onto these funds and attempts to reunite them with the rightful owner via an online searchable database.
And while we have more than $650 million in unclaimed funds just in the Palmetto State alone, we also partner with many other states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and even some Canadian provinces to provide a free national unclaimed property database – missingmoney.com. This free website allows people to search any state where they have previously lived.
We encourage you to search your name at least twice a year to see if there are funds that rightfully belong to you. If you find unclaimed property, it’s easy to claim it online and receive a check within a matter of weeks after you have provided the required documentation.
College Savings Plan
The award-winning Future Scholar 529 College Savings Plan offers a flexible, low-cost investment program that helps families save for their children’s future education. Future Scholar offers residents of South Carolina, including our military members and their loved ones, the ability to deduct their contributions from their South Carolina income tax returns. The money in a Future Scholar account isn’t taxed as it grows and can be withdrawn tax-free when used to pay for qualified education expenses, such as tuition, room and board, books, supplies and equipment.
There’s no requirement to live in-state to have an account and no requirement to use the funds at a South Carolina institution. Funds can be used at any eligible two- or four-year college, university or trade school throughout the U.S. and at more than 600 international institutions. The plan offers a great amount of flexibility, and account holders can even invite their friends and family to make contributions, via online or direct mail so that even the most distant of loved ones can participate in a military child’s dream of a higher education.
Palmetto ABLE Savings Program
In 2017, an estimated 12 percent of the U.S. population was reported to be living with a disability, with that number rising to 14.8 percent in the state of South Carolina.
The State Treasurer’s Office administers the Palmetto ABLE Savings Program, which provides individuals with disabilities and their loved ones the opportunity to save and invest for the future. For our military community, this program offers value to families with spouses or children who developed a disability before age 26, as well as any armed forces members who may have developed a disability prior to that age as a result of military service or any other circumstances.
Like its college savings counterpart, contributions to a Palmetto ABLE account are deductible on South Carolina tax returns and earnings grow tax-free. Account owners can use the funds for a number of qualified expenses that improve their quality of life, such as basic living expenses, healthcare, job training and education, transportation, and assistive technology, to name a few. Most importantly, Palmetto ABLE accounts provide account owners and their families with peace of mind that they won’t lose their existing needs-based benefits, creating a pathway to financial stability that hasn’t existed before.
This Thanksgiving Day and every day, we are grateful for the many sacrifices our military personnel, our veterans, and their families make to serve our country, and we hope the programs provided by the State Treasurer’s Office will provide assistance to our military community.
For more information about Unclaimed Property, Future Scholar, or Palmetto ABLE, please visit treasurer.sc.gov.