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The summer after I was born, my parents opened a Wells Fargo brokerage account in my name and gifted me Disney stock.
At the time, in 1996, Disney stock was worth around $20 a share (on a split-adjusted basis). Today it’s worth approximately $113.95.
Thanks to some generous family members, I managed to accumulate 90 shares of the stock throughout the year with my current compound annual growth rate clocking in at around 5.8 percent.
The account then went untouched for twenty-two odd years; My family had forgotten about it. In fact, the first time I had heard of my stock was this past July when a letter of account abandonment was delivered to my parents’ home address.
In my case, this meant that my brokerage account had been inactive for too long, and I needed to do something about it.
According to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, a brokerage firm must attempt to locate an owner of the neglected account before permanently declaring it abandoned. If the owner goes unfound or unresponsive, a process called escheatment will occur where the state takes ownership of the account.
With a decent amount of student loan debt looming over my head, I took immediate action to claim the account and my long-lost Disney stocks.
I decided to close the defunct account my parents had opened for me and transfer the stocks to a new brokerage account under my name. It took months, however, for the money to reappear in the new account — and at first, I wasn’t sure if it ever would.
How things got messy
Instead of working with one Wells Fargo adviser, I spoke to whatever expert was available — which I now understand added unnecessary roadblocks to my situation. Even though my new account had been successfully opened and the old account successfully closed, my paperwork hadn’t been fully processed and my stock (for a time) was nowhere to be found.
After a month or two of waiting for the money to process and show up in my new account, I called Wells Fargo back. Now on my third adviser, I was informed that I needed to re-sign and resend some of the paperwork that I had already filled out. Additionally, I needed my mother to sign paperwork giving up her access to the account.
Thankfully, the third time was the charm. I’ve learned that to avoid experiencing similar misfortunes, it’s best to work with one specific financial adviser rather than playing Russian roulette with the Wells Fargo hotline. Also, it’s best to complete paperwork in person to avoid any important information getting lost in the shuffle.
Where dreams come true
Now that the Disney stock is (finally) safe and sound in my new brokerage account, I’ve decided that the majority of the money I’ll earn from selling the stock should go towards paying off my student loans.
I’ve also chosen to set up a DRIP, or dividend reinvestment plan, for the 10 percent I’m leaving in the account. This will allow me to reinvest stock dividends from Disney into additional shares — a slow and steady way of making a bit more money in the long run.
Thanks to Disney and the forward-focused gifts of my youth, I’m happy to say my student loan payments are significantly smaller and my focus on investments stronger.
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