Saturday, May 11, 2024

A saga 32 years in the making

Back in 1992, I was between jobs. The company I worked for had gone out of business and I had some money in that employer's 401(k). I don't remember the details, but since they filed for bankruptcy I wasn't crazy about leaving my money in that 401(k). I took that money (about $6,000) and rolled it over into an annuity with a company called Kemper. Over the decades my contract changed hands, sold first to Zurich, but that didn't matter to me. I just wanted that $6,000 to grow tax-deferred at 3.15% guaranteed until I retired.

My boyfriend was against this move, saying my money could earn more in mutual fund. He was undoubtedly right about that. But I wanted to put that specific chunk somewhere that could not/would not -- under any circumstances -- lose money. During these past decades, the stock market has risen and fallen many times. I've watched the bulk of my retirement savings go up and down accordingly, and the dips have caused me stress. It gave me a certain measure of comfort to watch that $6,000 chug along, slowly but safely, at 3.15% no matter what.

Well, we're more than 20 years into a new millennium. My boyfriend is long gone, Zurich sold my policy, I'm retired, and my annuity is now worth more than $16,000. And I want it. I'm over 65, so there are no tax or withdrawal penalties.  I figured this would be easy. 

I figured wrong.

My contract begins with a letter. This indicates that it was opened long ago and oh so far away. This dictates and complicates how I can close the account and get my money.

According to my contract, I have to fill out a specific form. Which is not available online. I requested this form by phone during the last week of March. I was told it would take 5 business days.

The form never arrived. Now we're in April. I called and requested another form.

It finally arrived. It was four pages long! I called and asked for help in filling it out. Customer service could not have been nicer. I asked where I could send it electronically.

I can't. I also can't get the funds direct deposited. My contract begins with a letter, you see.

So I returned the forms via USPS certified mail. It took more than a week to be delivered.

Now it will take a week for the form to be processed and a paper check to be mailed to me. 

Let's say that happens in a timely manner and I deposit the check right away. Even after state and local are withdrawn, the check will be for more than $10,000, which means the bank policy is to hold it for 2 business days until it clears.

So the process that began in the last week in March likely won't be done until the last week in May. And that's if everything goes through without a hitch.

I am not happy about this, but being unhappy does make me feel rather bratty. My policy begins with a letter because it was opened during the George H. W. Bush Administration. This is the way the world was 32 years ago. We requested forms by phone and they were mailed to us. We returned the forms by mail. We received checks in the mail. None of this seemed unreasonable in 1992 because we weren't used to emailing, downloading and direct deposit.

In the meantime, keep your fingers crossed for me. I'm counting on that money this summer.


Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash