Found Money – How Much Would You Keep?

Over the past few months, I have found a whopping $3 and change on the ground while walking the dog. Not all at the same time; most recently I found a dollar bill which I immediately washed with soap and water (I know, sigh). It’s a world away from winning the lottery – but pleased I was to have made my wallet one dollar fatter for the effort of reaching down and picking it up. It’s like a note card from the cosmos saying “hey you, happy day!”

But I got to thinking, how much found money would I be comfortable keeping? Would I stuff a $50 bill in my pocket? How about $100? At what point would I make an attempt to find the owner or report my findings to the police? Or is it all just finders-keepers?

I thought it over and put the question to several other folks, and here’s what turned up:

  • First, if it’s covered in blue dye you might want to walk away. Seriously.
  • Second, it depends on the circumstances. Location is a big deal. If the money was found at work it would be turned in. Although, the parking garage is a gray area.
  • Third, there was no consensus on a number. Some felt $200 should be reported while others said $1,000 was the line. Anything under $1,000 would be kept.

I wondered what the dollar amount would be for me to report losing cash. Would you report losing $200 or write it off as a total bonehead move?

I did some searching, but everything that turned up was specific to businesses or institutions finding or holding property. I found nada on whether an individual is obligated to turn in found cash in NC.

So I called the State Treasurer’s office and the nice lady told me she didn’t think there was a law regarding found money, but she would check with her supervisor.  The Sup agreed there probably was not a law. Their conclusion was that if they found $100 they would keep it. It was an interesting and endearing conversation with the State Treasurer’s office.

Regardless of all that, two things stood out to me. First, we feel more of a moral responsibility to those we know than to strangers (the found at work thing vs. somewhere else). Does that mean our morals are based on a sense of obligation instead of sincerely wanting to do the right thing?

Second is that seemingly the higher one’s economic status, the higher the threshold for turning in cash. The wealthier said they would pocket more, while the less wealthy said they would keep a much smaller sum. Does this mean one group is more moral than the other? I got the feeling it was more innocent than that. My guess is the more disposable income one has, the less value one places on the actual dollar. What is pocket change to one may be groceries for a week to another. It’s somewhat about perspective. That’s my opinion.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on this. Have you ever found money? Did you buy a pair of Ferragamos? Donate it? What amount would you report either lost or found?

Happy pondering, and