Monday, August 13, 2012

My piece of the Rock

A long time ago (1999) my Mom sent me an email about a little policy they had taken out on me when I was born. The policy was paid up in 1968, and she had the policy number but no other information. They would not release the information to her because when I reached adulthood I became the owner.

She had a toll-free number to call, specifically for old policies.

I called the number. They asked for my name and SSN and found my policy within 30 seconds! I was impressed.  I still wonder about the SSN – unlike today, when I was born, children did not have to have Social Security Numbers. You got your Social Security card the first time you got a job, which in my case was when I was sixteen. So how did they get my SSN?

At any rate, they sent me a statement, which I can’t find, about the policy.  In 1999, it was worth around $2500. 

Later they sent me a document indicating that Prudential was going to demutualize, and as a very very tiny ‘owner’ of the mutual company, I was entitled to some stock. Okay by me. So I got some stock in Prudential, 35 shares I believe, just for making a phone call.

I was quite surprised to get a 1099 from Prudential after a while. I couldn’t imagine why they had done that, until I realized that the 1099 was attached to a check. The stock paid a dividend. I had never owned a stock that paid a dividend and I didn’t recognize it.  After a while, I got a letter from Prudential offering to buy back my stock, or for me to round it up so that it would no longer be an odd lot. I could buy shares to make my holding 100 shares, with no brokerage commission.  So I did that.  I’ve been getting dividend checks ever since.

I wondered what the policy was worth the other day, so I tried to navigate the website to find out. I was completely unable to create a user ID, so I called the help number.  A man who sounded Irish helped me, and he said that the type of policy I had was not supported on-line, but he gave me a number to call for information, and transferred me.  The number was the same number my mother had sent me in 1999.

This time, I sat on hold for 20 minutes before giving up.  I wasn't so impressed.

I’ll have to try some day other than Monday.

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