Forget about under the mattress. What about inside the water tank on the back of your parents’ toilet? That’s actually one of the first places we look when we’re hired to clean out houses after a parent or grandparent dies. We’ve found that today’s seniors are a generation that tends to create secret hiding places for money (or stock certificates and savings bonds), so finding their treasure troves after they’re gone requires patience and a little detective work. Here are the Top 10 secret hiding places for money we’ve found:
There’s plenty of room in the toilet’s water tank for a jar or some other watertight container stuffed with cash or jewelry. And while you’re at it, make sure there’s nothing taped to the inside of the lid.
Cold, hard cash isn’t just a cliché. It’s a way of life for many seniors. We’ve found everything from credit cards to gold coins frozen inside blocks of ice and plastic zipper bags filled with cash at the bottom of ice trays.
Look inside every cereal box, flour bag and coffee can. Pour out the contents if necessary so you can see what’s at the bottom.
Yes, you want to check for those hollowed-out bibles and dictionaries that you can buy online. But you also have to shake out every book on the shelf. We’ve found everything from $100 bills to dividend checks stashed between the pages.
Under the Floorboards
This is a very common place to hide valuables, especially in older houses. Check for loose boards under throw rugs, new nails that look out of place, and loose edges around wall-to-wall carpets.
We’ve found plenty of vintage suitcases packed with cash. Steamer trunks used in World War II had special holes built into them for wives to pack mementos for their husbands who were going off to fight. Check under the lining, and look for a false bottom.
You have to go through every piece of clothing and every box. We’ve found hundreds of thousands of dollars in shoeboxes, cigar boxes and inside the pockets and lining of old jackets.
We’ve found envelopes full of cash or other valuables taped to the bottom or the back of just about every type of furniture, but chests of drawers offer unique hiding places. Women’s vanities usually have at least one drawer with a false bottom to hide the good jewelry.
Yes, people still bury canning jars filled with rolled up $20 bills in the yard. If they’ve been there a long time their location could be hard to spot, but a metal detector should pick up the lid if they aren’t buried too deeply.
Birthday Cards and Church Envelopes
Seniors often pre-load these with cash and then forget to follow through.
This list is really just the tip of the iceberg. Hiding places are unique to the house and to the individual, so the best way to uncover your family member’s secret stash is to ask them while they are still around to tell you.
The takeaway we’ve learned is to never assume that relatives don’t have money or other valuables hidden somewhere. Even if they lived very modestly, older generations took great pride in living frugally and saving as much as they could. In fact, the ones who never talked about money usually are the ones we discover have the most hidden.