Spend 5 minutes of your time looking for lost super and you could be looking at an average of $20,000 of your own money – the easiest money anyone can ever make.

According to new data from the Australian Tax Office (ATO), there is now $11.7 billion sitting in 591,522 lost superannuation accounts – an average of $19,691 per account. Super accounts are flagged as ‘lost’ when the super fund is unable to contact the account holder and hasn’t received a contribution to an account for five years.

While the average account balance sits at $10,000, many have a few hundred thousand dollars in them. News.com.au reports that one individual recovered $994,000 of lost super from the ATO in October 2015 and a 50-year old recovered $140,000.

According to ATO deputy commissioner James O’Halloran, “A lot of people who work casually while they were studying or working multiple part-time jobs fund super they had completely forgotten about. While some people purposefully maintain a number of accounts, a lot of Australians are unaware their hard earned super is unnecessarily being eroded away by fees.

According to news.com.au, a Westpac lost Super Report found that nearly 75% of the population said that they wished they had looked after their super better when they were younger.

The report found that for every $1 recovered in lost super today equates to $10 in retirement. Find $20,000 of your super and that could mean an additional $200,000 for your retirement.

All lost super accounts with balances of $4,000 or less are transferred to the ATO and become “unclaimed super”. Anyone can claim back their lost super at any time.

The easiest way of finding your lost super is to ask your existing super fund for help to find lost accounts. It’s a free service and it’s also wise to avoid those companies advertising online to find your super for a fee. You can also use several ATO tool here.

If your lost super account had a tax file number associated with it, logging into the MyGov website and searching the ATO part for super is another easy way to find lost or unclaimed super.

Australians can also search the ATO Superseeker website.

NSW, Victoria and Queensland have the largest lost super balances of $3.5 billion, $2.458 billion and $2.345 billion respectively.

There are two main reasons why Australians should periodically check for lost super and consolidate their super accounts.

  1. Fees can erode your super balance if it is sitting in multiple accounts – and you could be paying for multiple insurance policies you don’t need and can’t use.
  2. By consolidating your super, you avoid most of those fees and you also have a better chance of generating better returns for your retirement.

How 1 Man Turned $10,000 Into Over $8 Million

Discover how one man turned a modest $10,600 investment into an $8,016,867 fortune. Learn more about this man and how you can start down the path toward financial independence. Simply click here to learn more. No credit card required.

HOT OFF THE PRESSES: Motley Fool’s #1 Dividend Pick for 2017!

With its shares up 155% in just the last five years, this ‘under the radar’ consumer favourite is both a hot growth stock AND our expert’s #1 dividend pick for 2017. Now we’re pulling back the curtain for you... And all you have to do to discover the name, code and a full analysis is enter your email below!

Simply enter your email now to receive your copy of our brand-new FREE report, “The Motley Fool’s Top Dividend Stock for 2017.”

By clicking this button, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. We will use your email address only to keep you informed about updates to our website and about other products and services we think might interest you. You can unsubscribe from Take Stock at anytime. Please refer to our https://www.fool.com.au/financial-services-guide">Financial Services Guide (FSG) for more information.

Motley Fool writer/analyst Mike King doesn't own shares in any companies mentioned. You can follow Mike on Twitter @TMFKinga

The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.