In a natural disaster or crisis your first priority is the safety of you and your family, having your finances and critical information safe gives you one less thing to worry about during difficult times.
September is National Preparedness Month and with hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires, we are quickly reminded how important it is to be organized and have a plan. Having a financial preparedness plan can protect your long-term economic interests against life’s surprises.
Here are 7 financial tips to prepare when disaster strikes:
1. Keep your important documents safe
Birth certificates, passports, marriage license, property deeds, car titles, medical information, estate planning documents, insurance policies, financial account numbers, three years of tax returns and other important documents stored in a fireproof and waterproof safe. Put documents in plastic bags to keep out moisture.
2. Go digital
Some documents have to be saved as a hard copy, but most do not. It may be time to take the digital plunge. Scan all your key documents and save them to a flash drive or up in the cloud. You can use a digital storage platform, such as Box, to securely access your important financial documents anywhere.
3. Keep extra cash
You may not be able to reach an ATM, so have cash, preferably in small bills to sustain you for the short-term. Keep the money in your home emergency kit. This kit should also include first aid, a radio with batteries, three day supply of food and water, manual can opener and flashlights.
4. Know what you own
Take inventory and keep a list of household valuables. If your property gets damaged you have a record of your assets. Take a video or photographs of every valuable you own. Include information about when you purchased it and how much you paid. Also save your receipts on high ticket items, such as jewelry.
5. Double check your insurance
Most insurance companies to do not cover flood damage. To avoid any unpleasant surprises, review your insurance coverage with your agent to understand your coverage and deductibles. If disaster does strike, contact your insurance company immediately with your policy in hand. This will make it extra easy when filing a claim. Some insurance companies have disaster teams on site to help with your short-term needs.
6. Have contact list
Have contact information for family and relatives, health professionals and service providers. Also make a copy of the front and back of all credit and debit cards to be able to contact the issuers. Have utility and phone company information in case you need to stop services.
7. Communicate with creditors
After the event, call the credit card companies and alert them that you may be making charges outside of your usual spending pattern or location. Set up online banking so you don't fall behind on payments. If you have to pay for damage, let your bank know the situation. They may be able to defer your payments by a couple months to make your financial burden less. Consider setting up a home equity line before disaster strikes, this way you have access to cash to make some repairs or pay for alternative lodging before the insurance claims gets processed.
Hopefully, a disaster will not strike you or your family, being prepared is one less worry.
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