How to Disaster Plan and Build a Financial Emergency Kit
As Hurricane Season ramps up and with Sandy only a few years down in the history books, it is important to consider what plans you and your family have in place in the event of a natural disaster. Disasters rarely give us a heads up. The best we can do in the face of disaster is have a plan and build a Financial Emergency Kit. Having these essential items safe, secure, and at the ready, in case the unthinkable occurs will save a lot of headache and heartache. There are various websites, including Homeland Security’s government webpage and the Red Cross, which can help. In this article we will go over some of the basic essentials everyone should have stored safely in case of emergency, specifically relating to your finances.
Storing your important emergency documents in a water and fire safe box is a great first step. No matter what happens, your most valuable information is protected. The next step is having duplicates, both hard and electronic copies. All electronic copies should be password protected. If you store hard copies of your documents inside your weather-proof box, you may also want to include a flash or hard drive of the same data. If you store your electronic data in a cloud-based server (like Google docs or Apple) remember that in case of emergency, you may not have electricity, or your computer/phone may be unable to access the internet. Even though storing backups on the cloud can be a good and secure option, in the case of an emergency, we’d recommend hard copy backups that are kept in a secure location where you could access them.
What to store in your Financial Emergency Kit:
In case of an emergency, you may need proof of who you are, your relationships to your family, your home, even your pet. The kit should include all personal Info and documents.
- Important Papers. Original or copies of your (and all member of households) driver license, birth certificate, social security card, passport/naturalization documents, marriage licenses, military paperwork, adoption paperwork. If you have a pet, proof of ownership, microchip information and current photos in case he/she gets lost.
- Emergency Cash. In an emergency, banks, credit cards and ATM’s may be unavailable. Having emergency cash to cover a few days worth of food, gas, or travel expense will come in handy. It’s good to have an emergency fund in a savings account or easily accessible investment for a long-term emergency as well, ideally enough to cover three to six months of expenses.
- Emergency Contact List. Put together a master list of essential phone and email addresses. This may include family and neighbor contacts. Home-related contacts: landlords, mortgage company, insurance agents. Financial Contacts: bank, account information, financial advisors, lawyers. It may be helpful to provide a secondary emergency contact to reach you for all the above as well.
- Important financial and legal documents. Original or copies of all home and property paperwork, including mortgage or property deeds. Vehicle information. Tax returns for the last three years. You should also include any medical paperwork, medical insurance ID cards and lists of prescriptions. Please also include power of attorney, wills, and trusts. Copies of recent statements from banks and investments are good to have as well, as these can report accurate records of balances and account numbers.
- Documentation of Valuables. Look over your insurance policies and make note of coverages for specific disaster events. Check your deductibles and any coverage exclusions, (floods) as you may need to purchase additional coverage. Make a note to review these policies with your advisor or insurance agent on a consistent basis. Take inventory of all household valuables and save receipts for large ticket purchases. Itemized lists, even photographs of valuable items like jewelry or electronics, include serial number information where able.
Peace of Mind
No one wants to think about emergencies or disasters, but not having to replace all your valuable information and documents in a time of crisis will save you a lot of grief. Check in with your financial advisor, attorney, accountant and other professionals to see if they recommend storing anything else in your kit. We and your other professional partners may be able to advise you on any additional steps you should take to protect you and your family.
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