With Hurricane Matthew looming off the coast, hopefully you've had a chance to prepare your home and your family in the event that we are affected. Most of the advice I see relates to health and safety: Stock up on water, buy non-perishable foods, unplug appliances, etc. One of the most stressful parts of a disaster, however, can be finding documents and policies and knowing who to call. Here are five tips you can take to prepare financially for a natural disaster:
- Enroll in online banking and bill pay. If you must leave your home for an extended period of time, you will still want to be able to access your bank accounts and to access your bills. (I wouldn't want to forget to pay my cell phone bill and have it shut off while away!)
- Carry cash. If the power goes out, ATM machines and credit/debit card machines may not function. Take out enough cash to pay for food, gas, and other essentials for about a week.
- Organize important papers. Think about health insurance policies, life and property insurance policies, credit and bank account information, vehicle registration, birth certificates, and real estate deeds.
- Secure important papers. Put all of your important documents in a locked, waterproof, and fireproof container you can take with you if necessary. Better yet, store the documents electronically in a secure, encrypted "vault" in the cloud. (We have a secure, encrypted vault for all of our clients, which they can use to store all of their important documents and access them 24/7 from anywhere with internet access.)
- Take inventory of your belongings. Perhaps the easiest way to do this is with your smartphone. Take photographs of the interior and exterior of your home, including all of your most important and most valuable belongings. Store the pictures in the cloud in case you lose your phone or it gets damaged. This could come in very handy if your home is damaged and you have to submit proof of loss to the insurance company.
I hope you will never need to worry about dealing with loss from a natural disaster. Unfortunately, like the markets, we cannot control the weather! But we can focus on the things we can control. In this case, taking steps to ensure your family's safety and financial well-being during a natural disaster can give you some peace of mind.