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Better Safe than Sorry — Financial Disaster Prep

The many natural disasters over the past several weeks have many people thinking about what they would do if they had to recover financially from a hurricane, flood, earthquake or other catastrophic event. Even if you don’t live in an area that’s prone to natural disasters, anyone can be affected by an event such as a house fire or flood. Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do in advance to make financial recovery go more smoothly. Let’s take a look:

Bulk Up Your Emergency Savings—We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again: having a fully funded emergency savings account is one of the most important things you can do to prepare yourself for a disaster. Ideally, you want your emergency savings to be able to cover at least three months of living expenses. There’s no doubt that’s a tall order, but it can save you from falling into deep credit card debt in the event you’re unable to work for an extended period of time. Don’t let the thought of saving that much money overwhelm you. Start with setting aside an amount from every paycheck, and supplementing it with any extra cash you make from bonuses, tax refunds or side work.    

Set Aside Emergency Cash—You’ll want to keep the bulk of your emergency fund safely in the bank, but it’s a good idea to keep a few hundred dollars in small bills in your home in case of an emergency. That’s because things like banking apps, online banking, ATMs and debit/credit card readers may not work or be accessible during or after an emergency event. Keeping some cash on hand helps ensure you will be able to purchase food, fuel and other necessities in the immediate aftermath of a disaster.

Take Photos of Your Belongings—Photograph every room in your home or apartment from multiple angles. Take photos of the inside and outside of your vehicles, as well. Store the photos in the cloud so they’ll always be accessible. You will need them in the event you have to file insurance claims for property loss or damage.

Review Insurance Coverage—Review your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policies to ensure you are adequately covered. Remember, most property insurance does not cover damage caused by flooding. If you live in a flood-prone area, you should consider purchasing flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program.

Gather and Protect Documents—Photocopy the front and back of all credit and debit cards, gather insurance policy documents, mortgage paperwork, other loan documents, printed tax returns and any other important financial documents. Invest in a waterproof, fire-proof lock box to keep this important paperwork safe, dry and protected. It’s also a good place to store your emergency cash. You may think you don’t need these documents if you typically manage your financial life online, but once again, those tools may not be available after a natural disaster.