Protecting Your Personal Finances

Disaster Preparedness Plan:  We live our daily life, and often times, we do not think too much about preparing for a disaster.  The thought of a disaster is not pleasant to entertain, and because of this, some of us are unprepared.  Life is not always predictable, and unfortunately, disaster exists and comes unannounced.  When it comes to disaster, everyone is affected regardless of our income levels.  We will all have to experience the challenges of rebuilding our lives after the fact.  There are a number of components of disaster preparedness plan, and one of the most forgotten elements is our financial records. 

In stressful circumstances, having access to our financial records is vital to a fast recovery process.  The more efficient and well-prepared we are, the better we are off in rebuilding our lives. Taking the time to organize and collect our important financial records will give us the peace of mind and ensure us the documentation needed to start the recovery process without any delay.  Below are some of the things we recommend that you should include in your disaster preparedness plan with respect to financial records.  This list, however, is not all-inclusive:

  • Personal Records – make or store copies of your critical personal records such as your driver’s license, passports, social security cards, birth certificates, home titles or deeds, inventory of your belongings, account numbers, pet tags, investment records, medical and insurance, medical directives, wills, and trusts.  Most financial records can be replaced but you will initially need some of them to process things.  Income tax information to provide contact information for financial and legal providers and to apply for FEMA disaster assistance.
  • Emergency Funds – consider keeping a small amount of money in a safe place because ATMs many not work during a disaster when you need to make quick purchase of supplies or food.
  • Computer Files – for those of us who like to keep their financial records electronically, make sure you back up the information in a secured storage service or back up your data regularly.
  • Inventory Your Belongings – Keep a written or electronic inventory of your belongings with a back-up video of each room in your home. This is helpful for insurance purposes of lost and damaged items.
  • Mail Service – A disaster can disrupt mail service for days or even weeks. If you depend on Social Security or other regular benefits, switching to electronic payments is a simple. It is also a significant way to protect yourself financially before disaster strikes. It eliminates the risk of stolen checks and minimizes fraud. Consider using direct deposit to a checking or savings account or direct express prepaid debit card because it is safer than the paper method.

Taking your time to have a disaster preparedness plan and safeguard critical documents will be vital to helping you start the recovery process quickly and efficiently.  Additionally, you should be cognizant of fraud during and after a disaster.  Believe or not, there are fraudsters who prey on vulnerable people without any regard of decency.  Watch out for up-front fees to help you claim services, benefits, and get loans.   Be aware of organizations with names to similar to governmental agencies or charities.  Check your sources and never give out any personal information to people you don’t know.