Can Your Financial Plan Weather a Natural Disaster?
On the heels of recent weather events in the news, it’s relevant that September is National Preparedness Month, an important reminder for Americans to be prepared for disasters in their homes, businesses, and communities. What if something happens and you aren’t with your family? How will you communicate with them? And how will you keep your financial life in order during trying times?
The recent destruction from Hurricane Dorian created catastrophic damage that flooded and flattened homes, crushed businesses, and wrecked boats and cars. Some families lost everything. In 2017, hurricanes alone impacted nearly 26 million people, or 8% of the U.S. population, and more than 4 million survivors registered for FEMA assistance—greater than the number of people who registered for Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Wilma, and Sandy combined, per the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).1 And the final impact of more recent hurricanes, as well as fires and earthquakes, has yet to be determined.
Even if you aren’t in a natural disaster-prone area, this is an opportunity to remind you that strengthening your financial preparedness for disasters and emergencies is important for your financial and physical safety. This includes setting up a family communications plan, organizing your financial information, ensuring your homeowner’s insurance is up to date, and even your pet’s paperwork and microchipping are in order.
To get started, here’s a list of resources to help you with your financial readiness. In fact, they make for a good review at any time:
Set up a family communication plan
When a disaster happens, you’ll want to stay in touch with family and be sure all family members know how to reach other. Have discussions—even with young children/grandchildren—on what to do if you are separated, for example, if you’re at work or home and the child is at school. FEMA offers a few fillable communication forms to help you document important information and ensure you can stay in touch with those closest to you when you need it most.
Organize your financial information
Check now that all of your important papers are in one place and/or kept in a safety deposit box. Here are the most important steps to being prepared:
- Know how to access your financial accounts and important receipts in case you need to file an insurance claim.
- Consider creating a record of how to pay any online bills if you’re separated from your home for an extended period. You’ll want to keep payments up to date and avoid late charges. And even if your home is affected by a disaster, you’re still required to continue paying your mortgage, so be sure you have complete contact and payment information in a safe place.
- Make sure your documents are protected. This free Emergency Financial First Aid Kit from FEMA has four sections, each with a checklist for important documents. They also offer guidance on protecting your important documents, such as in a safety deposit box, because having these documents will help you with the recovery process. The form is extensive, but taking time to fill it out will give you confidence in your preparedness plan. Be sure to keep it—and any documents containing personal information—in a safe place you can get to in case of emergency.
- Remember your taxes. The IRS has a preparation guide for both taxpayers and small businesses to safeguard their records.
- Consider using a password manager, such as LastPass, for both your home computers and your mobile devices. This will ensure you have secure access to critical online information when you’re away from home.
Be sure your homeowner’s insurance is up to date,but know that homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover most natural disasters. For example, floods and earthquakes are usually excluded, so consider looking into additional insurance if you live in an area known for those.
Rainy-day emergency account
Consider starting a separate savings account for disaster planning, especially if you live in an area where such events are likely to occur.
Your pets are part of your family, too, so be sure to have records of vaccinations and medications, as well as any microchip or insurance information.
We hope you’ll consider making your financial preparedness a priority this month. As always, if you want to discuss more or just talk about your financial plans, call us at 817-462-4200 for an appointment or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We always look forward to helping you be aware of the most productive and effective ways of helping you achieve your financial goals.