Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Financial Emergency Kits and Other Storm Preps

With the recent earthquakes in California and the June 1 start of hurricane season in Florida, the annual ritual of preparing for weather-related emergencies and storms is underway in my home. In addition to collecting candles and batteries, we're also creating an emergency plan for our money. Here's a quick roundup of tips from different sources.

From Consumer Credit Counseling Service:

"Start an emergency savings account. Most experts recommend having a minimum of three to six months of living expenses in an emergency fund. This fund can provide financial security in the event a hurricane hits, and can greatly reduce the stress of recovering from a major storm or other disaster. These funds can be used to make disaster repairs, cover insurance deductibles, or pay monthly bills if your income is interrupted by job loss.

Review your insurance coverage. Review your policy and make sure you have the proper amount of coverage to repair or replace your home and belongings. Pay special attention to deductibles that apply to specific events, such as hurricanes, which can be a percentage of your home's value. Also review your flood coverage, which must often be purchased separately from your homeowner's insurance. You do not want to be in the position where you need coverage that you thought you had, but do not.

Secure critical documents. Take some time to make sure that your critical documents are in a safe, secure place and could be taken with you if you have to evacuate. Collect critical paper records and if you have records on your computer, be sure to make a backup and store it away from your home. Documents you will want to secure include identification records (driver's license, green card, passport); social security and tax information; titles, deeds, and registrations for property and vehicles owned; insurance policies; credit card, bank and investment records; birth certificates, marriage certificates, and wills. Invest in a fire-proof box or safe-deposit box to keep these records secure.

Review your "what if" scenarios and make a plan. What if your place of employment is damaged and will close either for a few weeks or indefinitely? What if your employer is ready to reopen but schools are still closed and you don't have a place to bring your children? What if your home is damaged and no longer safe to live in? It is a good idea to think about all the ways the storm could impact your life and what you would do if that happened. For example, if your place of employment will not reopen for weeks or months, do you have an emergency savings fund to carry you through? Is there another place you could work in the meantime? The rebuilding effort following a storm often creates new job opportunities. Talk to friends and neighbors about sharing the childcare responsibilities until school reopens so that you all miss as little work as possible."

Here is a roundup of emergency preparation tips from the folks at Wise Bread:

From Will Chin: "I like this tip from New York Times about creating a secure USB disk backup with all your essential financial info. Linsey Knerl has a good tip about how to prep your freezer when you know power will fail."

And from Myscha Theriault: "Frugal hurricane prep - we are just gearing up for that as well. A couple of things we're doing:

  • Buying cases of things like cracker snack packs, dried fruit and shelf-stable things

  • Making sure we have multiple propane tanks filled for both our grill and our Coleman two-burner camping stove. This will help us not have to order takeout as much when the power goes out.

  • Extra containers for water storage."

Sharon is the author of the Frugal Duchess: How to Live Well and Save Money and a contributing author in Wise Bread's 10,0001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget.

No comments: