Keeping Your Finances Secure During Natural Disasters
Now, I understand that compared to your family's safety, your home, and your community as you know it, your finances may seem insignificant; but protecting your finances can provide some measure of peace during an otherwise stressful situation. Let me share some ideas of how to help protect yourself financially, if you are ever facing such an event.
With respect to insurance, in order to make the claims process as painless as possible, review your policybefore you have suffered any damage. Oftentimes, people assume certain items and/or events are covered under their policy, when they are not. Although it may be too late to make any changes to your policy by the time a storm or other natural disaster is imminent, it is also important to note what your responsibilities are to maintain your coverages; responsibilities such as boarding up your windows.
Before a potentially damaging event, you should also find your insurer's and insurance agent's contact information, so you will be able to reach them when it is time to file a claim. It helps, also, to take pictures of your property before there is any damage. If possible, along with the pictures make an inventory of personal property detailing the original costs and serial numbers. This may not be possible to do for all of your things, but worth it at least for the big-ticket items.
Beforehand, it is also important to secure important documents, including things such as financial statements, insurance policies, birth certificates, passports, wills, titles and driver's licenses. You do not want to risk losing the information contained in these documents and some of it you may need immediately after a disaster. So, take pictures of them or scan them to save them to a secure digital location, or protect them in a safe or vault. It's better to plan for the worst and hope for the best than be left without the information you need.
It is also helpful to make a plan for your recurring bills that will be due in the weeks following a natural disaster. If they are small bills that you know you will have the funds to pay, consider setting up autopay for those, so you do not miss any payments. This is especially important if you usually receive your bills in the mail, which might not be possible following a major weather event. If you are not sure you will be able to cover the bills, it is wise to call your lenders and service providers. They often will work with people in these situations to either reduce minimum payments or extend a grace period on due dates until a customer gets back on their feet.
Of course, the best financial defense to these natural disasters is a good offense. This means having an emergency fund available. Such a fund can help pay to remedy any damages following an event, but also can help you evacuate prior to one. An emergency fund can provide money for gas, food, shelter, and whatever else you may need that you aren't able to take with you if you leave your home to seek safety.
Following a storm, fire, or other incident, you need to file a timely insurance claim for any damage you may have suffered. The sooner you do this, the sooner the claims process can begin and the sooner you will receive reimbursement to fix or replace damaged property.
With many of these natural disasters, you may also be able to seek federal and local disaster assistance. These programs may offer income replacement for temporary unemployment due to a natural disaster. They may also provide supplies for basic needs and temporary shelter for people displaced from their homes.
As we continue to support our fellow Americans in their long journey to rebuild and regain a sense of normalcy, remember to be vigilant and stay alert with respect to your own finances. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of those struggling in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, as well as those on the West Coast battling forest fires.
Content prepared by Todd Schneider in conjunction with Fusion Capital Management>
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The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. This material was developed and produced by radical promoting and their editorial staff based on the original articles written by jeff cutter in the falmouth enterprise. This article has been rewritten for Todd Schneiderand the readers of Schneider Family Finance. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security.