For much of 2017, the news was full of images of families fleeing wildfires, hurricanes and other natural disasters. Follow-up stories showing survivors picking through wreckage are heartbreaking—but also inspiring in their determination to rebuild. Let’s face it: anyone of us may face an emergency, as can our friends and family. We all know we need to be prepared.
Getting ready for an emergency isn’t just a matter of planning your escape route, packing emergency supplies, or shoring up your home’s foundation. There’s a financial element as well. Here are some ways to enhance financial readiness in case an emergency strikes you.
1. Pad your financial cushion
You never want to be in a situation where a major car or home repair—much less a natural disaster—impacts your ability to care for yourself or your family. Credit cards can help in a crunch, but it’s best to have savings that equal at least 2-3 months of your necessary living expenses. Take a look at your monthly cash flow and build up a savings account that you won’t touch unless absolutely necessary. There are a number of online banks and credit unions that offer competitive interest rates, so shop around for the best deal.
2. Keep some cash at hand
In a true emergency, you may not be able to easily access your cash, and debit and credit card machines may not be working. Keep at least $100 in small bills and some coins in a handy place.
3. Get your coverage right
Insurance may be the one thing you pay for hoping you never use it. But if you’re paying for it, make sure it’s going to truly help you. If you live in an area prone to a certain type of natural event—especially flooding or earthquakes—you may need a separate policy. And be sure the coverage you have keeps up with the cost of replacement. A local contractor may be able to give you a better estimate than your insurance company.
4. Break out the camera
If you need to tap your insurance, you will be asked to document everything you’ve lost. Make this task easier by taking photos or videos of everything in your home (including inside storage areas, drawers, cabinets and closets). Store these in the cloud for easy access from anywhere.
5. Safeguard your records
Keep a copy of all of your critical documents—including insurance records, medical information, tax returns, financial accounts, estate plan, and personal ID—in a safe place. One tip: scan and save everything to a flash drive and store it in a safe deposit box or with a trusted friend or family member outside of your immediate region.
Smart planning can help ensure that you and your family are prepared for any kind of emergency. Alongside your emergency kit for your home and car, stay one step ahead by packing a financial go-bag, too.