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Post-disaster money do's and don'ts

Post-disaster money do's and don'tsThe shock of terrorist attacks is numbing, but their actions will not undermine your finances.

Here's the big picture: The Federal Reserve Board, the institution that controls the flow of cash in our monetary system, issued a reassurance just hours after the attack, letting the nation know more cash can and will be pumped into our system if necessary. On Wednesday, Sept. 12, the board added an unusually large $38.25 billion in temporary reserves into the U.S. banking system. Plus, the FDIC protects your money in the bank.

But, you wonder, is there anything special I should do to protect my personal finances? Is my money really safe? Here are some do's and don'ts for those who were not directly affected by the terrorist attacks.

Do: Pay your regular monthly bills more promptly this month.
With the nation's air carriers grounded for six days following the attacks, the U.S. mail system will be slowed down at least for the next week or so. Allow for a little extra time so your payments will be timely.

Do: Consider paying your bills online, by phone or directly to payee.
If you haven't used the online-payment option for your bills, check it out. You'll save on postage and be assured that the payment is on time. Some companies, especially utilities offer consumers the opportunity to pay by check over the phone at no additional fee. Another option is to deliver your payment to the payee. If your mortgage is sent to the bank's processing center far away, you may be able to drop off your payment at its local branch to avoid late-fee worries.

Do: Be more diligent in your record-keeping.
Keep good records of your monthly bill payments and hang on to all your ATM receipts, bank deposit slips and the like. You should do this anyway, but it would be wise to keep more detailed records of your payments just in case you need it for back up.

Do: Track 'borderline' checks.
If you know you're close to being late on a payment, monitor your bank account and follow it closely. Payments you dropped off at the post office over the weekend of Sept. 8 or early in the week may have a tough time clearing if they have a long way to go and a short time to get there. As a pre-emptive measure, contact the payee to let them know you may be a tad late this month. Under the circumstances, they may cut you a break.

Do: Make sure your payments have been received.
Contact your mortgage company, credit card issuers and other companies you do business with to make sure they have received your payments. It's better to be proactive now than to be scrambling later to prove you made the payment.

Do: Give blood.
The burn victims especially are in need of the plasma. Make a monetary donation to your local Red Cross or other organization offering aid to the families directly affected by the attacks. Click here for more information.

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Don't panic.
You don't need to buy a gun, carry a wad of cash or lug around a 100-pound bag of rice.

Don't hit up your ATM for a large amount of cash.
There's no need to hoard cash. Our nation's banks are open and operating normally; the infrastructure is not damaged. We have electricity to operate the ATMs and the assurance of the Federal Reserve Board and the FDIC that our cash reserves are secure.

Don't rush out and fill your car with gas.
The nation's largest oil companies including, ExxonMobil and Chevron put a freeze on prices and pledge to keep distribution steady. We don't need to stockpile gasoline. In fact, one gas station in Oklahoma that had raised gas prices to $5 a gallon on the day of the attacks is now offering to refund his customers the amount they overcharged in panic.

Don't cancel a planned financial transaction.
If you planned to close on a house this week, or are ready to sign the papers for a refinance, do it. America's financial institutions are secure.

Don't fall for scams.
Be on the lookout for "disaster deals" -- no such thing. Consumers need to be extra vigilant with personal information. Do not release any personal banking information such as account numbers or balances to anyone.

-- Posted: Sept. 12, 2001

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See Also
MAIN: Financial survival kit
Federal disaster loans help businesses recover
Good deeds can mean good tax breaks

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