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Are your finances disaster-ready?

By Marcie Geffner ·
Monday, September 17, 2012
Posted: 6 am ET

Expect the best, and prepare for the worst. No one likes that advice, but it's nonetheless sound, especially when it comes to getting your finances in order before a natural disaster strikes.

To help you and your family get ready, the Independent Community Bankers of America, or ICBA, an industry association of community banks, has put together this list of tips and suggestions:

Keep family records in a bank safe-deposit box. Examples of such records include adoption papers, marriage licenses, property deeds, birth certificates, wills, insurance policies, passports, Social Security cards, immunization records, credit card account numbers, car titles or lease contracts, bank and investment account numbers and three years of tax returns. Put each document in a sealed plastic bag to keep out moisture.

Make copies of critical documents for safekeeping. Notify a trustee, close relative or attorney as to where your important financial information is located.

Keep names and contact numbers of executors, trustees and guardians. These can be kept in a safe deposit box or give to a close relative.

Make a list of household valuables. Photographs can help, too.

Build an emergency fund to cover at least three or four months' of expenses. Keep this fund separate from any savings or investment accounts.

Include extra cash, ideally small denominations, in a home emergency kit. The kit also should include a three-day supply of water and food, a first-aid kit, a can opener, flashlights, a radio and extra batteries.

Identify records that are kept only on a computer and consequently might not be available during a power outage. Make printouts and safeguard them or back up these records to an external device or web storage facility.

Jeff Gerhart, chairman of ICBA and Bank of Newman Grove in Nebraska, said in a statement that knowing your financial papers are secure can give you one less worry during a time of distress.

“Hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires and other natural disasters remind us how important it is to be organized and have a plan," Gerhart says. "Having a financial preparedness plan will protect you and your family from the long-term effects of damaged or destroyed financial documents."

Follow me on Twitter: @marciegeff

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Vicki Bishop Kohout
September 18, 2012 at 11:00 am

What we have done is have a binder with all important papers. We scanned all important documents, photographs of furniture, electronics and compiled a list of household items. If we have receipts for major purchases we also scan those. It was burned onto 2 separate CD's and or DVD's. One is kept in our emergency kit, one with a relative out of state and the files are also uploaded to a secure server storage like Cloud. This way we always will have access to those documents. The binder is stored in a firesafe that can be taken with us.

September 18, 2012 at 3:34 am


September 17, 2012 at 11:38 pm

My 14 yr old son & I just had a major house fire. We not only lost everything we owned but also lost my husband/father. It is not only devistating to your heart but to your core. As a woman I am now responsible for things that I haven't done in almost 20 yrs. As I read this article about disasters how helpful this would have been to me less than 6 mos. ago. In most cases, women especially, do not take care of these things in the household and when disaster strikes it hits them the hardest cause they are mostly clueless (sorry to say-but I certainly was)to how things get done financially in their own home. I have learned a lot in 3 short mos. but there should be more articles like this especially geared towards women to help them in case such emergencies arise. I know my son & I will be ok, however, it was not without a lot of self discovery. Information is always the key to wealth.