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How to hurricane-proof your finances

By Kemberley Washington ·
Tuesday, June 3, 2014
Posted: 5 pm ET

On Aug. 29, 2005, I learned one of the biggest financial lessons of my life -- how to financially survive a hurricane.

I was a few years removed from college and just "wet behind the ears" as a homeowner when Hurricane Katrina struck the New Orleans area, where I live.

Soon, I had no choice but to accept the challenge of navigating through financial uncertainties in the aftermath of that infamous storm.

Here are a few tips based on what I learned.

Create a 'to go' system

Using a simple accordion folder, create tabs for important financial documents you may need in the wake of an evacuation order. Your folder should include the following items:

  • Insurance documents
  • Titles and deeds
  • Birth certificates and Social Security cards
  • Photographs of personal property
  • Tax returns
  • Irreplaceable items (such as pictures, rare coins or currency, etc.)
  • Wills

After a disaster, many government agencies and other organizations require these documents. Therefore, it is a great idea to have them on hand.

Know what your homeowners insurance covers

This is a great time to review your insurance declarations page to get an understanding of not only what is covered, but also what is not covered.

For example, many basic homeowners insurance policies have limited coverage for items such as cash, business equipment and jewelry in the home.

This is a great time to contact your insurance agent to have a brief conversation regarding your coverage.

Consider buying flood insurance

Your homeowners insurance policy does not protect you against flooding damage. After Hurricane Katrina, many homeowners who did not have flood insurance were left without the necessary funds to rebuild.

If you do not have a flood insurance policy, this is the time to add it. With very few exceptions, flood policies do not go into effect until 30 days after you purchase coverage. So, the sooner you buy, the better.

Kemberley Washington is a professor at Dillard University in New Orleans and a certified public accountant.  She writes a personal finance blog at  Follow her on Twitter at @kemwashcpa.

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