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Financial Planning Tips for Emergencies and Disasters

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In an emergency, after you’ve made sure everyone is okay, you may wish that you had done more financial planning.

September is National Preparedness Month and a FEMA-sponsored website asks, “If an emergency occurred tomorrow, would you be ready?” Although the focus of National Preparedness Month is on emergencies and disasters we cannot control, there are things you can do to be better prepared to handle the unexpected.

Emergency Fund: You may have heard different advice on how much money you need to set aside in an emergency fund—probably anywhere from three to twelve months of expenses—but we want to talk about a different kind of emergency fund. It is advisable to have money for emergencies in an account that you can access easily, but what about cash? Do you have cash or do you use cards for everything? While we don’t recommend being known for keeping a lot of cash around, we can say that in an emergency it may help to have cash if you cannot access money in your bank accounts.

Insurance: Insurance is the kind of financial product we buy and forget about until we need it. Do you know what kind of coverage you have? Many people are surprised to find that their homeowners insurance does not cover certain natural disasters. This is where financial planning helps: should you face an emergency that your insurance doesn’t cover, knowing that you have practiced sound money management may help you feel less vulnerable.

If you are looking for information on how to prepare for emergencies, the Red Cross offers “Disasters and Financial Planning,” a guide that you can access online. One simple thing you can do ease stress in case of an emergency is to keep all of your important documents in a locked strong box in a safe place—be it the basement of your home, a bank safe deposit box or a law office. You can also back up this information digitally.

Again, you cannot be completely prepared for a natural disaster but sound financial planning will leave your family with the tools to weather the storm.