Adapted from MU Office for Financial Success Finance Tip of the Week blog post by Robert Weagley, Ph.D., Department Chair, Personal Financial Planning, University of Missouri Extension
With the devastation in the Eastern United States from Hurricane Sandy and the devastation we have seen in Missouri in the recent past from the drought or the tornado in Joplin, this is an appropriate time to re-emphasize the importance of being prepared.
The Boy Scouts’ motto is “Be Prepared.” When Baden Powell, the founder of Boy Scouts, was asked the question, “Be prepared for what?,” he answered, “Be prepared for any old thing.”
With a focus on financial success, how do we financially prepare for cataclysmic events?
- Household inventory — For insurance claims you must have proof
of your loss. Keep a written and visual list of major household
items and valuables and keep these lists in a safety deposit box.
An easy method for creating a visual list is to take a digital recording of the contents
of your house, while narrating descriptions about the contents. If you have
antiques, jewelry or artwork, it is a good idea to have an appraisal
of their actual value. Useful tools may be found at
- Insurance — Make sure you have the right amount of insurance
on your home and your personal possessions. (Step 1 will help with
determining the value of your possessions.) Make sure you understand
the difference between standard coverage and replacement coverage.
Standard coverage values your items at their current, used value while
replacement coverage values your items at what it would cost to replace the
possession. When you remodel, review your insurance coverage. Consider
earthquake and flood insurance if you find these to be necessary
and cost effective. Flood insurance must be purchased from the Federal
Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), although your insurance agent
can provide access to FEMA coverage.
- Emergency fund — Make sure you have three to six months
living expenses in your emergency fund. Cash may be vital during
a disaster and electronic access to sources of cash may not be
available, so keep some cash in a safe place. If you do not have
the financial resources to save the recommended amount in an
emergency fund, then another option is to keep an open line of
credit on a credit card, just in case of an emergency.
- Documents — If something is not able to be replaced, keep it
in your safety deposit box with your household inventory. All stocks,
bonds, birth certificates, discharge papers, wills, deeds of trust,
trusts documents, special photos, passports, marriage certificates,
and whatever you deem to be irreplaceable should be kept secure.
- Safeguard your home — Take steps to minimize damage to your
home or property.
- Keep your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in good working order.
- Keep dead limbs trimmed from your trees.
- Keep dried grass patches and leaf piles away from your home.
- Have a family emergency plan, including knowing where you are going to meet outside in case of a fire or where you need to take shelter in case of a storm or earthquake. Do NOT just talk about emergency plans – practice these steps with your children so that everyone in the family knows what to do when an emergency hits.
- Make sure your family knows how to turn off the gas line, water line and electrical service.
- Disaster kit — At a minimum, your disaster kit should contain:
- A supply of water that is less than six months old. Old, clean unbreakable containers can be used to collect and store water.
- Non-perishable food, such as canned goods or freeze-dried foods. Be sure to keep a non-electric can opener in your disaster kit for opening the canned goods.
- Clothing, particularly rain gear and layers to keep warm.
- Sleeping bags and blankets. If you camp, keep a cozy, warm tent handy for use in an emergency.
- A first aid kit with essential first aid items, mostly to prevent infections and treat mild sprains. This should also include prescription medicines. Know enough first aid to be a resource to others.
- A battery powered radio and flashlight with plenty of extra batteries.
- Cash and credit cards.
- Keys to your cars, house, garage, sheds or other structures or vehicles.
- Special items that you or members of your family would need, such as mobility aids, feeding aids, and other items.
Nothing can fully prepare us for the aftermath of a disaster but, fortunately, it is the human spirit that allows us to face such challenges and prevail. It is what we do. We survive to grow and to love, yet again. Being prepared just makes it easier for that human spirit to blossom anew.
In the event of a disaster, a lot of help is needed and can best be achieved through financial donations made directly to the Red Cross: http://www.redcross.org/charitable-donations
Preparing your Finances for Times of Disaster, http://www.extension.org/pages/26397/preparing-your-finances-for-times-of-disaster
Last update: Monday, September 09, 2013