Be Financially Prepared

September is National Preparedness Month

Every September is National Preparedness Month. This is a time to think about being ready in the event of an unexpected emergency or natural disaster.

For 2022, the theme for National Preparedness Month is “A Lasting Legacy.’ The focus is on protecting you and your family along with the life you’ve built.

Ready.gov

The essential resource for preparedness is Ready.gov. Here you can find info on preparedness month activities and education, along with information specific to all kinds of specific disasters and emergencies.

Building a Kit

An important step in being prepared is having an emergency kit ready. We talked about this in our article Dealing With Debt After a Natural Disaster. Ready.gov also has some good information on emergency kits and what to have on hand in the event of an emergency.

Being financially prepared

An important topic that is missing from the preparedness landscape is being financially ready for whatever comes next. We’d like to see everyone take a little time in September to think about how their finances would withstand an emergency situation. Here are some points to get you started:

Paperwork

Start with the handy checklist from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. This will guide you to gather copies of personal identification, insurance policies, tax returns, pay stubs, wills, healthcare records, etc.

On the checklist, you’ll document the account numbers for your mortgage, auto loan, credit cards and more. Along with these, you’ll gather the account numbers for all of the utility services you use, insurance policy numbers, and bank accounts. List along with each of these the phone number you’ll need to contact customer service for each provider. Don’t assume you’ll have internet access after a natural disaster, and you’ll want to know how to reach your utility companies and service providers in an emergency.

More paperwork

You will want to have copies of Important documents as well. We have created a checklist below of documents you may consider gathering.

  • ID records, including driver’s license or state ID, birth certificates, passports, marriage certificate, social security card, health insurance cards, and immunization records.
  • Personal inventory of your belongings. This is a long-term project, as you’ll want to catalog everything you own that has any value. The Insurance Information Institute has good information on creating a home inventory. Also include the warranties and proof of purchase for any of your important belongings, like your smartphone.
  • When recording your insurance information, don’t leave any policies out; there’s home, auto, disability, medical, long-term care, life insurance, supplemental insurance… anything you have should be documented including policy numbers and contact info for your provider. If you have any valuables like jewelry or collectibles, keep copies of any appraisals you’ve gotten for insurance purposes. Also save receipts for any home improvement work you’ve had done or completed yourself.
  • Bank statements, including investment, saving, and retirement accounts are very good to have on hand. You never know what you’ll need to access to recover financially from a major disaster.
  • Car title and registration will be important if your vehicle is damaged in a natural disaster, or if you need to make an emergency sale of your car during a crisis.
  • Mortgage paperwork, including deeds, lease paperwork, rental agreements—if you need to enforce your rights during a disaster, it will help to have all of your documentation at hand.
  • Benefit information, like military and employment records, are important in case you need to access specific kinds of benefits.
  • Credit card records, like plus personal and other kinds of loans might be needed to ensure you can keep making payments or request assistance during a disaster.
  • Family records, like divorce and child custody paperwork, adoption records, and any living wills, power of attorney paperwork, etc. are vital to have. List extended family members who might be contacted in the event of an emergency.
  • Medical records, including a list of any prescriptions your family takes, and each family member’s doctor and contact info. In a medical emergency your family physician could become an essential contact.
  • Contact list of creditors and assistance organizations. Have a list of local food banks or churches you can expect to step up in a crisis, along with their contact info. Also, have a list of all of the lenders and creditors we mentioned earlier, in case you have to contact them to ask for assistance—even being able to skip a monthly debt payment can make a huge difference in a crisis. Also, include DisasterAssistance.gov and FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) on your emergency contact list.

Store your paperwork securely

It is important to secure all documents safely. If a malicious actor or identity thief got their hands on any of this documentation, you would be extremely vulnerable. A secure, fireproof safe or bank safe deposit box are good ideas—if you do use a bank safe deposit box, make sure you have the key and associated paperwork somewhere secure.

Your family plans

You will want to establish a plan for you and your family for where you will gather in an emergency. For example, you might plan to meet at your place of worship if you lose contact with each other. Decide on a safe location and be sure to have the address handy.

An Emergency Fund

This is probably the most important part of preparing financially for emergencies—establishing a savings fund. We encourage everyone to make emergency savings their first financial goal when saving money. That means there is a bank or credit union account where you are accumulating 3 to 9 months’ income in case of an emergency. Even if you can only stash $5 or $10 per week in your emergency savings, start somewhere and make sure you have access to the funds if you need them.

If you need help with budgeting to establish emergency savings, we have free courses and materials available from our FIT Academy. Also, we’ve written often about creating an emergency fund.

In the event of a natural disaster, you might not be able to withdraw money from your bank, and stores might not have power to run credit card transactions. You will need some amount of cash on hand in case of an emergency. Remember to store cash on hand securely.

There is a lot to think about when it comes to preparing for disasters and emergencies; that is why we think it’s a good idea to let National Preparedness Month inspire you to focus on preparing for an unexpected emergency or crisis.

Remember, this year’s Preparedness Month theme is “A Lasting Legacy”. Keep in mind that you are working to protect everything you’ve built, including your household and family.

Speak to our certified Financial Coaches to review all of your options and discuss best strategies for getting out of debt.Speak to our certified Financial Coaches to review all of your options and discuss best strategies for getting out of debt.

About The Author

Melinda Opperman is an exceptional educator who lives and breathes the creation and implementation of innovative ways to motivate and educate community members and students about financial literacy. Melinda joined credit.org in 2003 and has over two decades of experience in the industry.