Protecting Your Finances If a Disaster Strikes: Are You Prepared?

Whether a natural catastrophe strikes an entire community or a fire destroys a single home, the consequences for the survivors can be traumatic, including severe financial losses from uninsured property, the destruction of vital documents and temporary disruptions in the ability to work or conduct essential transactions. Here are some tips from the Consumer Affairs Department of the FDIC.

What about you?
Are your most important possessions insured and are your financial documents protected from ruin? If you had only a few moments to evacuate your home and could not return for several days or even weeks, would you have access to cash, banking services and the personal identification you need to conduct your day-to-day financial life?

Anticipate What Could Go Wrong
Think about the most likely hazards and plan accordingly. Some communities are more likely to be affected by a flood or an earthquake, and preparing for each situation would be different. Your state or local office of emergency management may be especially helpful. Find out if your city or county offers a service that will send you a text message or an e-mail warning at the first sign of an imminent storm or other hazard that might require you to evacuate. Also see what tips and recommendations they may have on preparing for a disaster.

Periodically review all your insurance coverage. Find out what is and is not covered by your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance and car insurance policies.

Keep records of your personal property and the estimated value; check with your insurance agent to make sure you have adequate insurance coverage. Consider taking a video or photos of your property and store in a safe place. This documentation will come in handy if you need to file a claim. For additional guidance on how to create a home inventory, see suggestions from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

Take advantage of direct deposit. Having your paycheck or other payments automatically sent to your account will ensure that you can access the funds quickly, without the risk of having a check lost, delayed or stolen.

Consider establishing computer or smart phone access to your banking account. These services can enable you to manage your finances online from anywhere, without writing checks. (Peoples Bank has a mobile device version of the bank’s website. Check it out from your smart phone.)

Build or maintain an emergency savings fund. Because a disaster may affect your ability to earn income, savings can help you through any difficult financial period without requiring a loan or borrowing from retirement savings. Experts say emergency savings should equal at least three to six months of living expenses. Remember, there is no safer place for your funds than in an FDIC-insured institution. Check out the FDIC article on how Banks Are Required to Prepare for Disasters.

Want to read the entire FDIC article and learn more?

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