Emergency preparedness: Are your finances in order?

Know what you will need and how to store it.

For many, when they think of emergency preparedness they often think about the items that should be in there basic disaster supply kit (i.e. food, water, flash light and extra batteries, first aid kit, etc.). A basic disaster supply kit is very important and Ready.gov has a variety of resources to help families prepare for disasters. However, in the event of a disaster (storms, fires, floods, earthquakes, etc.) it is equally important to make sure your finances are in order as well. Emergencies happen without warning and can leave little time to gather important information. By keeping this information organized and accessible, you can reduce potential problems and recovery time associated with emergencies. Know what information to gather, where to store it and what to do after an emergency.

In the event of an emergency, you will want access to the following information:

  • Account and customer service information for the following: checking and savings; credit and charge cards; mortgage, student, personal and auto loans; cable, telephone and utilities.
  • Personal records (make copies of): drivers’ license and passport, social security cards, birth certificates, marriage certificates and divorce decrees, titles, deeds and auto registrations.
  • Financial records (make copies of): insurance policies, inventory of what you own, investment records, income tax information, pay stubs and employer benefit information, and legal documents (wills, living wills, trusts, and medical powers of attorney).
  • Computer files: if you keep personal information on your computer (photos, passwords, financial information, etc.) consider backing up your information to a secure cloud storage option or regularly backing up your data and storing it somewhere safe.

Tip: While many important documents can be replaced, it often takes time and money. To reduce stress and expedite recovery from a disaster or emergency, organize your personal information and make copies of the items mentioned above.

Storing your personal information:

  • Account information and important documents should be stored in an air-tight container and copies should be stored at a different location such as a safe deposit box, with a trusted family member or friend, or possibly a safe place at work. For additional information on safe deposit boxes visit the following articles: Understanding safe deposit boxes: Part 1 and Understanding safe deposit boxes: Part 2.

What to do after a disaster:

  • Be careful of scams that offer assistance but require up-front fees for things such as submitting claims, benefits or loans.
  • Door-to-door contractors that require payment prior to developing a contract.
  • Insurance agents that try to sell you products after the event.
  • Organizations with names that are similar to government or charitable organizations.
  • If you think you have been approached by one of the above, contact your local or state law enforcement or submit a complaint to the CFPB online or at 855-411-2372.

For additional information on this topic, visit the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). For a variety of financial resources, including how to develop a monthly budget, visit MIMoneyHealth.org. In addition, Michigan State University Extension offers money management and homeownership classes. For more information about classes offered in your area visit MI Money Health.

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