I was reading September’s issue of Money magazine, and they had a tiny little blurb on how to “Be Ready For Anything”, and I thought I would take a moment to expand on their list and hopefully offer some of my own suggestions.
On their list there were three things; Protect Your Records, Have Ready Cash, and Get the Right Coverage. Let’s look at what they had to say for each.
PROTECT YOUR RECORDS -“Make copies of vital documents and put them in a waterproof plastic bag. Include insurance policies, photos and videos of your home and possessions, financial account numbers, deeds, wills and trusts.”
This one is key, and why in the last month I have mentioned using USB flash drives. We have several of these things, all with the same information on them like Money said you should, along with a few other things. Photos of our family, wedding pictures, important phone numbers of family and friends, shelter locations, etc. I have one in my briefcase, my wife has one in her purse, we keep one in our safe and I am considering having a friend hold on to another one, just in case. I cannot recommend enough to have backups of everything in multiple locations. Of course, we also have printed out versions of this stuff, in plastic bags as well, in case computers are not usable. You just dont know when you will need them. Also, I pay for online photo storage, where all of our digital pictures are backed up from our home computer. For about $25 per year, I know all of our pictures are safe, even if its from something as basic as a computer meltdown.
HAVE READY CASH – “Your emergency fund may not be enough to cover catastrophic expenses. So have an untapped home-equity line or a credit card with a zero balance that you can access in a hurry.”
Not only should you have access to a credit card or equity line..you should have access to cash…actual pieces of paper. Say that from whatever disaster you are going through that all the electricity is down; the gas station, the ATM, the grocery store..none of them will take your plastic. We keep cash in strategic locations that we can easily get to in case we need it. No, its not a lot..but it is enough to get us through a few days if necessary. After watching Katrina unfold, I figured having actual money available would be key. As for the freed up credit cards, I agree as well…thats why I have the # on our USB drives and of course the cards in our wallets.
GET THE RIGHT COVERAGE- “Get a rider to make sure your homeowners coverage increases along with the cost of reconstructing your home. Check whether your policy reflects recent changes in local building codes”
Having both the RIGHT coverage the right AMOUNT of coverage is key here. While we do not own a home (come one, we live in Los Angeles where a fixer is $1 million!), we do have a very nice place that is insured. We have renters insurance with enough coverage to pay for a replacement of everything in our house plus some, and we have earthquake insurance (its separate here) as well. Be sure though to get REPLACEMENT value insurance…that way you get the actual dollar amount to replace a damaged item rather than getting what the insurance company thinks the item is worth. Renters insurance is cheap…$20-$30 per month, and when I have to trust 10 different families to not burn down my building, I think that price is definitely worth paying every month.
As for my own addition to that list, I would say to HAVE FOOD SUPPLIES. We have food and water in our place specifically for an emergency, along with batteries, medicine, flashlights, pet food, candles, matches, extra clothes, tarps and the like.We have it both in trunks that are used as furniture, and in our “bug out” bags in case we need to evacuate. This way, we might have a few days till things settle down that we wont need money or ATM or credit card machines in order to survive. The up front cost is well worth it. In my mind, you have to be ready for anything. And again, after Katrina, I realized it could happen to any of us anywhere.
I hope this article was of some value, and if you have any more tips, would love to hear them…please leave them in comments!