June through November is typically known as the Atlantic hurricane season. Over the last 20 years, the residents of the state of Florida have endured more than 123 billion dollars worth of hurricane destruction. Yet somehow, residents in regions subject to hurricanes typically remain calm at least until Jim Cantore shows up. Then it becomes a bit of a panic, thinking of all the things you need to scramble to get done in preparation.
Your physical health and safety are the most important. Your financial well-being is just behind that. The City of Jacksonville provides lots of resources to assist in your preparation for these types of situations. With any disaster, financial preparedness helps you weather the storm, ease anxiety, and help minimize financial hardships.
Verify Your Coverage
Are you covered? It can be reassuring to know and understand what benefits your insurance provides. Contact your insurance agent to learn what coverages you have regarding hurricane-related hazards. Many people do not realize that special terms and deductibles usually apply to hurricane damage and that you must purchase flood insurance separately. It is a good reminder that your emergency reserve should include funds to cover your hurricane deductible. It is also important to note that you should not wait until the last minute; flood insurance policies generally take effect 30 days after your purchase. Review your policies to see if you have any shortfalls and adjust for them as soon as possible.
Document Your Valuables
After a disaster, do you think you could list and accurately value your personal property just from memory? With the emotion of experiencing a significant loss, my guess is probably not.
If you need to file a claim, a complete inventory of your possessions can help you document your loss for the insurance company. You should keep a list that includes the description of your property, the date of purchase, the original cost, and any improvements. Serial numbers and receipts are also helpful for documentation. Do a complete scan of all of the rooms in your house, outside grounds, attic, and garage. Let modern technology help you document the items you own. Take close-up pictures of your valuable items, such as artwork, jewelry, and antiques. Those photos can also be a great way to document the serial numbers of your equipment. Once you’ve established a complete inventory, it shouldn’t be too hard to update periodically.
Organize & Store Your Important Financial Documents
When you are stocking up on all of your household supplies in advance of a hurricane, you probably are not thinking about the importance of your financial documents. May things are difficult to process without documentation, and some items are time-consuming to replace. Here is a quick checklist of things you should gather and safeguard:
- Birth certificate or adoption certificate
- Passports or citizenship paperwork
- Social Security Card
- Driver’s license
- Marriage certificate
- Divorce decree
- Child custody papers
- Military discharge papers and ID
- Medical records, including immunization records, and prescription information)
- Pet records
- Loan documents
- Insurance contracts (including the list of valuables form above)
- Insurance agents name and phone number
- Real estate deeds or rental/lease agreements
- Titles to property (house, car, boat, etc.)
- Financial statements
- Living Will
- Power of Attorney
- HIPAA documents
- Trust documents
- Legal name change documentation
It would be best if you stored all this information in a waterproof secure place. For additional safety, you should consider storing copies in separate locations.
Prepare for Power Outages
Many of us could not imagine a life not connected to our electronic devices. Yet power outages, sometimes prolonged power outages, are commonplace during and after the effects of a hurricane. Besides preparing for the loss of power by gathering flashlights and batteries, and fully charging your electronic devices, consider how the loss of electricity could affect you outside your home. Power outages can also prevent access to ATMs and may limit your ability to use credit/debit cards. In preparation, it is a good idea to keep some cash on hand.
Despite all our technologies and advances in society, nature remains unpredictable. We do, however, have control of how we prepare. Preparation through education is usually less painful and may be less costly than learning through tragedy. Stay safe.
This material is provided as a courtesy and for educational purposes only. Please consult your investment professional, legal, or tax advisor for specific information pertaining to your situation. Investing involves risk including loss of principal. Past performance is not indicative of future results.