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Preparing for the unexpected: How you can protect yourself and your finances.

Unexpected situations can occur anytime, such as being laid off from a job or someone in the family is ill and you have to take care of them. While you can’t safeguard against everything, there are proactive steps you can take to be better prepared should an accident, serious illness, job layoff or other emergencies threaten your financial well-being.

Start an emergency fund. According to the Federal Reserve, 12% of Americans say they cannot cover a $400 emergency expense. If you are one of them — or your reserves are lower than you’d like — begin putting away a set amount each week or month, no matter how small.

Develop a plan ahead of time. Prepare and prioritize a list of your expenses so you can be ready to cut out extras if needed.

Pay at least the minimum. This helps protect your credit history.

Make sure you have credit available. A HELOC or credit card may be valuable safety nets for unexpected expenses. Once the unexpected happens, there are additional steps you can take to maintain your financial well-being.

Communicate with your bank and creditors. Most lenders will be more understanding if they know the challenges you are facing. If you think you may be unable to make a regular payment or need some form of assistance, contact us or other creditors early to explain what’s going on. Accommodations are usually made on a case-by-case basis. Because everyone’s financial situation is unique, you are unlikely to find the answers you are seeking on a bank website.

Do your homework. It’s important for you to understand your full financial picture. Review the terms of your mortgage, credit cards and other financial agreements so you know the penalties associated with late or missed payments.

Life is complicated and the unexpected can happen — often at the most inopportune times. Look ahead and ensure you have the savings and financial plans in place to provide the cushion you might need in the future should unforeseen circumstances arise.