How to prepare your finances for a natural disaster
Natural disasters like tornadoes, fires and floods can occur both seasonally and without warning. In many cases, they’re powerful enough to disrupt our homes, lives and wallets in seconds. That’s why making a financial plan for when natural disasters strike should be part of your emergency preparedness planning.
Reviewing your financial accounts and knowing how to access important documents can make recovery and rebuilding efforts less stressful — and more efficient — and help prevent a natural disaster from turning into a financial disaster. Here are steps you can take now to make sure that your family and your finances are prepared.
Assemble an emergency financial first-aid kit
FEMA recommends creating a financial first-aid kit that can be stored in a safe place (such as a safe deposit box, fireproof and waterproof box or secure digital storage) and is easy to access. Consider Commerce Bank’s Commerce ID Recover service that lets you safely store sensitive information and documents.
Include copies of important personal, financial and legal documents, including:
- Social Security cards and birth certificates
- Mortgage, insurance and bank account information, including contact details
- Wills and deeds
- Medical documents like insurance cards and prescriptions
- A list of your service providers — including contacts and account information — for utility and credit card companies, and any others you may need to contact if you’re away from home
Create a natural disaster action plan and supply kit
In addition to a financial plan, you can help protect your home and your family by preparing an emergency plan that outlines what you will do and where you will go if you need to leave your home. This should include an evacuation, shelter and communications plan. Make sure all family members are aware of and understand the plan.
You’ll also want to assemble an emergency supply kit containing non-perishable food, water and supplies to last for several days. Include flashlights, medications, masks, hand sanitizer, a first-aid kit and a NOAA weather radio with fresh batteries. For more information about what to include in your kit and how to store it, visit Ready.gov.
Review your insurance policies
Check any home, renters, life, auto and health insurance policies to ensure they’re up to date and that you have adequate coverage. Understand what’s covered in each policy, what’s not, what your policy limits are, what your deductibles are, and how to file a claim.
Inventory your possessions
Make a list of your assets inside and outside your home. Take pictures or videos of items in case you need to file a claim for damage or loss.
Review your budget
Familiarize yourself with your regular income and expenses. This can help you determine how unforeseen expenses may impact your spending and saving. Keep copies of receipts for any expenses you incur as a result of the natural disaster, in case your insurance company requires them for reimbursement or you’re able to claim them on your taxes.
Build an emergency fund
Set aside funds for unexpected expenses, like repairs, lodging or insurance deductibles, so you don’t have to rely on credit cards or loans. Consider keeping some cash on hand in case electronic payments or ATMs are unavailable.
Sign up for online and mobile banking
Enroll in digital banking tools to easily manage your financial accounts from anywhere. Consider signing up for direct deposit with your employer if you haven’t already, as well as auto-bill pay, to help ensure bills are paid on time. And be sure to download the free Commerce Bank CONNECT® app to communicate with your Commerce banker and keep them informed about your emergency so they can help you keep your finances in order.
Learn about natural disaster relief resources
Many legitimate sources of aid are available following a natural disaster, including help with food, bills, unemployment and more. Educate yourself about assistance you may be eligible for and how to get help.
The IRS website provides helpful information about deducting losses, extending tax filing and payment deadlines, and tips for reconstructing your records. FEMA, Ready.gov and USA.gov also provide information and tips on how to access disaster relief assistance.
Be aware of natural disaster relief scams
Unfortunately, scammers and con artists often target victims of natural disasters and emergencies during recovery efforts. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau encourages those impacted by a natural disaster to stay alert and watch out for common scams.
These can include people posing as contractors selling repairs door-to-door or posing as a representative from your insurance company or disaster assistance group. They may insist that you pay up-front fees to claim services and benefits.
Never share your financial information with a person or group you can’t verify. Contact your insurance company or financial institution if you’re unsure. It’s also a good idea to check your credit report regularly for signs of fraud.
Review your natural disaster plan regularly
Schedule time annually to review your natural disaster emergency plans and update any records. While it may seem like a lot of work, preparing your family and your finances in advance helps reduce stress during a difficult time, making it easier to manage unplanned expenses, recover faster, keep your family safe and keep your finances secure.