Will You Be Ready When an Emergency Strikes?

Sep 17, 2018

MoneyLife100The force of Hurricane Florence reminds us of how a natural disaster wreaks havoc in people’s lives. We were fortunate in Pennsylvania to avoid this tragedy, but there are many things that can happen that would interrupt work or living conditions. Do you know what it will take to get you back on your feet financially if a disaster strikes? Whether it’s a natural disaster, such as a hurricane or tornado, or an accident like a fire or burst water pipe, an unexpected emergency can wreak havoc. By following these tips, you can start to get your financial life back in order, according to the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA). 

Insure Against Potential Loss

Having the right insurance can help lower your out-of-pocket costs. Homeowner’s insurance can cover damage to your home or personal property due to a variety of mishaps, and renter’s insurance can reimburse you for the loss of your own belongings when you don’t own the residence yourself. If you’re in a flood zone, find out if your policy covers floods or if you need additional coverage. Don’t forget auto insurance to protect you from expenses related to road accidents and other types of damage, such as having a tree fall on your parked car. Pay attention to the coverage and deductible amounts in these insurances. 

Save Up for Emergencies

Even with insurance, you may be hit with a range of related expenses if, for example, you have to stay in a hotel or eat out until damage to your home or neighborhood is addressed, or if your insurance policy doesn’t cover all your losses. An emergency fund with several months of living expenses can keep you on your feet after a disaster. Also, having this fund can be reassuring should you or your spouse lose a job or are hit with any type of unexpected expense. Be sure the money will be easily accessible if you have to relocate after a disaster. 

Keep Key Documents Safe

What kinds of paperwork will you need in an emergency? Depending on the situation, it may be important to have information about your insurance policies, property records, financial accounts, medical records, and contacts for family, doctors, or other key people. Make a physical copy or a pdf copy of critical documents you could need in an emergency and store them in a safe place outside your home. A safe deposit box at your local bank is one possibility, but also consider sending them to a relative or close friend outside your immediate area in case it’s tough to get to your bank after a disaster in your area. 

Arrange to Keep Bills Paid

If you have access to online banking, set up automatic payments for recurring bills, such as those for rent or mortgage and utilities, so you can focus on more important daily concerns during a crisis. If you’ve lost your source of income temporarily or are going to have difficulties keeping up with bill payments for other reasons related to the disaster, contact your creditors immediately and explain your situation. Many may be willing to reduce or suspend your payments until you’re back on your feet. Also, contact your employer to find out whether the business has been affected and what the company’s plans are for getting up and running. If you’ll be out of work because of a disaster, contact your state unemployment insurance office to see if you qualify for unemployment compensation. Learn about additional available government disaster relief assistance from sites such as FEMA.gov or the Small Business Administration site if you’re a business owner. 

Your CPA Can Help

If you need advice to prepare for a disaster or after a disaster occurs, reach out to your local CPA. He or she can help you develop a straightforward plan to keep your finances on track during a trying time. To find a CPA in your area or for more financial tips, visit www.picpa.org/moneyandlife.

For more information on how to prepare for an emergency, check out this financial guide from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). For information on how to recover from a disaster, watch this brief video produced by the PICPA. 

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