With Hurricane Irma hammering the Caribbean and bearing down on Florida, folks in the path of the storm have enough on their plates just prepping their homes and getting to safety.
But it's also important to prepare your finances ahead of natural disasters, if time permits. After all, there will be an aftermath to deal with and in many cases, and it will take money to handle Irma problems.
Yes, time is short for Florida residents, but if you can make these financial moves before Irma hits the Sunshine State, you'll be better off later. (Learn more on what to do after a natural disaster.)
How can you prepare ahead of time?
Scan it to plan it.
Scan your important documents and send a digital copy to your email, advises Lisandra Pagan, PhD, a preparedness expert at Deliberate Plan Consulting, LLC. "This is done to ensure that no matter what happens, you can access your documents from any computer with Internet access," she explains. "This also facilitates insurance claims as you already have everything scanned." You can also save all your scanned information securely in the cloud with Dropbox or another online service.
Snap to it.
Take pictures of your property and belongings, preferably with a date/time format included. "This will ease processing claims," Pagan says. Video is helpful, too.
Hit the ATM.
Always keep some cash at home, and take it with you if you have to evacuate. "We rely too much on debit [and] credit cards, I recommend getting cash in different denominations, preferably small denominations ($1, $5, $10, $20)," Pagan adds.
Bag it and tag it.
Floridians should be putting as much "small bill" cash into doubled-up Ziploc bags as they can, says John Adama, a disaster survival expert who runs ThePrepared.com, a site for "common sense" mainstream prepping. "They should try to laminate copies of their deeds/titles and insurance policies, or again double bag them," Adama says. "Having current copies of homeowner's policies can get them to the front of the line for any disaster relief packages and FEMA claims. These items should be pre-packed in a bug out bag backpack so that they can calmly evacuate with the right supplies in under five minutes."
If you can, use a vault.
While too late for residents in the Florida Keys, there is still time for most Sunshine Staters to prepare for the upcoming hurricane by loading electronic files and documents into a secure, electronic vault, such as those provided by banks and investment firms. "I recommend that copies of wills, trusts, financial statements, powers of attorney, insurance documents, mortgage documents, tax returns, even copies of your driver's license and passports be put into the electronic vault," advises Michael Resnick, a senior wealth advisor at GCG, a money management firm in Deerfield, Il.
There is no shortage of checklists to cover in advance of a major natural disaster like Hurricane Irma. While home, family, and safety come first, try to make time to cover the financial side of Irma, too—before it's too late.
Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, or other company, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. All information, including rates and fees, are accurate as of the date of publication.