Fires, floods, earthquakes: the natural disasters and emergencies that have turned people’s homes and lives upside down have made us aware of how vulnerable we are, and how little time there is when disaster strikes. A “go-bag” to protect your family that contains credit cards, cash, flashlights, flares, batteries, warm clothes, prescriptions, and other necessities is just one part of being prepared, says the article “The most important ‘go bag’ item for emergencies is only 2 inches long” from The Union.
That’s your “financial go bag.” It won’t feed you or keep you warm, but it will save you countless hours and headaches when life returns to normal. Here’s what you need to know:
- Gather all your important documents. That means your driver’s license, passport, birth certificate, social security card and Medicare card. If you own your home, you should include deeds to property and titles to cars, as well as insurance policy summaries for home, auto, medical, long term care, life, or umbrella policies. Include statements for checking, savings, investments, debt accounts with account numbers and federal and state tax returns from the last three years. Add estate planning documents. If you have a pet, include their license information, chip ID and vaccine records. If there is an 800 number for a service that can track your pet. Make sure to include that.
- Create a physical list of important phone numbers and addresses for family members, professionals, including your estate planning attorney, CPA, financial advisor, dentist, doctors, and emergency contacts. Print it out and put it in your go bag. If you don’t have any power, your list on the phone will not be accessible.
- Create a video inventory of your home, including the contents of dressers, drawers, cupboards, collections. Don’t forget the garage and outdoor landscaping.
- Scan all this information and store it on two thumb drives (also known as memory sticks). Protect the information, by using an encryption method to secure it, in case it gets lost.
- Put one of these thumb drives into your safe deposit box and another in your go bag. Even a fireproof safe won’t survive a massive wildfire, so don’t put it in a safe in or under your house. Put the go bag somewhere near an exit point, where it blends in and is secure.
- Tell your family and closest friends that you have a financial go bag and where it can be found.
This does take a little time, but if disaster strikes, and you can move quickly with your documents and your “regular” go bag, you and your family will be in a better position to rebuild your lives.
Reference: The Union (Dec. 23, 2018) “The most important ‘go bag’ item for emergencies is only 2 inches long”