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Prepare Your Finances for Emergencies

When emergencies occur such as fires, tornadoes, or winter storms, you may need to leave your home quickly. What financial records do you need to take with you or get quickly? Collecting and organizing your financial records now could help you avoid problems later.

Keep account information and important documents in a watertight or fire safe container. See Keeping Your Financial Records Secure. Keep copies of the documents in another location such as safe deposit box, secure place at work, or with a trusted friend or relative.

Emergency Financial Items

The following is a list of items to keep together.

  • Account Information: Make a list of account and customer service numbers for your bank accounts, credit cards, mortgage and home equity loans, other consumer loans, and telephone and utility companies. If affected by a disaster, contact creditors as soon as possible to explain your situation. Most will have ways to help. If you are unable to live in your home, contact utility companies to temporarily suspend your accounts.
  • Personal Records: Personal records are replaceable, but it can take time. Some of these documents will be needed to verify ownership of damaged property. Gather and make copies of personal identification: social security cards, birth certificates, marriage licenses and divorce decrees, and titles, deeds, and car registrations.
  • Financial Records: Most financial records are also replaceable. Keeping this information safe will also help avoid questions that could arise later about your investments, taxes or workplace benefits. Gather and make copies of insurance policies, household inventory, investment records, income tax information, pay stubs and employer benefits, and wills, trusts, and powers of attorney.
  • Computer Files: Back up financial records, passwords, photos and other important files stored on the computer by storing in cloud storage or external hard drive. Regularly back up files stored electronically.
  • After the Emergency: Communities tend to come together in times of crisis. There will be a lot of people and organizations who will want to help you. Unfortunately, there will be criminals who will want to exploit the trauma. Be aware of up-front fees to help you claim services, benefits or when applying for a loan. Government agencies will not ask you for money to claim a benefit or service. Also, beware of contractors offering door-to-door repairs or requiring payment up front.