When we hear about catastrophic weather events on the news, our hearts go out to those communities. But when the TV trucks go away, residents are often left with not only emotional difficulties, but financial ones as well. Unexpected financial catastrophes can come in many forms; unemployment, sudden death, illness, or natural disaster. There are ways to financially protect you and your family from the unexpected should it ever happen to you.
Don’t fall for scams. Unfortunately, disasters bring out scam artists ready to prey on vulnerable victims. To ensure that you are not a victim of a scam, refrain from giving any personal financial information to someone who solicits you, research and get bids before paying for any repairs, ask for written guarantees, and avoid out of town businesses. As in any financial transaction, keep in mind that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
For more information about specific post-disaster scams and how to protect yourself, visit our partners at the Better Business Bureau.
Call your creditors. Some debtors will make concessions in the event of an emergency, but you have to be proactive, and sometimes persistent. Call your creditors as soon as you can and let them know your particular situation. If they do not offer help, try calling at a different time of day and keep calling until you get a positive response. If needed, make sure to change your address with your debtors as soon as possible, even if it is just to a temporary address. Just because your bill does not get to you does not mean that you are not responsible for paying it.
Be prepared. Organization is everything if you have time to get important documents before an evacuation or need to find them quickly after an unexpected event. Keep important documents, such as birth certificates, wills, deeds, creditor information, and insurance information, in a portable fire-proof safe in your house and keep additional copies at a secure off-site location, such as a bank deposit box.
Document everything. Create an inventory of all of the items in your home. Include pictures and the price of each item (attaching an original receipt is even better). Update this every couple of years as you add new items to your home. Keep all of this information with your homeowners or renters insurance paperwork in a safe and secure location. After a disastrous event, you will need to do the same thing. Room by room, inventory everything in the home that has been destroyed or damaged. Take pictures of both the exterior and interior of your home. Having all of these things in place will make working with your insurance company on a claim easier and less stressful.
Have emergency savings. Sounds obvious, right? But 25% of Americans don’t have ANY emergency savings . This means that when unexpected expenses occur you might need to use a credit card, creating or adding to your debt. So add savings into your monthly budget; even a small amount will make a difference over time.
Certified Clearpoint counselors can help you both plan and ready yourself for the unknown, and help you sort through the mess when disaster strikes.