Are you prepared for the unexpected?

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

This is the season that can shake a person’s financial foundation. People can go from prosperity to poverty with the strike of a hurricane, wild fire, or another natural disaster. To better prepare people in the event of an emergency, September has been deemed National Preparedness Month. This is a time to not only prepare for your physical needs such as food, water, and clothing, but also a time to get your financial needs in order for an emergency or unexpected event.

Emergencies and disasters can happen anytime. Everyone should take steps now to better prepare themselves and their families before the next emergency occurs. Experience tells us that families and individuals need to be ready with a financial preparedness plan. In honor of National Preparedness Month, the financial educators at Money Management International (MMI) offer financial tips to ensure your family is prepared to weather any storm.

Protect your identity. Keep family records, property deeds, birth certificates, wills, insurance policies, passports, social security cards, immunization records, credit card numbers, car titles, bank account numbers, and three years of tax returns in a safe deposit box. Place each document in a plastic bag that can be sealed to keep out moisture. You can also protect official records such as birth certificates with an attorney.

Start an emergency fund. Regularly contribute to an emergency fund that can cover at least three to four months of expenses. This fund should be separate from your savings or investment account. In addition, keep extra cash with your emergency kit, which should include a three-day supply of water and food, first-aid kit, can opener, flashlights, radio, and extra batteries.

Make a plan. Your family may not be together when a disaster strikes. It is important to develop a family emergency plan in advance – how you will contact one another; how you will get together; and what you will do in a different location. In addition, make a plan to take care of your pets, family members with a disability, and the elderly. Outline an evacuation route, a meet-up location, and alternative living arrangements while away from your home.

Have adequate insurance coverage. Proper insurance coverage will prove beneficial after an emergency happens. It will cover any property or personal damage. Some important insurance coverage include: auto, home, life, medical, flood, fire, hurricane, and renters (if you live in an apartment or lease a home). In addition, it’s worth considering specialized medical insurance such as short-term and long-term disability in case you are hurt and cannot work for a specified amount of time.

The key message is don’t wait for an emergency to get prepared. Consider adding a cell phone with charger, scissors, non-prescription drugs such as aspirin or non-aspirin pain reliever, and toiletries to your personalized emergency kit. Have a ready-plan with the tools, tips, and additional resources to prepare yourself and your home for anything that may happen.