How to Remain Financially Empowered During a Hurricane
We'd rather be posting an "Are you ready for some football?"-themed piece, but unfortunately, Darn Dorian is what is now commanding our attention. As we continue to monitor Hurricane Dorian, and hope for the best, we wanted to send out our financial hurricane advisory. It includes steps to help ensure that you've done adequate preparation to not only storm-proof your home, but to weather-proof your finances, as well.
To remain financially empowered following potential hurricane damage, implement these three planning steps:
Review and Update | Gather and Organize | Protect
1. Review and Update (ideally this step should be taken prior to hurricane season!)
Make sure all homeowners/contents, flood, and windstorm insurance policies are up to date and you have proper coverage amounts. The same applies to policies for all business/investment properties. Businesses should also check on their business interruption coverages.
Depending on where you live, wind may have to be a separate policy. Make sure you have it if you need it.
Regardless of whether or not you're in a flood zone, please make sure you get flood coverage. We've seen too many extreme storms have impacts in surprising ways and places.
Review your deductibles - avoid surprises.
If you have any doubts about coverage - NOW IS THE TIME TO CALL YOUR AGENT TO CLARIFY. Government rules, company policies and your property values are always changing.
2. Gather and Organize
Should you become displaced by a hurricane, having all of your records accessible can help you maintain some sense of control in what can be an extremely challenging time for you and your family. If you do experience damages or losses following a storm, spending time scavenging through drawers and boxes in an attempt to locate phone numbers, bank account information, benefit/deductible amounts of personal and/or business insurance policies, policy numbers, pictures and lists of belongings, is the last thing you will want to be faced with. Having this information at your fingertips, on the other hand, will enable you to remain financially "empowered" throughout your ordeal.
Take digital photos of possessions, furnishings in each room, and the exterior of your home and other properties. After uploading your photos, save them on a flash drive, and/or back them up to cloud storage such as iCloud or Google Photos, so they will be accessible online wherever you are.
Gather and/or scan important documents, i.e. policies, statements, agent contact information, plus receipts and warranties for home furnishing and appliances, equipment and hardware, etc. Taking photos with your phone is an option as well, if you don't have a home scanner. These should be stored in the cloud, or emailed to a friend or relative who can access them on your behalf.
For documents in a home or office location, all records must be in one organized location, ready to grab or access online.
File all of your investment and insurance account information, policy numbers, coverage amounts, telephone numbers, etc. in a convenient binder. Make sure to grab the binder on your way out if evacuating.
Save all of your scanned documents, photos, etc. to your online financial software. Once backed up you can access it anywhere. Most financial advisors provide online wealth management services and assist you in setting up your information and maintaining it. Clients of Frye Financial Center can store all of their documents and photos in an "online vault", part of our online wealth management system.
For software options to manage your home contents/inventory (i.e. pictures, receipts, info re: your major belongings), click on this link for some popular home inventory apps which allow you to store all the information you'll need for insurance claims in one handy place.
Protect all your personal computer files and data. You should back up all the documents (and photos!) that you scan, and/or already have on your computer using one of a number of free programs. Click on this article for a number of options which can be managed from an Apple or Android phone, or a desktop computer. It also has paid subscription recommendations if you need a bigger or more robust solution.
Having your financial records organized in one convenient location, while crucial in times of emergency, can also save you countless hours and aggravation throughout the year. Organizing records and information in either a convenient, organized binder, or preferably on-line, can eliminate headaches and will help simplify your life greatly.
And a note on general hurricane preparedness:
Getting good information is key. The NOAA's National Hurricane Center website is one of the leading resources for up-to-date storm tracking, news, and useful preparation tips. A comprehensive list of necessary hurricane supplies (as well as disease prevention tips and other useful information) can be found on the Center for Disease Control's website.
One particularly helpful tip I can offer is to make sure your mobile devices and portable chargers are charged. If you do not have a portable charger, now is the time to get one if you can! You can find a wide variety of capacities, price points, solar vs. non-solar models, etc., and almost any retailer from drugstores to electronics stores will have a decent selection.
As we approach the end of the week, should it look like the storm is still headed our way, we will reach out with specific advisories regarding account access, etc. Please be careful and remain safe, and don't hesitate to call us for further guidance or assistance.
Austin A. Frye, J.D., M.B.A., C.F.P.(R)