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10 Steps to Preparing Your Finances for a Natural Disaster; Putting Digital Personal Finance at the Forefront of Emergency Planning
San Mateo, Calif., Oct. 24, 2022 — In the wake of Hurricane Ian and reports of many working to rebuild and repair from wind and flood-related destruction, natural disaster preparation becomes a critically important conversation as fires, floods and storms ravage much of the country. Some aspects of household planning — such as keeping family members safe and protecting vehicles — also affect finances. Achieve, the leader in digital personal finance, has developed 10 steps to help consumers establish a financial foundation to prepare for an emergency.
“In addition to preparing an emergency kit to ensure the safety of your family, it is equally important to make an emergency plan for your finances,” said Andrew Housser, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Achieve. “Consumers should understand that some aspects of household planning for these critical moments, like having access to funds, are strictly financial. We want to ensure that people across the country take the time to prepare well in advance of a crisis.”
Protect vital records. Build a financial emergency kit that you keep in an easy-to-access location — perhaps a locking file box or banker’s box — so you can grab it and go in an emergency. If possible, keep digital copies of important financial documents and identification documents, such as birth certificates, photo IDs, property titles and Social Security cards. Keep the original documents in a secure place, such as a bank’s safe deposit box.
Build an emergency fund. Work to save enough money to cover at least six to nine months of living expenses. Keep these savings in a safe account where you will not access and use them too easily but can reach in an emergency. Contribute to this account little by little, even if you are still working to repay credit card or other debt.
Have cash on hand. In an emergency, credit cards, debit cards and ATMs might not work for a few days. Keep some cash in your financial emergency kit, in small bills. You may need to use this cash to purchase food or water or pay for help with some urgent clean-up tasks.
Insure and document your belongings. Auto, home and health insurance provide an important cushion to help recover from a disaster. Additionally, people who live in or near a possible flood zone may need to purchase flood insurance from the National Flood Insurance Program. (Most homeowners’ policies do not cover flood damage.) Check your policies each year to make sure they provide adequate coverage. To make the replacement process move faster, document what you own. Create a room-by-room home inventory and take photos or videos. Keep this, along with insurance agent information, policy numbers and emergency financial paperwork, in a safe place.
Switch to direct deposit. A disaster of any kind can disrupt postal service for days or weeks. If you rely on mail delivery for paychecks, Social Security checks or other income, you could be left hanging in an emergency. Instead, arrange electronic delivery so that funds arrive directly in your account.
Periodically check your credit profile and credit score. Each year, request your credit reports fromannualcreditreport.com. (By law, consumers can request one report per year from each of the three main credit reporting agencies for free. In addition, an initiative implemented in response to the pandemic that allows consumers to access their three credit reports once per week will continue until December 31, 2023.) Check reports carefully. If you find an error, follow the directions on the agency’s website to request a correction. Make sure your spouse checks his or her report. If you have children, especially teens, check their reports, too. Having an accurate record of your credit can help you to rebuild after a disaster.
Store your account numbers, passwords and contact information. Keep a list of account numbers and passwords where you will be able to access it in an emergency. A cloud-based password service can keep information accessible, yet safe from identity theft — a wise idea even without an emergency. After immediate danger from the disaster has passed, contact lenders. Many will offer a grace period to people affected by a natural disaster or other emergency.
Make an evacuation plan and build a kit. Homeowners and renters alike are wise to have an evacuation kit — especially those who live in fire, flood or hurricane areas. Keep copies of important financial paperwork in this kit. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides a disaster kit checklist. Store items in durable plastic bins. Keep a box of plastic zip-lock bags handy to store papers, medications or cash dry and dust-free.
Try to keep vehicles dry. If you are evacuating from a hurricane, flooding or other foreseeable disaster, you might leave town in one car, but have another vehicle you leave behind. A comprehensive insurance policy will cover flood damage to your car, but you will save the cost of a deductible — and inconvenience — if you can avoid flooding. If possible, park the vehicle on an upper level of a parking garage to stay out of heavy rain or rising water. If a hurricane is the danger, look for a spot on high ground, away from trees and buildings. Do not drive any vehicle through moving water.
Focus on getting out of debt. For people struggling with debt, building an emergency fund or even setting aside cash in an evacuation kit can feel impossible. Paying off high-cost debt, especially credit card debt, will help put you in a better position to weather any storm — figuratively and literally. Options like debt resolution, debt consolidation or refinancing are available to help people get out of debt and put themselves on stronger financial footing.
For more information about how Achieve is helping everyday people with digital personal finance solutions, visit achieve.com.
Achieve is the leader in digital personal finance. Our solutions help everyday people get on, and stay on, the path to a better financial future, with innovative technology and personalized support. By leveraging proprietary data and analytics, our solutions are tailored for each step of a consumer's financial journey and include personal loans, home loans, help with debt and financial tools and education. Achieve is headquartered in San Mateo, California and has more than 2,700 dedicated employees across the country with hubs in California, Arizona, Texas and has regularly been recognized as a Best Place to Work.
Achieve and its affiliates are subsidiaries of Freedom Financial Network Funding, LLC, including Bills.com, LLC d/b/a Achieve.com (NMLS ID #138464); Freedom Financial Asset Management, LLC (NMLS ID #227977); Freedom Resolution (NMLS ID 1248929); and Lendage, LLC d/b/a Achieve Loans (NMLS ID #1810501).
VP, Corporate Communications
Director, Corporate Communications