Today marks 8 years since Hurricane Katrina devastated the New Orleans area. As a native Louisianian, I was deeply affected by the storm. Essentially, my life changed forever because of it, and I also learned some very valuable lessons.
My experience especially taught me to expect the unexpected and to always prepare for an emergency.
We always think about packing an emergency kit by placing flashlights, bandaids, and canned food in a safe location. However, we don’t often think about what will happen if we can’t access our money. Here are some tips for preparing for natural disasters in terms of your finances. They range from having cash to setting up an emergency fund to a few others you might not have ever considered.
1. Have Cash On Hand
In the case of a flood, ATM’s will often malfunction. It’s very possible that you will not be able to withdraw cash, and many banks might not be able to be on hand to let you make cash withdrawals from your checking account. In a natural disaster, banks can be targeted by criminals when the police force is occupied, so don’t expect them to be open for several days or even weeks. Because of this, it’s very important to have a few hundred dollars of cash and credit cards with high limits on hand in case you need to use them for several days while your city gets back on its feet.
2. Assess Your Safety Deposit Box
During Hurricane Katrina, my family’s bank flooded including all of the safety deposit boxes. Luckily, my parents put everything in heavy duty ziplock bags from the beginning, so all of our important documents were safe. Take some time to do the same thing for your own safety deposit box. Just buy a back of high quality plastic bags, head to your bank for an hour or so this weekend, and place everything in them. I promise that you’ll be glad you did.
If the company you work for gets flooded or damaged in any way, it’s possible your paycheck could be delayed while they survey the damage and try to get their business back on track. Eventually, their insurance should help pay for interrupted business, and you should get your income. However, just be prepared that it might take days, weeks, and even months for severely affected companies to get back on track.
4. Emergency Fund
I can’t convey how important it is to have an emergency fund. You can start by saving $100 a month to build up a basic $1,200 fund by the end of the year. However, most financial experts recommend having at least 6 months of living expenses saved up in case you cannot find work and have to take care of your family for an extended period of time. Your emergency fund should be liquidable and not tied up in long term retirement funds. Essentially, it should be in a place where you can access it quickly.
What are some other tips that you can think of in terms of accessing your money in the case of a natural disaster?
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Flooding can cause extensive power outages, which means you won't be able to buy gas. If there is any indication of a major storm or hurricane, fill the tanks of your vehicles. (I never let my tank get below a half at all times, but with approaching storms, I fill up.) Also, stock up on various sizes of batteries, not just for yourself but to trade to your friends and neighbors for canned food you might not have.