To build awareness of Severe Weather Preparedness Week 2014, we discussed the importance of building an emergency fund and an emergency financial kit in order to protect your financial life in the event of an emergency or disaster. But, what you do in the aftermath of a disaster can also have a significant impact on your financial future. It is important to protect your finances after disaster strikes.
It can be difficult to focus on financial issues when you are dealing with the physical and emotional impacts of a disaster. Once you and your loved ones are safe, it’s important to take the following measures to protect and recover your financial well-being:
Contact Your Insurance Company
Contact your insurance company as soon as possible to report how, when and where damage has occurred. Provide as much detail as you can. During times of disaster, insurance companies receive an overwhelming amount of claims which are usually settled in the order they are received, so the sooner you submit a claim, the better.
Look for information about how to file a claim as many insurance companies will broadcast this information via the internet, radio, or TV after a natural disaster.
If your insurance policy has been lost or destroyed in the disaster and you do not have a copy, ask your insurance provider exactly what coverage you have purchased and ask for a copy of the policy.
Inventory all losses and damage. Refer back to the Household Inventory Worksheet you completed when preparing for disaster and create an inventory your losses. Take photos or videos of all damage for documentation to support your claims.
Keep all damaged items until the claims adjuster has visited your home. Do not throw away anything you plan to claim and don’t make any permanent repairs until you’ve talked to a claims adjuster.
Assess Financial Situation
Assess your current financial situation. Record all income and expenses that you anticipate over the course of the next month. Use ACCC’s Household Budgeting Worksheet to help you organize all income and expenses. Determine whether you have enough emergency savings to cover all costs. Don’t forget to check to see if you are eligible to receive disaster relief funds.
If you are having trouble paying your bills on time, contact your creditors and ask for more time to pay. Most creditors will be willing to work with you in the event of a disaster. Also consider contacting a non-profit credit counseling agency, such as American Consumer Credit Counseling.
Protect Your Identity
Beware of possible scams. Unfortunately, there are people out there who will prey on your vulnerability during times of disaster. Be aware of the different types of scams and know how to protect your identity. Avoiding identity theft is important in any situation, but if you are trying to protect your finances after disaster strikes, you need to be extra vigilant.
For a list of helpful resources, visit ACCC’s Budgeting for Emergencies center here.
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