3 Proven Ways to Shelter Your Finances in a Natural Disaster

Photo (cc) by Walt Hubis

The tornadoes and storms that rocked the Southeast and Midwest could rack up more than $5.5 billion – with a “B” – worth of insurance claims. They also killed 354 people and wounded many more.

The April 22-28 disaster “was the second deadliest thunderstorm outbreak in U.S. history,” Reuters reported yesterday. The deadliest was back in 1925.

But as someone who has survived a couple hurricanes at home and driven into several others as a newspaper reporter, I know this: Billions of dollars and hundreds of lives don’t matter as much as your money and your family’s lives. In a natural disaster, your first priority is to take care of your own.

Sadly, few folks know how to do this. And the most reliable information isn’t always available on the first page of a Google search about “natural disaster preparation.”

As a journalist, I covered hurricanes Elena, Kate, and Andrew. As a resident, I hunkered down for Wilma and Katrina. Here’s what I learned along the way…

1. Think outside of the box

FEMA has always advised keeping “important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container.” Some insurance companies suggest storing them “in a location designed to survive a natural disaster, like a safe deposit box.”

Problem is, you can’t get to a safe deposit box right after a natural disaster because everything’s usually closed. Banks can get destroyed too – and as the FDIC says on its website, “The contents of a safe deposit box are not insured by the FDIC.”

As for keeping important papers in a strongbox at home, that’s a great idea. Sadly, I’ve interviewed more than a few distraught homeowners who either forgot to grab that box, forgot to put all their important papers in it, or couldn’t readily find it in their cars that were packed with everything else important they owned.

Solution? Keep the originals of your important documents in a strongbox or safe deposit box, but keep digital copies in a secure location within “the cloud.”

I know more than a few young families who have scanned all their documents and put them on their smart phones and iPads. I’ve also known people who have scanned documents, then emailed them to themselves. Both are clever ideas, but both may result in security issues. What I do is to store this stuff on on my free Amazon CloudDrive. You could also use Dropbox or a similar cloud storage service.

This only takes only a few minutes to do, and only a few minutes to locate. Just make sure to use a strong password.

2. Take inventory of your life

Same thing goes for this sound advice from Charles Schwab…

Take snapshots and/or write down a good description for each item of value, including clothes, jewelry, furniture, electronics, appliances, fixtures, etc. Keep the inventory along with any professional appraisals and estimates of replacement values in a safe place away from your home (e.g., a safe-deposit box or with an out-of-town relative).

Every year at this time – when the wife and I embark on spring cleaning – I take photos of our furniture, appliances, and computers. (I partly do this so I don’t have to clean as much: “Sorry, honey, I’m taking pictures!”)

As for storing these images, they go into the cloud with my documents.

3. Pack pen and paper

This might seem trivial, but I can’t tell you how often I’ve witnessed evacuees crave these items as they call insurance adjusters, family members, hotels, and other folks as they try to deal with the immediate crisis and try to rebuild their lives.

You don’t think about a pen and paper when you’re putting together an emergency kit. And even the ones for sale – like this $120 disaster backpack from Amazon – will include everything but.

Yet when I was newspaper reporter, I’d often be asked if I had an extra pen and paper I could spare. Eventually, I just took along lots of extras so I could dole them out – which always led to more interviews for me.

Do it this weekend

Take a few minutes to put a disaster plan together: one that includes pictures of your possessions and papers, preferably stored in cyberspace. Think about, then talk about, exactly what you and your loved ones will do, what you’ll take, and where you’ll take it.

It could be waste of time – or the smartest move you’ve ever made.

For more, read Is a Home Inventory Necessary? (hint: the answer is yes) and How to Replace Lost, Stolen, or Destroyed Personal Paperwork.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
Retirees Can Dodge Taxes on These 9 Types of Income
Retirees Can Dodge Taxes on These 9 Types of Income

There are lots of things Uncle Sam can’t touch — so long as you play by the rules.

Don’t Toss These 7 Household Items — Sell Them
Don’t Toss These 7 Household Items — Sell Them

Here’s how to earn cash as you give new life to these unwanted items.

Want a Healthy Retirement? Turn This Device Off
Want a Healthy Retirement? Turn This Device Off

A common behavior becomes increasingly dangerous for those who are 50 or older.

60% of People With This Disease Don’t Know They Have It
60% of People With This Disease Don’t Know They Have It

Millions of people overlook this potentially potent condition that tends to strike women and older adults.

5 Ways Your Phone Can Slash Grocery Costs
5 Ways Your Phone Can Slash Grocery Costs

These free apps and websites can help you get cash back on groceries, shop more efficiently or squeeze the most from the ingredients you have on hand.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

Am I Eligible for My Mother’s Social Security Benefit?
Am I Eligible for My Mother’s Social Security Benefit?

Can an adult daughter tap into her late mother’s benefit?

These Major Appliances Got the Worst Reviews in 2020
These Major Appliances Got the Worst Reviews in 2020

Consumer Reports says these home products got the worst ratings from experts.

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia
This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia

Nearly half of U.S. residents may face this threat.

Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds
Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds

Resolve to be clutter-free in 2021 with these secondhand purchases.

11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It
11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It

Seriously? Fibbing about the weather is a crime? This and other little-known legal traps await the unwary.

Is This Treatable Condition Causing Your High Blood Pressure?
Is This Treatable Condition Causing Your High Blood Pressure?

Researchers say too many doctors are overlooking this potential source of hypertension.

These Are the 3 Best Used Cars You Can Buy
These Are the 3 Best Used Cars You Can Buy

These vehicles boast reliability, safety and long-lasting value.

13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free
13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free

There are many ways to get cheap or free services and goods after reaching a certain age.

6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have
6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have

Few retirees have all of these documents that are crucial to their golden years — especially during a pandemic.

15 States With the Largest Homeless Populations
15 States With the Largest Homeless Populations

Some of the states with the highest rates of homelessness might surprise you.

3 Cable TV Companies Hiking Prices for 2021
3 Cable TV Companies Hiking Prices for 2021

Still married to your cable company? Hold on to your wallet!

Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore
Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore

Starting this month, your ISP no longer can bill you for this fee.

11 Generic Products You Should Buy at Costco
11 Generic Products You Should Buy at Costco

Not all generics are worthwhile, but these are among the best from Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand.

8 Tips for Retiring Comfortably on Social Security Alone
8 Tips for Retiring Comfortably on Social Security Alone

It’s never too early to start learning how to live well while living on less.

15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2021
15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2021

Follow these tips to save, so you’ll have money for things that really matter.

9 Small Expenses That Are Bleeding Your Budget Dry
9 Small Expenses That Are Bleeding Your Budget Dry

Keep more of future paychecks by eliminating these budget-busting unnecessary expenses.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.