Important Documents to Have in Case of Disaster
What's in your emergency kit? A flashlight and band-aids. How about your essential financial documents? Important papers might be the last thing on your mind in case of an emergency, but that's all the more reason to be prepared.
When fire roared through Adelaide Zindler's San Diego neighborhood in the middle of the night, her first thought was to alert an elderly neighbor. The last thing on her mind was the whereabouts of financial records stored in her home.
"I was thinking family and I was thinking friends and I was thinking safety," Zindler says.
Uprooted from home for days, and unsure where other relatives were, she and her husband needed a month or two "before we got to a place where we were thinking about paperwork again," she says.
By that point, they were late on their mortgage payment. The financial institution was unforgiving, and the couple's credit score took a hit.
The Zindler's money woes mirror those of others whose lives are abruptly turned upside down because of a disaster. But it doesn't have to be that way.
Financial advisers say people who identify and prepare key documents long before calamity strikes can avoid unnecessary damage to their personal finances in the wake of a fire, flood, hurricane or other disaster.
What you need
All homeowners and renters should have a list of "must haves" and "like to haves" -- items they will need, or want, after a disaster, says Mitchell Freedman, founder of MFAC Financial Advisors in Westlake Village, Calif., and an editor of the American Red Cross' "Disaster Recovery: A Guide to Financial Issues."