When you're starting a business, a family, or any other major life endeavor, you try to think of every risk so you can plan a strategy to put yourself on a path to success. Unfortunately, hardships aren't always predictable, and certain ones, such as man-made or natural disasters, can wreak havoc on well-laid plans. According to FEMA's 2019 Emergency Financial First Aid Kit brochure, roughly 40 percent–60 percent of businesses affected by major disasters never reopen.
Natural disasters, man-made disasters, and business disruptions have at least one thing in common: time is never on your side when you're reacting. Remember Murphy's law: anything that can go wrong will go wrong. During a crisis, you're lucky if you have a few seconds to take a breath and react, so it's critical to consider your financial readiness. As the Roman philosopher Seneca said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
Why Financial Preparedness Matters
Financial preparedness is much more than storing extra cash under your mattress. It's about creating a plan to help you navigate unexpected financial challenges, which can help you:
Steps to Becoming Financially Prepared
The nonprofit organization Operation HOPE has partnered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to create the Emergency Financial First Aid Kit (EFFAK) to help people and businesses organize financial, medical, and household contact information that is often necessary to begin the recovery process after a disaster. The EFFAK provides lists of vital documents in categories such as household identification, financial and legal documentation, medical information, and household contacts. Having this information in one place, in a safe and accessible location, will set you on the road to recovery as soon as possible.
FEMA also offers recommended steps for financial preparedness. Unsurprisingly, the first one involves completing and dating all EFFAK forms. Learn how to prepare yourself.
Consider switching from paper checks to electronic transfer or direct deposit wherever possible. You can do this for federal benefits through Go Direct. Contact your employer to have your paychecks deposited directly into your bank account. In addition, it's wise to print or download copies of autopay bills, such as rent or mortgage, utilities, loan payments, or membership fees.
Store cash in different denominations in a safe location where you'll keep your EFFAK forms. In case ATMs aren't working or banks are closed, you should have enough money (at minimum) for gas, food, and other daily necessities. Think about how many days or weeks during a crisis you'd like to sustain your current lifestyle and keep enough cash on hand for that period.
How to Stay Safe from Scams
Unfortunately, natural disasters and other emergencies inspire fraudsters to take advantage of those in difficult or desperate situations. In addition to being financially prepared to handle the aftermath of an unexpected crisis, you should be aware of red flags that might indicate a scam, including:
Of course, we hope you never find yourself in a situation where you need to reference these tips, but it's best to be prepared. If you have questions about financial preparation for an emergency or the information in this article, please reach out to us by phone or email.
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