Natural disasters, from earthquakes and tsunamis to hurricanes and wildfires, keep appearing in the headlines. By taking a few precautions with your vital financial records now, you could save endless time and stress if the unthinkable happens to you.
Some preparation can save you worry if you live in an area prone to hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, fires or tornadoes. Even if natural disasters don't generally happen where you live, it's a good idea to keep extra sets of your financial papers and critical documents in other locations in case your home catches fire or is burglarized.
Create a Disaster Recovery File
Copy your important papers, and place one set of copies in a local safety-deposit box. Give a second set to a trusted relative or friend in another state.
Include copies of these papers in your personal finance disaster-recovery file:
- Your driver's license.
- A sheet listing your credit-card account numbers and contact numbers for the issuers.
- Your birth and marriage certificates.
- Your insurance polices.
- Your Social Security card.
- Your last three federal and state tax returns, which can be used to help you re-create your fiscal life.
- Immunization records for school-age children.
- Your bank and investment account numbers.
- A pay stub.
- Your property information, including mortgages, deeds and titles.
- If you're a renter, a utility bill or lease for proof of address.
- Your vehicles' titles and registrations.
- Your personal legal documents, such as wills, trusts and powers of attorney.
Another option is to scan the above documents on a CD you can take with you if you need to evacuate.
Store Originals Safely
At home, store the originals of everything you won't be taking in your wallet in a locked, fireproof box you can carry with you if you need to evacuate quickly. Also include cash or traveler's checks, extra supplies of medications and contact phone numbers for extended family.