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Brace Yourself and Your Finances for Disaster

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Hurricanes, ice storms, wild fires, flooding … oh, my! All too often, the aftermath of these disasters is even worse than the headline-grabbing event. Even burst water pipes and medical emergencies can spell trouble for your finances if you're not prepared.

To minimize the damage, both financially and psychologically, take a cue from foul-weather folks and put together a special emergency kit. Think of this financial "Command Central" as a road map to your daily life. It should contain everything you need to keep things humming along, as well as essential items to help speed along your financial recovery.

I call it the "Grab and Go" kit -- it should be small enough that you can literally run a mile with it tucked under your arm. (Or, OK, walk briskly around the block without having it feel overly cumbersome.)

Your "Grab and Go" checklist:

  • Contacts -- work; kids' schools and friends; out-of-state family.
  • Medical information -- doctors; list of prescriptions; pharmacy phone numbers.
  • Recovery information -- copies of your home, car, and health policies and cards; contact information and forms for filing; current inventory of your possessions.
  • Financial information -- list of bank and other investment accounts and where they're located; debt obligations and due dates.
  • Critical papers -- copies of your wills, trusts, and medical health-care directive; deed to the house; passports.
  • A small stash of cash -- Enough to cover what you need to survive for a few days, just in case ATMs aren't operable or accessible.

Add any items to this list that are essential to keeping your family finances on track. Also keep in mind that you don't want to tote around the originals of your essential documents, so make copies for this mobile emergency kit -- and make sure everyone in the family knows where to find the kit!

Finally, take this opportunity to check all of the locks on your insurance coverage. Having up-to-date insurance policies, particularly if you've made home improvements or acquired any pricey stuff, can prevent a personal crisis from turning into a financial one.

Related links:

Dayana Yochim's "Grab and Go" kit is color-coordinated with her dog's leash, so that she remembers to grab both should she need to scurry off. The Fool has a disclosure policy.

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