Having your finances, insurance and important papers in order before a natural disaster strikes can ease the stress of dealing with the damage and disruption caused by a hurricane, earthquake or other catastrophic event. But many Americans do not prepare.
According to a survey by The Weather Company, 40 percent of Americans have no plans on how to handle an emergency and only 16 percent have a preparedness kit ready in case of a severe weather event.
In addition to the lack of physical preparedness, there is a lack of financial readiness for emergencies. A recent Bankrate survey found that only four in 10 adults would cover the cost of an unplanned $1,000 expense using their savings. The rest would use a credit card, borrow from family or friends, take out a loan or forgo paying something else to come up with the money.
“The expression, ‘The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining’ speaks to the importance of developing a financial plan to deal with natural disasters before they take place rather than after the fact,” says Kurt J. Rossi, CEO of Independent Wealth Management in Wall, New Jersey.
The COVID-19 pandemic, which has hammered the U.S. economy and forced more than 30 million Americans to apply for unemployment benefits, is a grim reminder that disaster can come in many forms and hit anywhere. Regardless of where you live, here are steps you can take to prepare your finances for a natural disaster.
Build an emergency fund
A good strategy is to try to save $1,000 as soon as you can. Then, build up your savings to at least three to six months’ worth of your current expenses. A savings account with a high APY and low minimum balance requirements, such as those offered by American Express Bank or Varo Money, can help you reach these goals. Designate the account specifically for emergencies and sign up for automatic deposits.
You can also build up your emergency fund in a money market account. Like a savings account, a MMA is a safe place to park money and earn some interest.
Also consider creating a smaller cash fund in case power is cut off and bank services are not available. Create a cash fund to cover expenses for up to three days. Consider the fact that you could be without access to your bank account or even a paycheck for a while after a disaster.