A firefighter knocks on your door. You open it and he tells you that there’s an emergency in the neighborhood affecting your home and that have only 10 minutes to evacuate. Now. And chances are, you won’t be able to set foot in your home for three or more days.
How much money would you need to take care of yourself and your family until you get back home?
Five hundred dollars?
Do you have that much cash in the house?
And even if you do, is it really safe to carry that much cash around with you during a disaster?
Remember the thousands of people fleeing Hurricane Maria, Hurricane Harvey or California’s Camp, Thomas and Mendocino Wildfires? Definitely not!
What you really need are twodifferent things.
A specific amount of cash & ACCESS to your money.
Let’s find out how much you would need to take care of your family…
Grab a pencil and paper and answer the following questions.
If you needed to leave your area due to a disaster evacuation, could you still access money from your bank in a different neighborhood? A different city? A different state?
Do you know how much money you can take out of your primary bank’s ATM at one location? During one 24 hour period?
If you could only use cash on hand for one to three weeks, how much cash would you and your family need to take care of your normal expenses?
Do you know how much credit you have available on your credit cards? Is it possible for you to get an emergency increase? If so, do you know how to get one?
If there was a disaster in your geographical area that affected workplace as well as your home, would you still receive a paycheck from your company? Do you receive you check via direct deposit, via mail or do you physically pick it up?
Well how did you do?
If you’re like most people, you were scratching your head by the second question and running for your statements and calculator by the third.
Here are a few recommendations to make sure that you can access your money, any time and any place that you need it.
Bank Accounts/Access to Cash
Know how much you and your family would most likely need for up to five days and then up to three weeks, without access to your local bank. Here’s a great rule of thumb.
What you usually spend in one week on: Groceries, Pharmacy/Drug Store, Gasoline and your co-payment for two urgent care/doctor/ER visits. Once you have that figure, add 25% more to cover unexpected expenses. An easy way to save the money, is to put away a certain amount every week — let’s say $20, until you meet your goal.
If you live in a disaster prone area, consider keeping a certain amount of cash ($200-400), in a safe at home or in your evacuation location.
Know how much you can take out of the bank per ATM and per day.
Place a copy of a bank statement/check from each bank account and copies of your credit cards and debit cards (front and back) on a password protected flash drive in your emergency bin, in your safe deposit box and in a safe deposit box in your evacuation location.
If that new account won’t be your main account, be sure to deposit a little money in it or make a small ATM withdrawal every few months to keep it active.
Make sure that one of your bank accounts is with a major bank that gives you nationwide access to your money. We’ll get into this more in the next section.
Know your credit limit and the customer service number you would have to call to temporarily raise it. Make sure that you note those limits, customer service numbers and any rules or guidelines on your Vital Information Grab It & Go Form.
If you have more than one credit card or debit card, choose at least two different brands. For example a Visa and a MasterCard or Discover card. That way if one is not accepted at a store or restaurant, the other one probably will be. Going from one restaurant to another with a car full of hungry children, isn’t fun!
The most important part of this exercise is…
Knowing how much money you need to have at your fingertips
Where to keep it, so that you can access even more money quickly and easily.
What About Your Bank?
When you chose your current bank, you probably considered things like their good interest rates, proximity to your home or their friendly tellers.
Making sure that you had 24/7 access to your money in an emergency, wherever you are, probably wasn’t in your top ten criteria. Unfortunately good interest rates and friendly tellers aren’t going to help you feed your children and fill up your gas tank in an unfamiliar town.
Fortunately technology is on your side. Most major brick and mortar and online banks give you access to your money wherever you are in the country. With them, you can bank online, transfer money between accounts or to other people, and even deposit checks into an ATM which can be a huge selling point if that paycheck you’re holding is going to help you exist for the coming week. Another perq is nationwide access to ATMs nationwide or fee rebates if you have to use another bank’s ATM. With a debit card, you can even make purchases or get cash back without a fee, if you can’t find an ATM.
Just remember, if this new account won’t be your main account, be sure to use the ATM card or make a deposit every now and then, so it remains open.
And It’s Not Just About Disasters…
By the way, it doesn’t take a natural disaster for you to need immediate access to your money. What about a medical emergency? You’re in the emergency room and need cash, but the hospital only has one ATM, and it’s not for your bank. Or your car could break down a hundred miles away from home. Or, as we’ve all learned the last several years, banks can be taken over by federal regulators, severely limiting depositor access for days or weeks.
So what’s the moral of the story? Actually we have two.
1. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
2. Make sure you have baskets every place you need them.
Keep these two things in mind when managing your money, and you’ll be in better shape than 95% of your friends. But do me a favor. Once you have things set up for yourself, share what you’ve learned. Your friends will thank you for it.
Can You Put Your Hands On Every Piece Of Your Financial Life In 10 Minutes Or Less?
Imagine you’re out of town on a much-needed vacation.
You’re lounging by the sparkling pool completely relaxed because you took care of everything that needed to be done before you left the house. You even asked a neighbor to pick up your mail and overnight it to you, halfway through the trip to make sure you don’t get behind on any unexpected bills. You pick up the package, get back to your room and dump two weeks’ worth of mail on to your bed. As you begin to thumb through it, you see it. A statement from a credit card company whose card you have already paid off completely and only keep around for emergencies. When you open the envelope, you’re stunned to see that the card that had a zero balance when you left home, now has a $10,000 balance.
The problem is that you’re on vacation. The information that you need to prove that you had a zero balance on the card (past statements), the emergency number that you need to call (on the back of the card that they don’t have with them) and any other information that company might need to quickly confirm your identity, cancel the card and get those charges reversed, is all safe and sound in your desk back home!
Impossible you say? I hate to tell you this, but this is aTRUEstory! Even though this family had a totally secure mailbox, somehow, someone had stolen the convenience checks sent them by their credit card company, to entice them to transfer a balance. The thief had used it to pay off her American Express balance. After three straight days of phone calls to a highly suspicious credit card company, they finally get the charges off their card and the fraudulent episode out of their lives. Three days of their vacation was ruined, not to mention the level of frustration that could all have been avoided.
The question is…
If you were in the same situation as that couple, sitting in that hotel room with $10,000 in fraudulent charges on your credit card, would you have the information you needed accessible enough to be able to quickly take care of the situation?
Here’s how to do it, quickly and easily.
Your goal is to locate and gather all of the pieces of your financial house and transfer all of that information into yourFinancial Grab It and Go Form. First you’ll have to go on a scavenger hunt for all of the financial information you have lying around your home, safe deposit box or computer. Depending on your life and the size of your immediate and extended family, that can include your: credit cards, investments, bank account information, contacts for investment counselors and lawyers, wills/trust documents, social security/disability/ retirement benefits, mortgage information, deeds, leases, receipts and tax information. And if you have a small or medium sized home based business, it includes your business documents.
Once you’ve completed the form, you’ll place a copy of the documents and the form into three secure places that you, your spouse or someone acting on your behalf can access whenever necessary.
When you’re finished, you’ll not only have all of the information you need to take care of any emergency at your fingertips, but you’ll be able to see your entire financial picture at a glance. Why is that important? If you always have a general idea of what you have in the bank, your investments and on your credit cards, you’ll be able to spot things that don’t look right at a glance, enabling you to take care of any mistakes immediately.
1. What’s In Your Wallet (& Every Place Else)?
Grab a pencil and paper and jot down the types of financial accounts and information you currently have. This probably includes Bank Accounts, CDs and Investment Accounts, IRA/401K/Retirement Accounts, Credit Cards, Mortgage Information, Rental Information, Student & Other Loans, Social Security, Pension or Retirement Benefits and financial counselors.
We’ll deal with insurance and other vital documents and information in another blog post.
2. The Recovery Operation
Using the list you just compiled, locate and gather all of the information you can find for each type of financial account you, your spouse and the other adults living in your home, currently have.
3. Getting That In Writing
Let’s document the information that you’ve found. Grab a copy of ourFinancial Grab It & Go Form, or if you have our book The Backup Plan 3.0, you’ll find a copy in the back of the book. Complete the form with all of the information you’ve located. Then save it or print it and put it to the side.
This information should include:
Bank Accounts: Account Number, Branch, Type of Account, PIN, Website, Customer Service Number
CDs and Investment Accounts: Name of Broker, Institution, Type of Account, Maturity Date, Website, Customer Service Number
IRA/401K/Retirement Accounts: same info
Credit Cards: Company, Account Number, Website, User Name/PIN, Customer Service Number, Credit Limit
Mortgage Information: Company, Type, Interest Rate, Amount, Payment Address, Customer Service Number, Website, Term Length.
Rental Information: Landlord, Rent, Date Due, Lease Term, Where You Send Payment, Landlord Contact Info.
Student & Other Loans: Company, Type, Interest Rate, Amount, Payment Address, Customer Service Number, Website, Term Length
Benefit Payments (ie. Social Security or Retirement Benefits): Type of benefit, amount, direct deposit/mail, customer service number, member number.
Family Counselors like attorneys, brokers, financial counselors: names, contact information
4. Anything Else While We’re At It?
Do you have any other information that you would need in order to conduct financial business while evacuated or away from home?
Scan or make copies of all of your credit and debit cards and place them in the folder you created on your desktop, to hold all of your Get Your Stuff Together forms and Action Plans.
Will you need a copy of your bank or investment statements, loan documents or benefit award statements? If so, scan them to your computer or make three copies of the documents and place them in your desktop folder.
5. Keeping Your Information At Your Fingertips And Secure
Print, scan or make three copies of the form you just completed, along with any vital documents that you found that you’ll need to have at your fingertips and store them in at least three secure, damage-proof locations. That way if one or two of the locations are inaccessible, you’ll still be able to grab the information you need. Here are a few ideas:
If your Financial Information Form is on your computer, you can place it on a password-protected flash drive or portable hard drive:
And take them with you during evacuation on a key ring or in your evacuation bin.
And place it in a safe deposit box or water/fireproof safe in your own city.
And place it in a safe deposit box, water/fireproof safe, or with relatives in the city where you’ll be evacuating.
Or place the forms and documents in a password-protected online file repository or the file directory of your family’s personal web site. This way if you need a copy of your information or forms quickly, you can retrieve them from any Internet-enabled computer, cellphone or tablet.
If you decide to print out your form instead, you can place it:
In a safe deposit box or water/fireproof safe in your own city.
In your Plastic Evacuation Bin. Only place the documents that you actually need in this bin. Remember that evacuating during hurricanes or tornadoes can be hard on documents, so it’s better to take scans with you or leave originals or copies in water resistant safe deposit boxes away from the affected area.
In a safe deposit box, water/fireproof safe, or with relatives in the city where you’ll be evacuating.
Have Fun Getting Your Stuff Together! We’ll talk later…