Home > 2012 > Personal Finance

Hurricane Sandy: The Money Papers You Need in Your Go Bag

Advertiser Disclosure Comments 2 Comments

With Hurricane Sandy set to rock the East Coast, millions of Americans need to make sure their financial house is truly in order. It’s important to keep a back-up of certain documents that can be accessed following a natural disaster or emergency.

The goal here should be to make sure you set aside information that allows you to easily replace anything that is lost during the unfortunate event, says Suzanna de Baca, vice president of wealth strategies at Ameriprise Financial.

Remember, though, it’s not just about what gets put into a financial emergency kit. It’s also important where you keep it. De Baca suggests storing certain information in a password-protected cloud computing source (such as Google docs) or a safety deposit box.

To make sure you aren’t financially stranded following a disaster, here are the key items to include in your back-up files.

Paper Copies of Your Plastic Payment Arsenal

In order to ensure you have access to funds following an emergency, it’s a good idea to photocopy the payment methods in your wallet.

“Take a Xerox of each and stick it in a file,” de Baca says. This paper replica should include both the front and the back of your credit or debit card so you can readily access account information, expiration dates and the customer service number you will need to call to have the physical card replaced. You also will want to be sure to include information on where you can find emergency sources of immediate cash.

“This could be a checking account, money market, home equity line or all the above,” says estate planning lawyer Martin M. Shenkman.

Insurance Cards

Following an emergency, there’s a good chance you will need to contact an insurance provider. To make sure this can be done readily, de Baca suggests also photo-copying all of your insurance cards, including proof of medical, dental, property, casualty, auto and disability insurance. Copies should be made the same way you replicated your payment methods. Make sure you also have 24-hour contact number for the insurance providers on hand, in addition to your agent’s direct line.

“A natural disaster that forces you from your home may just as well close down your local agent’s office for a few days as well,” says Jim Heitman, a certified financial planner with Compass Financial Planning.

Contact Information for Medical Personnel

According to Shenkman, it’s just as important to include the contact information for your preferred medical personnel in your survival kit.

This will let family members know who to call in the event of a prolonged medical emergency. In addition to ensuring you are treated by a trusted physician, it can also reduce the chances of incurring big medical bills your insurance will not pay once you have recovered.

Contact Information for Your Employer

If you are not going to be able return to work due to an emergency, you will need to contact your employer, says the National Endowment for Financial Education.

As such, you may want to supply someone outside your home with your employer’s contact information so they can get in touch with them when you cannot. It may also be a good idea to review the information on the Department of Labor’s website regarding the Family Medical and Leave Act so you know what to do if you anticipate being out of work for a prolonged period of time, NEFE says.

Information on Your Investment Accounts

Make sure to also include copies of financial documents verifying your existing investment accounts, de Baca says. This may include any mutual funds, IRAs, bonds or stocks that are in your name. It should also include information on any employer-sponsored 401(k), 529 plans or additional retirement accounts. Additionally, you may want to include the name and contact information for any financial adviser who is overseeing the accounts.

Your Will

You will want to make sure your money survival kit includes either a copy of your last will and testament or directions on how to obtain your last will and testament so that your family can execute your final wishes in a worst-case scenario. For instance, in lieu of the document itself, you may simply wish to store the name of the attorney who should be contacted following your death. At the very least, be sure to indicate who in your family has been granted power of attorney.

“This should be for property and health care to make sure the appropriate people have the legal authority to make decisions for you,” says Chad Carlson, a certified financial adviser with the firm Balasa Dinverno Foltz.

Passwords to All Your Existing Financial Accounts

While you yourself may have all your account passwords memorized, it is still a good idea to include a list of usernames and passwords associated with all your financial accounts so that someone else is able to manage them.

“Keep a list of all of your info and passwords so your family can access your different accounts [or] bills if needed,” Carlson says. This list can be protected by a password that is only supplied to the person you’ve selected to oversee your estate in your absence.

Image: Global X, via Flickr

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Certain credit cards and other financial products mentioned in this and other articles on Credit.com News & Advice may also be offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com will be compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards or products. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Our Owners

Credit.com is owned by Progrexion Holdings Inc. which is the owner and administrator of a number of business related to credit and credit repair, including CreditRepair.com, and eFolks. In addition, Progrexion also provides services to Lexington Law Firm as a third party provider. Despite being owned by Progrexion, it is not the role of the Credit.com editorial team to advocate the use of the company’s other services. In articles, reporters may mention credit repair as an option, for example, but we’ll also be sure to note the various alternatives to that service. Furthermore, you may see ads for credit repair services on Credit.com, but the editorial team isn’t responsible for the creation or implementation of those ads, anymore than reporters for the New York Times or Washington Post are responsible for the ads on their sites.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team