September is National Preparedness Month and the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) has some tips to help individuals put their banking and financial documents in order to prepare for an emergency or unexpected event.
"While the first priority is the physical safety and well-being of you and your family, having your banking and financial papers in order can lighten your burden during a time of duress," said James P. Ghiglieri, Jr., ICBA chairman and president of Toluca, IL-based Alpha Community Bank. "Experience tells us that families need to be ready with a financial preparedness plan and pulling one together is something you can do now."
ICBA offers the following tips to help consumers prepare before an emergency occurs:
- Keep marriage and family records, including adoption papers, property deeds, birth certificates, wills, insurance policies, passports, social security cards, immunization records, credit card account numbers, car titles or lease contracts, bank and investment account numbers, and three years of tax returns in a safe-deposit box. Place each document in a plastic bag that can be sealed to keep out moisture.
- Safeguard official copies of critical documents such as birth certificates, adoption papers, marriage certificates, and the deed to your home with an attorney or in a safe deposit box.
- Inventory and keep a list and photographs of household valuables.
- Start and regularly contribute to an emergency fund that can cover at least three to four months of expenses. This fund should be separate from your savings or investment account.
- Stash extra cash with your emergency kit, which should include a three-day supply of water and food, first-aid kit, can opener, flashlights, radio and extra batteries, or a battery-free radio.
- Notify a trustee, close relative, or attorney where important financial information is located.
- Identify the records that you keep only on your computer. They may not be available if electrical power fails, so make a printout, and safeguard them.
- Keep names and contact numbers for executors, trustees, and guardians in a safe place, possibly in your safe deposit box or with a close relative.
- The Internet can serve as a supplement to paper copies. Scanned or other electronic documents can be attached to e-mails and stored in your e-mail account, or with secure online backup services.
National Preparedness Month is a nationwide effort marked each September to encourage Americans to take steps to prepare for emergencies at home, at school, and at work. For more information and resources visit the consumer education and resources section of ICBA.