Protecting your financial documents

Protecting your financial documents may be far from your mind when a natural disaster strikes, but it’s one of the most important factors to consider, say the Independent Community Bankers of America© (ICBA). “While the first priority is the safety of you and your family, knowing that your banking documents and private financial information are safe gives you one less thing to worry about during stressful times,” says ICBA Chairman Jack Hartings.

“Natural disasters of any kind quickly remind us how important it is to be organized and have a plan ahead of time. Having a financial preparedness plan will protect you and your family from the long-term effects of damaged, destroyed or lost financial documents,” Hartings adds.

To prepare for that possibility, the ICBA advises:

  • Keep marriage licenses, birth certificates, adoption papers, property deeds, wills, insurance policies, passports, Social Security cards, car titles or lease contracts, bank and investment account numbers and three years of tax returns in a bank safe deposit box. Put each of these documents in a sealed plastic bag to keep out moisture.
  • Make and safeguard additional official copies of critical documents, such as birth certificates, adoption papers, marriage licenses and the deed to your home, and notifying a trustee, close relative or attorney where important financial information is located.
  • Keep names and contact numbers for executors, trustees and guardians in a safe place, either in your safe deposit box or with a close relative.
  • Take an inventory and keep a list of household valuables. Taking photographs of these items can help as well.
  • Include extra cash, preferably small bills, in your home emergency kit, which should include a three-day supply of water and food, a first aid kit, a manual can opener, flashlights, a radio and extra batteries.
  • Secure online data storage, which can serve as a supplement or back-up to paper copies.
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