This was originally published on Monday, May 20, 2013, in the Pacific Daily News. Click here to subscribe to the PDN
Typhoons and earthquakes are two common disasters in Guam. Some areas are prone to floods or fires. Disaster preparedness is essential. Ensuring that your family, home and finances are safe should be a top priority.
For the past two weeks, I discussed homeowners insurance.
Try to get the most out of your homeowners insurance. One of the most costly purchases you may make in a lifetime is your home. Keep in mind construction costs will probably continue to rise, so make sure you have enough coverage to repair or rebuild your home in case of damage or a disaster. Read your policy carefully and know what it covers and its financial limits.
Your homeowners insurance policy should be reviewed yearly.
If you have made any upgrades, remodeled your home or added onto your home, be sure to contact your insurance company as soon as possible.
Keep a list of your household items up to date. Record your electronics’ make, model and serial number. Keep receipts when purchasing computers, couches, appliances and other large purchases. Having a record of what is in your home will make it easier to file a claim. Reassess your house every few years to ensure your policy covers the true value of your home.
If you are renting, you also should purchase insurance. The owner’s insurance covers only the structure. To protect your belongings, consider renters insurance. Renters insurance also protects the tenant from being liable for an accident that’s not covered by the owner or landlord’s policy.
Keep records safe
Think about keeping all your important records in a safety deposit box. These should be hard to replace documents such as birth certificates, marriage licenses, divorce decrees, wills, passports and so on. Keeping them at home subjects them to fire, flood or theft. Make two copies of each document and keep one with your lawyer or a trusted relative or friend. The other copy you should keep in your emergency kit or a safe in your home.
Your emergency kit should be something that is small enough to handle in case you need to leave your home quickly. Keep it in a waterproof container or a large two gallon zip locking bag. In the container, keep a small amount of cash to stay at a hotel and eat for a few days.
Remember when the power goes out, ATM machines don’t work. Some of the bills should be in small denominations in case you need to purchase small items from your neighborhood store. If banks don’t open, the stores cannot get small bills to make change. Along with cash, don’t forget your insurance cards and copies of prescriptions in case you need medical attention. It is a good idea to also keep a CD/DVD with scanned copies of your important papers in the emergency kit.
These are just a few ideas to keep you ready for the unexpected. You may never be totally prepared for a disaster, but it is comforting to know that if a disaster strikes, you have the keys to start and rebuild if necessary. Other ideas to keep you safe can be found at www.ready.gov, http://www.redcross.org/prepare, and http://www.fema.gov.
Michael Camacho is president and chief executive officer of Personal Finance Center. He has more than 20 years of experience in retail banking and with financial institutions in Guam and Hawaii. If there is a topic you’d like Michael to cover, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and read past columns at the Money Matters blog at www.moneymattersguam.wordpress.com.