For added security, put together financial disaster kit

This was originally published on Monday, August 29 ,2016 in the Pacific Daily News.  Click here to subscribe to the PDN.

In Guam we take for granted the safety of how our homes are built, and that major disasters do not happen frequently.  But as we all know, Guam is susceptible to strong typhoons and earthquakes.  Disasters are not only from natural causes.  Man-made disasters like a house fire can be just as devastating.  Being prepared to evacuate your house at any given time is necessary.  In addition to having an escape plan for your entire family, a financial disaster kit is a comprehensive file of what you need to ensure that your recovery process is easier and less stressful.

  • Original documents. Your financial disaster kit doesn’t have to have all of the original documents.  You should secure your documents in a place where they will be safe.  Banks rent safe deposit boxes.  If you prefer to secure them at home, use a waterproof and fireproof home safe.  Many retailers sell different size safes that are affordable.  Keep the safe locked at all times. Tell someone that you trust where the safe is located.  You may also want to give them the combination or the spare key as well.  Make copies or scan your documents before securing them. Do not keep your original will at home. If you die, your family members would want to be able to have access to it. Keep it with your lawyer.
  • Photo inventory.  Go from room to room and take pictures of what is in your house. If you have valuables or antiques, document the condition they are in.  Take pictures of serial and model numbers.  You may even want to take video of your electronics such as televisions to show that they work. Most still and video cameras have a mode to time stamp the photo or video.  Use the time stamp to document when the photo or video was taken.  Do the same with your cars, boat or other personal property.  By having an inventory of your home you can make the insurance claims process go a lot smoother and receive a better settlement.
  • Different formats. Keep your documents in several different formats. Make paper copies but also scan documents to a DVD or CD, a thumb drive or even onto an external hard drive.  This will ensure that any agency you are working with can read the documents. You can also make a copy and give it to someone you trust in case something happens to you. You may consider sending it to a secure cloud where it can be accessed anywhere you have an internet connection. Just be certain that the cloud is secure and that there are safeguards in place to protect your sensitive information.  Keep your scanned and copied documents in a secured location like a safe.
  • Cash. ATMs do not work when the power is off. Keep about $100 to $200 per person using smaller bills, nothing larger than a $20.  Stores will be short on money as well and it will be difficult to make the necessary change for a large dollar bill. Don’t forget to keep a few rolls of quarters as well. They can be used for public phones or to wash clothes at a laundry mat.  Keep the money with your financial paperwork.
  • Letter of Intent. Write down specific instructions on what to do in case you are unable to represent yourself.  A letter of intent is not a legal document but instead includes where your documents can be found, names and numbers of your employer, passwords for online accounts, physician’s name and contact and other detailed information needed to carry out your wishes.
  • Scammers. Unfortunately, there are people who will take advantage of a person’s hardship. Be sure to protect your personal information as much as possible. Do not give out any personal or financial information over the phone or on a non-secure website.  People may come to your door claiming to be inspectors or contractors. Ask family and friends if they have worked with the contractor or company before entering into a contract.  Use your best judgment and listen to your intuition.

Michael Camacho is president and chief executive officer of Personal Finance Center. He has more than 20 years of experience in retail banking and at financial institutions in Guam and Hawaii. If there is a topic you’d like Michael to cover, please email him at and read past columns at the Money Matters blog at


Preparing a financial disaster kit

This was originally published on Monday, August 22 ,2016 in the Pacific Daily News.  Click here to subscribe to the PDN.

Life’s emergency situations can happen at any moment. Advanced preparation and planning can ease the stress that comes with a disaster. A financial disaster kit can make the process of recovering less stressful. A well-crafted kit contains information necessary to assist in the recovery process and is based solely on your household’s situation.

  • Income. In case your income is disrupted by the disaster, having proof of your income will be needed if you apply for assistance. Include pay stubs or Leave Earning Statements that reflect your current pay as well as anyone else in your household that is employed. If you receive Social Security, veterans benefits, housing or food assistance, or any other government benefits, include information on how much you receive. Include paperwork showing income received from alimony and child support received as well.
  • Financial assets. Many people today do their banking online or on their smartphones. Although this can make life easier under normal life conditions, once disaster strikes we will lose many of our modern conveniences. Keep a current copy of your bank or credit union statements as well as your credit card statements. Having these documents on hand can prove that you have an account at that financial institution. Do the same for your retirement and investment accounts. Include a copy of your vehicle registration and ownership papers.
  • Financial obligations. Make copies of your monthly bills. Your utility bills such as power and water can be extra proof of where you reside. Include statements from all your financial obligations such as your credit cards and loans. The documents should have the name of the financial institution, the account number, and contact information. Make copies of your credit cards front and back. Include copies of your car, student and other loans in your kit. If you pay alimony or child support include a copy of your payment agreement.
  • Insurance policies. After a disaster this is probably one of the most important documents you should have ready and on hand. Before a disaster, be sure to review your documents and that you have adequate coverage. If you are unsure of your coverage, visit your insurance company. Keep copies of your current homeowners or renters, auto, and life insurance policies. You may want to include recent photos of your home, high valued items within your home, and your vehicles(s). These pictures can be on a CD, thumb drive, or some other portable device that will not take up much room in your kit.
  • Tax information. Some financial loans request that you have tax information for the past three years. Keep copies of your federal and/or state taxes for at least the past three years in your financial disaster kit. Include the most recent property tax information as well.
  • Estate. A finance disaster kit should cover even the worst case scenario. Keep a copy of your will or trust in your kit. Your spouse should as well. Having a trust will keep your assets from going through probate, and having a trust or a will may reduce family conflict, and reduce some the stress of dealing with a disaster and the loss of a loved one. If you become injured or incapacitated, your power of attorneys will give someone you trust the ability to work on your behalf.

Michael Camacho is president and chief executive officer of Personal Finance Center. He has more than 20 years of experience in retail banking and at financial institutions in Guam and Hawaii. If there is a topic you’d like Michael to cover, please email him at and read past columns at the Money Matters blog at

Are you financially prepared for a disaster?

This was originally published on Monday, August 15 ,2016 in the Pacific Daily News.  Click here to subscribe to the PDN.

As our summer months come to an end, we head into the rainy season. The rainy season is usually the time a majority of our typhoons visit. Although Guam has been fortunate not to experience a major natural disaster in some time, we should always be prepared.

When we think of disaster preparedness, many might think about being physically prepared. Is my backup generator working? Do the shutters need oiling? Do I have enough nonperishable food in stock? These are great questions to help you prepare, but consider preparing yourself financially as well. Being prepared financially can help you recover from a natural disaster much faster and with less stress.

There are many important documents that are needed to financially prepare for a disaster. Gather your documents, then review them to see if they are updated or need to be changed to fit your needs. Keep them in a water-resistant container that is portable, and place it in a secure location that’s easily accessible.

Personal information. Gather necessary personal information on everyone in your household. Generate a list with your name and your spouse’s and children’s names. Include their date and place of birth. The list should also have the physical residential address, mailing address, home phone number, and work and cell phones. Employment information for all those that work should be added as well. List emergency contact information of those who don’t live in your home.

Make front and back photo copies of driver’s license, military ID, work badges, and any other sources that can be used as a form of photo identification. Keep at least one original birth certificate and several copies in your emergency files along with marriage certificate, divorce decrees, death certificates, adoption papers or child custody documents. Original copies can be obtained from Public Health and Social Services for a small fee. Also include copies of passports, green cards, naturalization documents and Social Security cards. If you’ve served in the military, keep a copy of your discharge record, DD214, and any other military career information. If you have pets, include microchip information, medical records, proof of ownership, registration paperwork, and photos of you with your pet.

Medical information. Keep a list of your primary health care provider, dentist, or any specialists that you see. List their clinic’s name, physical address and phone number. The list should also contain any allergies and medical conditions or disabilities each family member has. Every family member should have a list of medication taken on a regular basis. You may even want to add eye glass prescriptions. Make copies of your medical insurance card, Medicare card and Medicaid card. Another item you will want to include is a copy of the most updated immunizations records. Most importantly, include your living will and medical power of attorney.

Housing information. Proof of home rental or home ownership is vital if you require federal disaster assistance. You’ll need a copy of your lease agreement or mortgage. If the house was deeded to you, you’ll need the deed. If you took out a second mortgage on your home, include that as well. All other loans or financial obligations that tie to your home should be included as well.

If your home is destroyed and uninhabitable you are still responsible for paying your mortgage. If it’s not possible to make your mortgage payments, contact your bank as soon as possible to avoid extra fees or the possibility of a foreclosure.

Michael Camacho is president and chief executive officer of Personal Finance Center. He has more than 20 years of experience in retail banking and at financial institutions in Guam and Hawaii. If there is a topic you’d like Michael to cover, please email him at and read past columns at the Money Matters blog at

Adjust the limits of agent’s power

This was originally published on Monday, September 21, 2015, in the Pacific Daily News.  Click here to subscribe to the PDN.

Question: I am a single mother and just started a new job. My job will require me to travel frequently. I will be leaving my daughter with my parents who will also be house sitting for me. I know that I should leave a power of attorney for them but I am not sure what type.

Answer: Congratulations on your new job! You are smart to think about getting a power of attorney. If something should happen to you, your daughter, or even your house, you need someone there to make decisions for you. There are several types of powers of attorney and which one you choose depends on how much power you want to give the agent(s), the person/people you give permission to carry out your wishes.

  • General Power of Attorney. This is the broadest type of authorization you can give to your agent. A general power of attorney can be part of an estate plan as well. A power of attorney can include the buying and selling of property, managing your real estate, or taking care of financial decisions. A general power of attorney can give your agent the authority to file your taxes. It can also include the power to represent you in a court of law. Because this legal document is very powerful you need to appoint someone whom you trust.
  • Special or Limited Power of Attorney. Gives the agent the authority to act on your behalf on specific situations. It can cover most of what a general power of attorney covers but narrows the scope to what authorization your agent has. You can give your agent authorization to care for your home but not sell it. You can have more than one special power of attorney to the same agent for different situations.
  • Conventional Power of Attorney. Most standard power of attorneys fall under this category. The agent has power from the time the document is signed until the principal becomes mentally incapacitated.
  • Durable Power of Attorney. This gives your agent the right to make decisions if you become incapacitated or pass away. A general and special power of attorney can be made a durable power of attorney. If your power of attorney does not specifically say that it is “durable” then your agent can only exercise the power you have. In other words, if you have an accident and slip into a comma your agent cannot sign to sell your home since you are not able to do so yourself.

Michael Camacho is president and chief executive officer of Personal Finance Center. He has more than 20 years of experience in retail banking and at financial institutions in Guam and Hawaii. If there is a topic you’d like Michael to cover, please email him at and read past columns at the Money Matters blog at

Be prepared in case of disaster

When a disaster forces you to evacuate, and you have minutes to decide what to take with you, you may not have the time to search through files to find your passport, or wait for printouts of your important documents. Whether it’s an earthquake, a fire, or a tsunami warning, you’ve got to get to safety as quickly as possible.

But if you keep an emergency pack by the door, filled in advance with essentials for basic survival and copies of financial documents that can aid your recovery, you’ll be in a much better position to respond to the disaster, both in the short term and the long term.

When it comes to disaster and your personal finances, you will want to be sure of three things: that you can continue to manage your day-to-day finances, that you can efficiently deal with the damage, and that you’ve preserved important documents that would be difficult to replace.

You also will want to anticipate handling these tasks without the Internet, access to your computer, a power source or a network for your cellphone, or electricity in general. Disasters are unpredictable, and the more prepared you are, the better off you will be if things take a turn worse than expected.

Managing your finances. If you have a working landline, and nothing else, you can still make sure you pay your bills on time, or notify your creditors about unexpected financial hardship that came with the disaster. You just need a printed list that includes the bills that are expected every month, quarter and year. List customer service phone numbers, account numbers and bank account numbers, both from your regular account and your emergency fund, and you’ll be able to manage your finances right off the bat.

Be sure to safeguard this information: you want it available, but you also don’t want identity thieves to get a hold of it. Keep it in a safe place, and tell your trusted family members about it, so that they know to grab it if you’re not home.

Dealing with disaster. You will want contact information and copies of your insurance policies in your pack, along with receipts and an inventory of your belongings. Having that information with you can give you peace of mind, and it can smooth the way for the claims process. You also should consider keeping some emergency cash in your bag.

Preserving your important documents. It’s a good idea to place your family’s most important papers (records on birth, death, adoption, marriage, divorce, social security, medical instructions), financial records (wills, deeds, insurance policies, tax returns), and digital backups in a safety deposit box. For more peace of mind, you can add copies of these documents to your emergency pack, along with your family’s health insurance cards, prescriptions, passports, emergency contact numbers and an inventory of your financial accounts.

Preparing your finances for disaster can take some time and effort. But when those minutes really count, you’ll be glad you did so.

Michael Camacho is president and chief executive officer of Personal Finance Center. He has more than 19 years experience in retail banking and with financial institutions in Guam and Hawaii. You can email him at