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 moneymattersguam@yahoo.com and read past columns at the Money Matters blog at www.moneymattersguam.wordpress.com.

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Be prepared in case of a medical emergency

This was originally published on Monday, June 2, 2014, in the Pacific Daily News.  Click here to subscribe to the PDN.

Question: I recently had a friend who had a serious medical emergency. She is doing much better, but was unprepared for this situation. This has me thinking of what I need to do in case a medical emergency happens to me. Do you have any suggestions?

Answer: I am pleased to hear that your friend is doing better. Medical emergencies can happen anytime, anywhere. Many don’t plan and find themselves in a position that goes against their wishes, especially when they cannot communicate. Being prepared for them takes a little planning, but it’s worth it. Your plan should include procedures for minor emergencies to the worst case — passing away. Create a file and put it in a safe place. Your emergency contact also should get a copy of the file. Your file should contain:

• Medical information: This information also should be kept in a place that is easily found in your home, your car and in your wallet. Let those that are your “in case of emergency” contacts know exactly where your information and legal documents are. The information should contain:

• Your name, age and gender;

• Who to contact in case of emergency or next of kin;

• Your insurance company name, phone number and policy;

• A list of the medications you take and the dosage;

• Any medical conditions you may have;

• Previous surgeries;

• Name and phone numbers of your primary care provider and clinic. If you see a specialist, include that information as well;

• Name and phone numbers of religious leaders or place of worship;

• Any allergies or dietary restrictions; and

• Your blood type.

This information should be kept updated as your health changes. If you have children, create a sheet for them. Keep a copy with you and place one in their school bag, wallet or purse. If you have a serious condition or allergies, use a medical ID bracelet or dog tag to identify your condition. Look online for templates of credit card-sized information templates you can fill out and print.

• Important documents: A copy of these documents may be needed to check you into a hospital:

• Identification cards (driver’s license, Guam ID, military ID, student ID, etc.);

• Your birth certificate;

• A copy of your passport;

• Your health insurance card;

• Updated immunization card;

• Social Security card;

• Letter of instruction or living will; and

• Funeral and burial plans.

On your phone, create an ICE “In Case of Emergency” contact. I was able to do this on my Samsung Galaxy S4 Active. This acronym is recognized by first responders. Research online how your phone can be programed to create an ICE contact. This contact should be able to be viewed without having to unlock the phone. Whatever contact you choose will show up on the Emergency Call List, even if your phone is locked.

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  moneymattersguam@yahoo.com and read past columns at the Money Matters blog at www.moneymattersguam.wordpress.com.

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 moneymattersguam@yahoo.com.