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

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Deductions to consider when filing your taxes

This was originally published on Monday, February 17, 2014, in the Pacific Daily News.  Click here to subscribe to the PDN.

Last week’s Money Matters listed a few possible deductions or payments that you should consider when filing your taxes. Here are more to think about.

Medical or dental bills

Did you have medical issues that required frequent visits to the doctor or dentist? You may be able to deduct some of the expenses from your tax return. To do so, you will have to itemize your deductions. If you are claiming any medical expenses, you cannot file short form 1040A or 1040EZ. According to the Internal Revenue Service, take the following into consideration when filing a claim for any of your medical expenses:

• Add up your medical and dental expenses for yourself, spouse or dependents during 2013, you must use the date you paid the amount, not the date the medical service was received. Include co-payments and unreimbursed amounts for prescriptions, doctor visits and procedures. Some insurance premiums, medical supplies, medical-related mileage and transportation costs also may apply.

• If your total expenses are more than 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income, you can deduct the portion of your expenses that exceed 7.5 percent. Example — if your income is $50,000, you can claim your medical expenses that are more than $3,750.

• You must have all your receipts for the services you are claiming.

To learn more about if you can claim your medical or dental expenses, visit the IRS website at www.irs.gov and download Publication 502.

Medicare

If you are on Medicare, you may qualify for the new 2013 Medicare tax rate of 0.9 percent if you work and make a certain amount during the year. This will be in addition to the regular Medicare tax you are already paying. These are a few things the IRS lists to consider if this new tax applies to you:

• If you are a single taxpayer, the tax applies if you make over $200,000 a year;

• If you are married and filing jointly, and your combined income is more than $250,000; or

• If you are married and filing separately and your total income is over $125,000, you may have to make additional payments.

To report your Social Security taxes, use Form 8959. Some of these payments may be costly, so ask your employer to withhold more taxes on your paycheck or make estimated quarterly payments to the IRS. To find out more if you qualify, go to the IRS website. You may also use their Withholding Calculator.

Military or reservist

There are dozens of tax provisions for military members and their families. Here are just few from the IRS:

• Filing for tax returns: Extensions are available for military members who are on duty outside of the United States on the day of the tax return.

• Tax deductions:

• Active duty out-of-pocket moving expenses if the move was because of a permanent change of duty station (PCS); and

• Un-reimbursed uniform costs can qualify as a tax deduction if military regulations don’t allow you to wear your uniform off duty.

Publication 3, the Armed Forces Tax Guide, is available on the IRS website to review if you meet the requirements for these or other tax provisions.

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.