Build a financial first-aid kit

We all know the essential survival items to stockpile in preparation for a crisis: food, water, medical supplies and survival equipment.

However, what many people tend to overlook is organizing the crucial documents they will need in a crisis, including financial documents.

Carefully review this list of documents and start gathering the ones that are applicable to you and your family. In most cases, a photocopy of the original document will suffice.

When considering which documents to include, stop and consider what you will require if society breaks down and you need to start from scratch. Think of it as your financial first-aid kit… and much more.

Personal documents and important paperwork include:

  • Master list of all financial accounts with pertinent information (account numbers, contact info, expiration dates, security codes/password/pin). Have all info ready in case you need to cancel accounts if lost, compromised or stolen.
  • Recent bank statements for every account (savings, checking, credit card, stocks, etc.)
  • Contact list (family, friends, doctors, banks, employers, insurance agents)
  • Recent photo and important information for every family member (allergies, height/weight info)
  • Personal identification you carry in your wallet (at least two forms of photo ID for each person)
  • Birth certificate
  • Social Security card
  • Driver’s license
  • Passport and/or travel visas
  • Marriage license
  • Will
  • Living will
  • Health and dental insurance cards
  • Medical history, immunization records and a list of all medications
  • Prescriptions for important medications and/or eyeglasses
  • Insurance policies
  • Property deeds
  • Titles for cars and home
  • Last year’s tax return
  • Employment proof (paystub)
  • Account and contact info for all bills, such as phone, gas, electric, cable, etc.
  • College, high school and trade school diplomas
  • Important photos
  • Military documents, if applicable
  • License to carry permit, if applicable
  • Home inventory list. Tracking items you own will help you recover payment from your insurance company, if necessary. Record date purchased, model/serial numbers, descriptions and value. Have jewelry, art and collectibles appraised by professionals and include copies with your inventory. Don’t forget to inventory the exterior of your home, including swimming pool, fencing and even trees. Include anything that adds value to your property.

Additional useful documents:

  • Local and state maps
  • Pocket constitution (always know your rights, especially during a crisis)
  • Translation book for any language you may need, depending on your geographical location

Documentation to be kept specifically with survival supplies:

  • Repair manual for cars
  • Manuals for any devices you may use during an emergency

Once you’ve gone through the above list and marked the items you need included, it’s time to carefully store your documents.

Keep in mind, this information is highly personal and valuable, and therefore should be kept confidential, especially in an emergency situation when theft and crime are common.

When considering storage, make sure documents won’t be destroyed by water or fire, and are safe and not accessible to thieves.

You’ll need both hard copies and digital copies. Having hard copies can be especially helpful if you need to quickly access info on the go, or need to prove your identity.

Hard Copies

You’ll want to create at least two hard copies of your documents. One set should be included in your bug-out-bag. This set should be protected from water damage by either laminating every page or purchasing a lightweight waterproof package.

Consider purchasing a waterproof pouch that has a waste strap, much like a fanny pack but thin enough that you can wear it under your clothing for additional safety.

The second set of documents should be stored somewhere safe in your home. If you have a fireproof safe, store them inside.

If not, carefully place them somewhere in your home where a casual visitor would never see them. This set should also be waterproofed, in case of a home flood.

Digital Copies 

In addition to your hard copies, you should also keep digital copies of all your documents on a thumb drive or other small, easy-to-carry digital device. An old smart phone, iPod, Kindle or other digital device can be used for device storage.

If you have a device that contains ample storage room once you’ve added all documents, don’t leave that space unused. Consider other information that can aid in an emergency situation, such as survival and medical books.

You can easily add PDFs to any digital device, so convert all files to PDF form for digital storage. Don’t forget to protect your device from water damage by storing in a waterproof pouch.

Depending on the size of your device, purchase a wearable pouch. If you have two devices you can dedicate to your survival document storage, include one in your bug-out-bag. The other should be stored along with your hard copy.

You’ll need to protect your personal information in case someone gets ahold of your digital device. There are a few ways you can do this:

1) Security software can be uploaded to the device to password protect documents.

2) Hide files to make them invisible to people who don’t know how to unhide them.

3) Change file names from something obvious to something obscure.

4) You can even switch the file extension after changing the file name, such as from .pdf to .jpg.

Set aside time to make document storage a short-term goal for your entire family. If you already have your personal documents stored, now is a good time to review them.

Reviewing documents should be done on a yearly basis, including your home inventory list. Make sure to add any new holiday purchases or gifts to your home inventory list.

You can download my checklist here: PHQ-POST-CHECKLIST-FOR-PRINT

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