Monday, November 2, 2020

Are Your Finances Ready For Disaster? (Part 2 - Important Documents)

By Timothy Gamble 

If you haven't read it yet, Part 1 of this article discusses Emergency Funds. 

Part 2- Record Keeping and Important Documents

The importance of maintaining good records and securing important documents cannot be over-emphasized. This will help you both in your regular life, and in the event of a disaster. 

We may think of paperwork as being an bothersome and time consuming requirement of modern life, but in reality it helps us to be better organized, which saves us time in the long run. It provides clarity regarding our current circumstances. It helps with planning for future goals and events. It helps in communicating with our spouse, business partners, or others what our concerns and needs are. Finally, maintaining good records helps to prove our case when dealing with banks, insurance companies or even the government. 

After a disaster, such as a tornado, hurricane, house fire, or Antifa riot, having an organized system for your records will pay off in a big way when you need to quickly get at important information, such as insurance records. (We'll discuss how to safely store these records later in this article.)

Some may say "But the government is going to collapse soon, and then we won't need paperwork." Actually, we will need it. Despite the common survivalist fantasy of a post-collapse world in which there is virtually no government (such a lovely dream), the truth is that even if the government totally collapses, a new government (probably worse than we have now) will form. And the first thing they will want to do is see our paperwork, particularly in regards to ownership of property, businesses, money, or other assets. You just wait and see. Having proper paperwork won't completely protect you from an authoritarian government, but it will help. 

What are the important documents we need to collect and maintain? Here is a list of some of the documents you want to have available at a moment’s notice, for yourself and all your family members:

  • Birth Certificates
  • Marriage Certificates
  • Death Certificates 
  • Copies of Wills, Trusts, Powers-of-Attorney
  • Copies of Driver's Licenses and social security cards
  • Military discharge papers
  • Copies of credit cards, bank numbers, and other financial info
  • Contact information for your bank and other financial institutions
  • A copy of your checkbook ledger, and a spare book of checks
  • Contact information and account numbers for insurance, investment accounts, utilities, etc. 
  • Tax, insurance, and other financial records
  • Title & Registration information for your vehicles
  • Passports
  • Medical and immunization records
  • A list of all medications 
  • Health Insurance information
  • Pet Records (registration, vaccinations, etc.) 
  • Copies of your high school diploma and collage degrees
  • High School and College Transcripts
  • Contact information for family, friends, co-workers, etc.
  • Home, Property, and Auto deeds
  • Mortgage information  
  • An inventory of household valuables (including serial numbers and photographs of expensive items)
  • Documentation for any small businesses you own, including business licenses, tax numbers, property and equipment ownership, customer and client lists, vendor lists, insurance information, bank account information, etc.
This is only a partial list of possible documents you may need to keep. There may be other documents you'll need depending on your own particular circumstances. 

Store All Documents and Back Up Copies Safely!

You probably already have paper copies of most of these documents at home in various desk drawers or a file cabinet. Your first action step is to collect everything together, look through what you have, and see if you are missing anything. If so, start collecting copies of the missing documents. DON"T JUST ASSUME YOU HAVE EVERYTHING ALREADY. Double check and make sure. 

Next, organize and store your important documents together in a secure place, probably in your home. A lockable, fire-proof safe, file cabinet, or document bag will work nicely. ROLOWAY makes a large-capacity document bag that is fire-proof (to 2000 degrees F), water-resistent, and lockable. It is currently available on Amazon. This is a great storage solution for most folks. Amazon also has a variety of safes and fireproof cabinets

Original documents that would be hard to replace may be stored in a safe deposit box, but you need to be aware of some potential problems. I'll discuss this in more detail below. Even if you do store original copies in a safe deposit box, keep photocopies or digital copies with your other documents.  

Security of your documents from theft should be considered. Although it is impossible to keep anything 100% safe from all possible threats, certain steps can be taken to reduce the risk of theft. These include commonsense home security such as using deadbolt locks on your doors, having some form of security system, and maintaining operational security (not making public knowledge when your family is and isn't home, not revealing the location of important items and documents, etc.). Keeping the documents hidden or under lock-and-key is important.  

Back Up Copies of Important Documents should be maintained. You might include them in your bug-out bag, store them in a safe deposit box, and/or store them safely at work or a trusted friend's house. I recommend keeping a separate set at your bug-out location if possible. Think through what works best for you. 

These back up copies can be digitized and loaded on an encrypted USB memory stick.. I carry a USB memory stick on my key chain and another in my bug-out bag. I personally like and use the rugged GorillaDrive USB drives. You could also put an encrypted copy of your documents on your smart phone.

However, in a SHTF situation, you may not have ready access to a computer, so it might be wise to have hard copies of some documents. I have two 9x6 clasp envelopes containing documents that fit easily in my bug-out bag without adding a lot of weight or taking up much room. Insert them in a plastic zip bag for waterproofing.  

In your bug-out bag, you don't have to have everything as paper copies. That would just take up too much room. For example, when I refinanced my home a few years ago, the mortgage paperwork was over 160 pages long. No problem on a memory stick (the mortgage company emailed me the entire package as a .pdf), but I'm not lugging a hard copy of all that around with me in my bug-out bag. Instead, I just put the two-page summary (which has all the important numbers and information) in the 9x6 envelope I previously mentioned.

I recommend keeping a separate set at your bug-out location if possible. Another possibility is keeping a set at work (locked in a desk drawer or file cabinet) or at a trusted relative or friend's place.

What about bank safe deposit boxes? This could be an option for some people, particularly for original documents that may be hard to replace. Just remember a few things: First, you won't have 24/7 access to the documents, as banks are generally closed at night, and on weekends and holidays. Also, in many SHTF circumstances, banks may not open during normal business hours because of inclement weather, natural disasters, or "bank holidays" during financial disasters. Second, if you are forced to suddenly bug-out it is doubtful you'll have time to swing by the bank to collect your documents, even if the bank is open. Third, your documents and other items in safe deposit boxes are NOT insured by the government (FDIC does NOT cover safe deposit boxes), and may or may not be insured privately by the bank. You'll have to read your agreement closely to find out if your bank maintains any insurance on the contents, and what the exclusions are. Finally, be aware of what happened in Argentina during their financial crisis. Banks were closed by the government for an extend period of time. When they reopened, bank customers found that their safe deposit boxes had been emptied out, either by corrupt bank employees or corrupt government officials. 

Part 3 of this article will be posted on November 12, and will cover insurance. 


ROLOWAY Large Fireproof Document Bag.  The ROLOWAY Large (17"x12"x5.8") Fireproof (to 2000°F) and Water-resistant Document Bag is perfect for your important documents, files, cash, and other valuables. Currently available on Amazon for less than $45 (as of 8-19) and free shipping.


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