People prepare for big storms by stocking up on things like water, gas and batteries, but they often forget about putting their finances in order.

John Woods, President of Southport Capital in Atlanta and author of The Smart Route to a Dream Retirement, has four ways to prepare your finances for a disaster.

  1. Keep Cash on Hand: It’s a good idea to have emergency cash on hand to ensure you are able to purchase any necessities during or after the storm. Banks may close and ATMs could go down during the storm and may not be up and running for days. Stores may not be able to process a debit or credit card transaction and may only be accepting cash. Consider how much money you will need for food, gas and other necessities when deciding how much money you will need. “This is an example of why it is so important to have an emergency fund for your family. I recommend having enough cash in a savings account to cover 6 months worth of expenses. Build up your savings so that money is available to you during an emergency,” Woods said.
  2. Secure Important Documents: Think about the financial paperwork you might need: your home, auto, health and life insurance policies; phone numbers to file a claim; credit card, bank account and investment account information; as well as real estate deeds. Store your important documents and emergency cash in a locked, waterproof and fireproof container that you can take with you in case you are evacuated. “One of the most stressful things following a disaster is locating your important documents and insurance policies and knowing who to call. Save yourself the time and stress by putting all these documents in one place now,” Woods added.
  3. Take Inventory: If you have to file an insurance claim after the storm, it will be much easier if you have an inventory of your possessions. Take pictures of individual items, as well as entire rooms and inside drawers. Consider recording a video as you walk through your home, describing items you see in each room. Be sure you are detailed in your inventory. Note where you purchased your possessions and for how much. This inventory is also useful if you claim any losses on your taxes.
  4. Check Your Insurance: You may not have had a chance to do this before Hurricane Florence, but this is an important reminder before another natural disaster strikes. Make sure all of your insurance policies are up to date and check for any potential lapses in your coverage. This includes your home, auto and life insurance. “Life insurance provides protection for your loved ones. I recommend anyone with dependents, including a spouse and/or children, consider getting life insurance,” Woods said. “The death benefit on the policy can help pay for funeral costs, pay bills, keep a family business afloat, pay off debt or finance a child’s education.”