Your Financial Emergency Binder: What, Why & How to Get Started


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An emergency binder contains critical information that ensures you and your family are better prepared when time is of the essence. In the event of a natural disaster, fire or other catastrophe, the focus should be on safety rather than trying to gather important documents and information that will be needed later. That is where the financial emergency binder comes in and preparing ahead of time ensures that you have quick and easy access to important information so you can focus on safety when time is short.

So, what exactly goes into an emergency binder? The easiest way to answer this query is to imagine that everything is gone from your house. What would you, or your family, need in order to get back on your feet? Copies of identification cards, social security cards, bank information, insurance policies, and more. Remember, using the binder may be after a traumatic event, so good organization is crucial.

Here is a list of categories and items to include in your binder:

  • Emergency Contacts/Numbers
    • Family members
    • Kids’ school and daycare
    • Doctor
    • Utility companies
  • Medical Information
    • Medical history
    • List of prescriptions
    • Immunization records
    • Insurance cards copies (front and back)
  • Documents
    • Title to vehicles and home
    • Birth certificates
    • Passports
    • Wills
    • Wedding license
    • Power of Attorney
  • IDs (Copies)
    • Driver’s license
    • Credit cards
    • Military CAC
    • Social Security cards
  • Financial Information
    • List of institutions
    • Account numbers
    • Website and passwords
    • Investments
  • Insurance
    • Providers
    • Copy of all policies (life, homeowners, etc.)
    • Agents’ phone numbers
  • Emergency Cash

You took the time to put your binder together, now what? Keeping it safe and easily accessible is your next step. A water- and fireproof container are your best options; for most people this means a safe. If you have to get out of the house on short notice you can grab the binder or know that it will survive whatever your home may not.

Maintaining more than one copy is also a good idea. Store one copy of the binder in your home and another copy in a distant location. A safety deposit box at the bank or online with password protection are your best secondary options for storage. This will further ensure that if disaster strikes, your hard work won’t be wasted.

Finally, compiling the binder and keeping it in a safe place is a great start but being prepared means staying up to date as well. Determine a scheduled time to update the binder with new information, be it monthly, quarterly or, at a minimum, annually. Outdated information such as an old list of prescriptions or a phone number to your teenager’s preschool won’t be helpful.

Preparing for the worst can seem daunting, but it is necessary. Luckily, there are a host of great resources available to get you started. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau provides excellent guides and resources for your financial emergency binder. It also has links to other sites and information to help plan for the other facets of emergency preparedness, like your physical safety.

Source: MICPA

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