Protecting Your Personal Information & Financial Documents from a Natural Disaster
By Steve Jones
Regional Director – HilltopSecurities Private Client Group
Recently, Hurricane Michael slammed into the Florida panhandle, and initial reports estimate its 155 mph winds and subsequent storms claimed 29 lives1 and inflicted an estimated $8 billion2 in insured losses. All in all, Michael was the most powerful hurricane to hit the U.S. in more than 50 years.
Unfortunately, we’re all too familiar with the bird’s-eye footage of people stranded on top of roofs or wading through neighborhoods submerged in neck-high waters. In a natural disaster, the last thing on your mind are your important documents—you’re focused on making sure you and your loved ones are safe.
Yet, sorting your which documents you need to protect and how to protect them beforehand is an important part of getting your life back on track after an unforeseen event.
Which Documents Need Protecting
Disasters aren’t specific to the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. In the Plains, it’s tornadoes; in the West, mudslides and wild fires; and in the Midwest, snow storms and intense rains persist. If you’re not prepared, your important personal information and financial documents can be gone in an instant, making it difficult to recover, especially when it comes to filing insurance claims and following up on your personal finances.
Here is a list of some of the most important documents you should protect:
- Personal Documents such as social security cards, high school and university diplomas, birth and marriage certificates, various forms of personal identification, passports and driver’s licenses.
- Asset Documents such as property documents, copies of your living will or advanced healthcare directive and authenticity certificates for high-value art and other non-cash assets.
- Financial Documents such as health insurance cards and related documents, bank statements, tax records and, most importantly, stock certificates—especially if you maintain active investments and a brokerage account.
How to Safeguard Your Documents
Weather patterns seem to be getting more severe, and many people are using different solutions to collect and safeguard their information to protect themselves against unexpected disasters.
Here are a just couple of popular options you should consider:
- Personal Filing System. Many investors go the do-it-yourself route when it comes to collecting and securing their documents by creating a personalized filing system. To help decide what you should include, refer to the list above. While it’s a start, there is likely much more personal information you should include, such as important contact information. Make a list of all the items you can think of and organize them in a binder only you and your loved ones can access.
- Online Storage Company. As with everything, more and more people are turning to online vendors to store their important information and documents. While there are many available, be sure to do your research before choosing one. Go online and look into their history to make sure you’re engaging a strong and established company. Also, look for online reviews of the company—chances are, any red flags you need to know about will pop-up here and you can ask about them later if you plan to speak to a company representative.
- Safe Deposit Box. If you’re nervous about handing over all of your information and important documents to an online vendor, you can go the old-fashioned route: a safe deposit box at your bank or credit union. Using a safe deposit box is a surprisingly affordable option—some start at just $20/year—and you’ll have peace-of-mind knowing that your information and documents are in a place fortified to protect them.
At HilltopSecurities, our financial advisors understand that beyond investments and assets, your personal information and financial documents are among your most valuable items.
To help our clients, we’ve developed yourPersonal Vault —a thorough checklist and filing dossier designed around our Certainty Circle of Life planning philosophy. With yourPersonal Vault, you can strategically archive the information and documents that matter most.
To organize and safeguard your documents today, contact your HilltopSecurities financial advisor or find an advisor near you.
Hilltop Securities Inc. (HTS) is a registered broker-dealer and registered investment adviser that does not provide tax or legal advice. Additionally, Group and Individual Health Insurance products are not offered through HTS. Material presented herein is for informational use only and reflects the views of only the author. This information may not be duplicated or redistributed without prior consent of HTS, and distribution or publication of this material does not represent a solicitation to complete a financial transaction with the firm. Though information was prepared from sources believed reliable, HTS does not guarantee its accuracy or completeness. Securities offered by HTS (1) are not insured by the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) or by any other federal government agency; (2) are not bank deposits; (3) are not guaranteed by any bank or bank affiliate; and (4) may lose value. HTS is a wholly owned subsidiary of Hilltop Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: HTH) located at 1201 Elm Street, Suite 3500, Dallas, Texas 75270, 214.859.1800. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.