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Andrew K. Johnson
Communications Manager/GreenPath Financial Wellness
GreenPath Financial Wellness Stresses Importance of Having Financial Plan in Place before Disaster
Emergency fund and ID need to be close-by in case of evacuation
(FARMINGTON HILLS, MI - July 6, 2012) Fires burning up and down the Colorado front range have forced many out of their homes, leaving some without a home to return to, while storms up and down the East Coast have homeowners cleaning up downed trees, smashed cars and homes and other storm-related damage.
June illustrated that many of us live only moments away from potential disaster and how we should prepare as much as possible for a future emergency. There’s no doubt that these emergencies on both sides of the country has taken its toll on evacuee and storm survivors finances.
We, at GreenPath, offer our thoughts and prayers to all those affected by the recent natural disasters. For those who haven’t been directly affected, this is a teachable moment, showing how important it is to be prepared for an emergency.
Here are some tips to consider and adopt before an emergency:
• Set aside an emergency fund of three-to-six months of expenses, so that emergencies of many sorts can be weathered.
• Having an available credit line on a credit card for emergency use can give you peace of mind. But make sure you have a plan to pay off the debt.
• List all your payments and compile addresses, account numbers and contact information for all your creditors and those who you receive a bill from.
• Keep important papers in a fireproof lock box or other place so you can quickly grab them if you need to (or can be retrieved after a home fire).
• Offsite or “cloud” storage systems can be used to store important information you could need in an emergency.
Here are some guidelines for handling your finances during an emergency:
• If possible, continue to pay monthly bills and avoid late payments. Ask the creditor to waive a late fee, should you receive one. Consider setting up online bill-paying options if you have Internet access.
• Don’t assume your creditor knows your circumstances. Update your creditors on your emergency situation and provide updated contact information.
• If you’re unable to pay a debt you owe, immediately see if your creditor can defer payments under a hardship clause. Most can do so for a month or two under emergency circumstances.
• Make sure you know all aspects of your insurance policy.
• Save receipts for all purchases. Your insurance may cover some expenses if you keep good records, and you may be able to qualify for disaster relief when it’s time to file your taxes.
• Limit credit card use only to essential items so your debt doesn’t increase more than necessary. Those low on savings should keep costs as low as possible and take advantage of free community services.
• Avoid drawing out of retirement accounts, as penalties may be assessed. If you must, first check if you have a Roth IRA to tap into, as taxes have already been paid on such investments.
GreenPath Financial Wellness is a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-approved housing counseling agency, available to help you make decisions regarding your housing needs and goals. In addition, GreenPath counselors are available if you have questions or are experiencing financial difficulties, regardless of circumstances.
GreenPath Financial Wellness is a nationwide, non-profit financial organization that assists consumers with credit card debt, housing debt and bankruptcy concerns. Their customized services and attainable solutions have been helping people achieve their financial goals since 1961. Headquartered in Farmington Hills, Michigan, GreenPath operates more than 55 branch offices in Michigan, New York, New Hampshire, Colorado, Florida, Texas, Vermont, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Arizona and Wyoming. GreenPath also delivers licensed services throughout the United States over the Internet and telephone. GreenPath is a member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) and is accredited by the Council on Accreditation (COA). For more information, visit www.greenpath.org.