ROSELAND – Do you have a plan for you or your family if a crisis occurs?
Imagine not being able to contact your friends or family members. How would you know if everyone was safe?
Does your family have a list of basic steps and information to follow?
A natural disaster or a family crisis could happen at any time. Because September is National Preparedness Month, the New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants (NJSCPA) suggests creating an emergency file, or a contingency plan, to lessen the anxiety of a crisis.
“Often, when an emergency happens, people can get stressed and make bad decisions just because they’re not thinking clearly,” says Carl Specht, CPA, a partner at the Costantino, Specht, Templeton & Co., LLC in Secaucus. “Wait. Try not to make any important financial decisions while you are still feeling the emotions of a major loss or tragedy.
“If you invest some time today in planning,” Specht says, “you will find that having a written strategy will help ease pressure and uncertainty in a time of stress.”
Develop a contingency plan binder.
When tragedy strikes, there is often no time to go through drawers, filing cabinets and shoe boxes looking for pertinent information. Those who bear responsibility for your affairs need the relevant material immediately. First, find a folder or binder with dividers and label each section.
Some ideas for sections in your notebook are:
- Action List
- Key Contacts
- Medical Notes
- Financial Accounts
- Business Interests
- Asset Inventory
- Funeral Instructions
- Estate Planning Documents
- Personal Items
Gather your important documents and place them in the appropriate file. For sake of your loved ones, begin your contingency book right away. Once you are satisfied it is complete, show it to your family and tell them where they can find it.
Surviving the crisis — what’s next?
Here are some tips on regaining financial balance in the days following a disaster from Disaster Recovery: a Guide to Financial Issues, published as a public service by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, American Red Cross and National Endowment for Financial Education:
Try to avoid making major financial decisions.
If your home is damaged and uninhabitable, contact the Red Cross, your county office of emergency management or other local disaster relief organizations to guide you to shelters and temporary housing.
If you need cash, contact the Red Cross, and if you are in a major disaster area, call the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). They may be able to guide you to sources of emergency cash assistance. You may receive emergency cash assistance from federal, state or local government following the declaration of a disaster. The money generally is not taxable.
If you don’t think you’ll be able to pay all your bills, contact your creditors and ask for more time. If your residence is temporarily uninhabitable or totally destroyed, notify service companies – like the utility and phone company – so they can stop billing immediately. Try to pay as many of your bills on time as possible to protect your credit rating.
You may want to consider the assistance of a professional financial advisor. Ask friends or other professional advisors, such as your lawyer, for references. You may also check with organizations like the NJSCPA. The Disaster Recovery Guide is available online at www.MoneyMattersNJ.com/recovery, or a printed copy can be requested by calling 1-973-226-4494, ext. 246, or emailing email@example.com. You’ll find vital information written with the needs of New Jersey residents in mind. There is advice on how to prepare for possible disasters, and step-by-step information about how to address many of the personal and financial issues that follow in the wake of a disaster.
If you are having trouble deciding which financial information – or how much of it – you should include in your disaster file, a CPA can help. He or she can assist you in deciding which financial documents are necessary for your contingency plan. If you don’t have a CPA, you can locate one using the NJSCPA’s free online referral service at www.findacpa.com. You can search for qualified professionals based on location, the size of the firm where they work or even the languages they speak.
For more information on various personal financial matters, visit the NJSCPA’s public service website at www.MoneyMattersNJ.com. While visiting, you can subscribe to Your Money Matters, the NJSCPA’s free, monthly email newsletter to receive valuable personal financial planning advice throughout the year.
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