As people all over the United States have discovered, you can be affected by natural or man-made disasters regardless of where you live. Floods, fires, tornadoes, hurricanes, early winter storms, gas leaks, oil spills – you name it, severe weather or other disasters seem ready to rear their ugly heads somewhere. So let’s take some time now to see how protected your tax documents are in the event of some disaster. (Even the IRS has gotten on the band-wagon, encouraging citizens to prepare for the start of hurricane season.) Let’s take a look at what can you do besides worry…
Don’t worry – work!
There are some simple steps that you can take to help guarantee the safety of your financial, personal, and tax records:
Assemble your crucial financial, tax and identity records.
Transfer these records to an electronic form to safeguard them. Scanning or downloading the information are good options.
Start the habit of regularly storing financial data electronically as you receive the information: bank statements, credit card statements, tax returns.
Oh, and by the way, you ARE backing up your computer, right? If not, then get with it – there are reputable off-site back up companies out there. You could also look into a service that your financial planner or bank may have for your use; called a ‘Vault’, it’s a password-protected storage center for any and all personal and financial information.
As a back-up, you can put ‘hard copies’ of documents in a safe deposit box at a bank, or place a fire-resistant safe out of harm’s way in your house. However, remember that proximity to your home may not be the best idea – if disaster strikes, or even if there is a power outage, a physical holding place may not be of much help. (And, by the way – crucial – remember where you put the key or codes!)
Document your household valuables by compiling a room-by-room list; it is best if you have pictures or videos as well. Keep current with this list by adding your purchase receipts of large-ticket items as well as household improvements – and please, scan them in so that you have them electronically! (PS – there now is software that can scan your purchases when you get them home, and import the info to a database.)
This is important…
There are lots of great sites out there to help you compile an ‘Emergency Kit’ with physical supplies and plans that you can use to get yourself through a power outage or natural disaster. But don’t forget that your financial, personal identification, and tax records are the backbone of how we function in this society, and taking time NOW to assure that you will always be able to access your crucial information can be a life-saver of a different sort.