With tropical storm Debby pounding the Tampa Bay area today and hurricane season on its way, we can’t help thinking about what we would do if we lost our most important documents should mother nature strike. Jim Wang saves the day and sheds light on the best ways to safeguard your documents.
We all have important documents. From the title to your car or house, to birth certificates, Social Security cards, and tax returns. We have to protect those important records and documents. You want to make sure that you can access these records when you need them, but you also need to make sure they are safe from the ravages of natural disasters.
If your home sustains damage because of flood, fire, tornado, earthquake, or act of God, you want to make sure that your important records aren’t destroyed in the process. One way to do this is to purchase a properly rated safe. There are safes designed to withstand fire and flood. Your original documents can be well protected. But what happens if you can’t access them when you need them? The answer is to keep an electronic copy in a safe place.
Keep Your Records Electronically
One way you can improve your ability to keep your records safe and accessible is to keep them electronically. Many investment brokers, banks, and even insurance companies provide electronic copies of important documents and statements. In this case, it’s often possible to access at least 12 months (or more) worth of information online.
You can also create your own electronic files. Just scan your original documents to create an electronic copy. You can keep these on a flash drive separate from the originals. You can keep it in a safe deposit box at the bank or a safe at your home (unless that’s where your paper copies are). It’s also possible to back up your files using secure cloud storage services. Even emailing them to yourself can create an easily accessible backup copy available where ever you have Internet access.
Protecting Your Electronic Files
Naturally, since these are all sensitive documents, you will be concerned with security. The downside to storing your files electronically is that you run the risk of someone seeing your files. You can reduce the likelihood that someone will see sensitive personal financial information by encrypting the files and/or protecting them with a password that would be difficult for others to guess. This will make it more difficult for others to access your information, but it still leaves it largely accessible to you, with a little extra effort.
When protecting your electronic files, it’s important to make sure that the information is regularly updated. When you make changes to beneficiary information, or if you do something new with an account, you should make sure that you have the most up to date records. Using an external hard drive or flash drive can help you overwrite old information, as can online storage. Burning to disc can be effective, but you might need a new disc each time you change your information.
Lastly, you need to know that your important documents are safe and accessible. Keep originals in a good safe, but also consider keeping electronic copies. You might eventually need the originals of your important papers, but if they are buried under the rubble of your home, the electronic record that you have stored in a secure cloud drive online might suffice until your records are available. Take the proper steps to protect your information, and you will be prepared in any emergency.