Bug-out bags have long been the rage among the “what-if crowd” and they’re quickly becoming more popular in mainstream circles too. These bags are designed to be grabbed quickly in case “something” happens. They can contain anything from several days worth of meals, to survival gear, to weapons, to water purifiers, to several day’s worth of clothing. I suppose it always makes sense to be prepared – after all, you never know when you’ll need to escape into the strip of woods between Elm Street and Highland Drive when civilization collapses.
What makes a lot more sense (to me anyway) is to have a Financial Bug-Out Bag. This is a bag, a three-sided file folder, or an accordion file with your critical financial documents and possibly even some cash. If you found yourself having to quickly take shelter from a natural disaster (flood, wildfire, windstorm), this bag could potentially help you get back on your feet more quickly.
Most of these items should already be in your safe deposit box or in a secured, fire resistant safe at your home, so copies would be your best bet for your Financial Bug-Out Bag.
What to put in your Financial Bug-Out Bag
- Cash – a few days worth (ATM’s could be down)
- Credit card statements and copies of your cards (front and back)
- Birth certificates for you and your loved ones
- Marriage certificate
- Social Security cards
- Driver’s licenses
- Health insurance cards
- Any important medical records or information on prescriptions
- Eyeglasses or contact lens prescriptions
- Any titles, deeds, or registrations for real estate
- Titles, or registrations for any vehicles you own
- Mortgage and other loan information
- Insurance policies or at least the policy numbers
- Property appraisals
- A list of high value items (jewelry, guns, artwork, collections, furs, etc)
- Investment and IRA records
- Income tax returns
- Bank account records
- Employer benefit statements
I’d consider putting a small notebook with a few pens in your bug-out bag as well. Inside, write down any important phone numbers (your family and extended family, your doctor, your pharmacist, your bank or financial institution, your employer, your insurance agent, your insurance company’s claims number and the phone numbers to local utilities). Include any information you may need to remember since you may not be thinking clearly when a disaster strikes. The notebook will also come in handy for keeping a diary of what happened, where you went, and what you spent.
Another important item to include is pictures or a video of your home, inside and out, with all your personal property on display. I know one customer of mine who wasn’t being fairly treated by his homeowner’s insurer after he lost his home in a fire (total loss from a faulty electric blanket). Only when his niece reminded him that she had taken a very detailed video of the entire home, including inside the closets, did his insurance company relent and pay him what the home and its contents were worth. That video was worth its weight in gold!
You may never need a Financial Bug-Out Bag
Let’s hope you don’t. But in the meantime, get your valuables appraised and make sure your current homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy provides enough coverage for the appraised items. You can also attach insurance riders for most of those items.