So far 2017 has given us hurricanes, wild fires, earthquakes are more. Some of us are more prepared than others. Check out his article from the NY Times. Maybe this will help you with whatever weather disaster is next.
In praise of emergency funds! I can’t say enough about having an emergency fund to use in times of an emergency, as well as having the protection of insurance. We had a big life emergency this time, and it could have been much worse.
While Dave and I were out of the house for about an hour and a half, an emergency struck our house. A feeder line for the toilet broke and we came back to a small geyser. Not only was the bathroom flooded, the water flowed into the master bedroom and then down into the basement. Ugh! You can imagine the damage this has caused. But it could have been much worse.
So this is how our afternoon went:
* Shut off the water – we had individual shutoffs installed all over the house
* Next the clean-up began – towels, wet vacuums and more
* Contacted the insurance company to file a claim. This is the first homeowners claim we ever filed.
* Started the removal of the damaged stuff, and this was hard without Dave being able to move things.
* The insurance company sent out Service Master to remediate the damage. They moved the heavy furniture, installed the industrial fans and dehumidifiers to lessen the damage
* Next day we had to replace the modem, as we lost phone and internet service. It’s difficult to make multiple calls with only a cell phone.
* The drying out stage lasted for days. It included the carpets, hardwood floors, ceramic tiles, sheet rock, furniture and that’s only the big stuff!
Now we are at the rebuilding stage, with the contractors giving us estimates for replacing floors, hard wood and tile, sheet rocking the portion of the walls that were cut away with water damage, painting of rooms, replacing furniture and items that were damaged and more.
Living in a disorganized home as two rooms of furniture and personal items had to be moved out of the rooms and the basement, made our home somewhat of an obstacle course for quite a few weeks. Hopefully by the holidays, we can be back to our organized house.
It’s time to get your home ready for the upcoming winter months. The Farmer’s Almanac predicts another snowy winter here in the northeast.
Here are some things that we do at our house:
1. Get all the patio furniture cleaned and put inside if possible. We have a lot – and most comes inside – but there are a few pieces that are too big and heavy. For the pieces that stay out, we put those orange cones atop the table and cover with patio furniture covers. This prevents the water from puddling up. Make sure to secure the covers tightly.
2. Turn off the outside water and drain the lines. You don’t want to have to call a plumber in the middle of winter to fix a frozen line. Remember to bring in the outside garden hoses once you have drained them.
3. Clean those gutters before you have problems. Scoop out the debris from inside (even if you have gutter guards), so that the water can flow easily. Remember to clean out the down spouts too.
4. While you are on your roof… Check for leaks that might need fixing, cracks, and moss growing in the roof (not a good thing as moss holds moisture and that can mean rot). Don’t forget to look around the chimney. All these could become a major problem as we get into winter. As I have told you, it’s easier to fix a small issue now rather than a major issue later. You can either do this yourself or call a professional for help.
5. Get your heating systems tuned up and serviced before winter to make sure it’s in working order. There is nothing worse than waking up to no heat on a cold winter morning.
6. Caulk around the windows to seal up any drafts. You don’t want leaky, drafty windows sucking the heat outdoors. You should caulk every few years as preventative maintenance.
7. Because winter storms can mean loss of electricity… You will want to check up on your emergency supplies – lanterns, batteries, flashlights, battery powered radio, warm blankets, non-perishable food with a manual can opener, bottled water, and matches if you want to cook on the barbecue grill.
It’s much better to prepare ahead of time and do little projects now while the weather is nice. You don’t want to deal with emergency repairs in the winter.
So, you’ve prepared your child for college, which includes buying him a decent laptop. That’s where he’ll store all his homework, access his assignments and turn in his papers. Should be good to go, right?
Wrong. Imagine this: Your child just finished writing this really great paper and it’s due in two hours. Suddenly, the computer crashes. Maybe it’s a virus. Maybe it was because of the soda he spilled on it last night. The ‘why’ doesn’t matter right now – all that matters is that a full semester’s work was lost in a few seconds.
What’s your kid going to do?
1. Borrow another computer from a friend or the school to…
2. Access his files from the external hard drive in his room or from his cloud backup service, and…
3. Send his paper on time.
If you don’t understand anything in Step 2, read on:
External Hard Drive
This is an external storage device separate from your computer. It’s portable – from the size of a wallet to a small box. You plug it into the computer with a USB cable.
Pros: You don’t need the internet to access your files. It’s portable and you can plug it into any other computer as needed. You pay one-time for the device and not a service.
Cons: It can be lost, stolen or damaged and you need to remember to back up your files.
Cloud Backup Service
In simple terms, this is a service that stores a copy of your files on the internet. It backs up continuously and automatically as long as there’s an active internet connection.
Pros: Backs up for you and you can access your files anywhere on any computer.
Cons: Need to keep paying for the service to access your files. Must have a functional internet connection to access files.
Now that you know the different types, why not both?
That’s cheap security considering you’ll be covered for both hardware and internet related disasters.
This all sounds scary, but what are the chances?
Using a computer for school or work opens you up to some major security risks that I think need to be addressed.
1. The actual item can be lost or stolen. (You should have a locate app installed to increase your chances of finding what’s been lost.)
2. Your computer can be infected by a virus or hacked.
3. It can be damaged by liquids, a power outage, or a simple accident.
4. User error. This is where you accidentally delete or overwrite your file.
With so many security issues, the chances of something happening are pretty big. Dorm rooms are crowded work/living spaces occupied by distracted teens. Things happen… a lot.
And, it’s happened to me – a grown up with my own spacious home. Back in June, I crashed my computer. I was saved by backups and the pros to get me up and running again – but it took at least a week. I can’t thank them enough. Now, not only do I have an external hard drive and cloud back up, I have added an automatic backup systems to be double safe.
It’s Hurricane Season! At least it will be on June 1st on the Atlantic side. That gives you 2 weeks to plan your strategy – just in case.
If a hurricane is heading your way, these easy preparations will save you a lot of grief.
1. Lower your fridge and freezer temps. If and when you lose power, these large appliances are no better than a picnic cooler. Turning down the temp ahead of time will help the food last longer.
2. Pack up the yard or secure loose items. Your favorite lawn chair is a weapon of mass destruction in 100 mile per hour winds. This will save your home (and your neighbors’ homes) from flying debris.
3. Move items that are indoors to higher ground. Hurricanes often bring flooding. If you don’t have a basement, or your basement floods, move items that will be damaged by water to higher ground – either off the floor or the next story up.
4. Charge your cell phones. Assume you’ll be without electricity for a few days. After the storm, use your phone sparingly.
5. Make a paper list of important phone numbers. Who does that anymore? It’s in your phone right? If your phone dies you might have to borrow a neighbor’s, and they won’t have the numbers you need.
6. Keep important papers in one place in a water proof container or plastic bags. This should include your family records (birth, marriage, death certificates), financial records (insurance policies, bank and credit cards information, passports, social security cards, deeds, stock certificates and other valuables). If you have to evacuate you can grab them and go.
7. Have your medications (including your pets’) in one handy place. It’s the same ‘grab and go’ strategy from step 6.
8. Prepare your food pantry. If you are staying in place, make sure you have non-perishable food and water (and a manual can opener). Non-perishable means boxed or canned – they last longer than fresh foods or foods that require refrigeration. Don’t buy items that require milk, eggs, or cheese to prepare. If they’re pre-cooked, that’s even better – they might taste better heated, but it’s not necessary. Buying non-perishables is something you can do right now. Stores sell out fast, so it’s good to have your prepper foods before the hurricane is spotted.
9. Have what I call ‘camping supplies’ ready – extra batteries, lanterns, blankets, battery powered radio, car cell phone chargers, a grill for cooking, etc.
10. Cash! When power outages happen, credit card and ATM machines may not work. Hurricanes bring widespread power outages, downed trees and flooding. It might not be easy (or possible) to drive far enough to find a store or bank that still has electricity.
11. Fill up the car gas tanks before the storm gets close. Gas stations do run out! They might not even be open.
These are the basics. It shouldn’t be too overwhelming if you’ve got your to-do list ready ahead of time.
If you think it’s too much, search the web for hurricane survival stories. Millions of people have shared their personal anecdotes about the week their neighborhood became a 3rd world ‘urban campground’: No electricity, running water, heat, or access to open banks, gas stations and grocery stores. If it sounds like an adventure, you’ll also learn about the items, pets and people they lost permanently to the storm.
Be safe and be prepared.
As I write this post the temperature is 51°, the winds are howling and we are expecting 2 -3 inches of rain. By tonight it will be in the 20’s. Hard to believe that winter doesn’t officially start for another few weeks.
Here are some of the things that we do to our cars and homes before the winter weather sets in:
For the car
- Check the tire pressure for safe winter driving
- Replace old wiper blades. You want blades that work in snow, sleet and cold heavy rains
- Have the battery checked. There is nothing worse than having a dead battery in the middle of winter.
- Get the oil changed
- Add dry gas to your tank the next time you fill up
- Make sure to carry a break down kit in just in case you get stuck on the road. North Dakota’s Department of Transportation has a good list.
For the home:
- Make sure you have working smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors with new batteries
- Have your heating systems checked and cleaned
- Have your gutters and down spouts cleared after the leaves are down.
- Have your trees trimmed, removing any limbs that might be dangerous. Your insurance may cover fallen limbs but that won’t protect you from physical injury or power outages.
- Have your roof examined before the snow builds up on it.
- If you have a fireplace or wood burning stove, have your chimney cleaned.
Be prepared so you can stay safe for whatever the winter season brings.
Ugh, weather, am I right? It’s been strange in my corner of Connecticut – too cold, too hot, too snowy, and too stormy. Is it just me, or did the weather used to be mild and predictable in this state?
Spring and summer 2013 brought us wildly swinging temps and record-breaking rains. In the past few years we’ve endured major devastation from hurricanes, multiple snow storms, and tornadoes. And that’s just our corner of the world. It’s been tough all over.
You know you should have insurance to cover these disasters, don’t you? Contact your insurance company regularly to see if your most recent purchases and improvements are on your policy.
Once you have the right coverage, make sure you can prove that you actually had stuff that was worth an insurance claim. It’s not enough to say “I had a big screen TV. It was right there before the hurricane took down the north wall.”
You should have…
- Photos or videos of valuable belongings with multiple views. Do front, side, and back with close-ups of identifying words or numbers like serial numbers, make, model and even the artist’s signature on artwork.
- Original receipts with scanned copies for safekeeping. Try to keep proof of the date purchased, the store or website, and serial numbers if applicable.
- Appraisals for valuable items such as artwork, jewelry, collectibles, and home improvements.
If you’re not sure, ask your insurance company to tell you how they want you to document your stuff.
Don’t think you’re safe just because you have homeowner’s insurance. Basic policies are the least expensive option because they don’t cover high risk items or types of damage. Are you covered for floods or tornadoes? Is your fence, pool, or home addition covered?
Be prepared to purchase additional coverage if the excluded items are valuable to you. And update your policy annually as new items are purchased and old items are removed.
Keep your proof of ownership in a safe place! And keep it in more than one place!
Sure, keep a copy at home or on your computer. But nature will laugh at your flimsy paper and fragile hardware. They’re no match for a flood, fire or tornado.
Keep a copy off site (safe deposit boxes, clouds, the insurance company itself, etc.) Being prepared will save you countless wasted and tearful phone calls with your insurance agent if disaster strikes.
One thing I’ve learned over the years is not to have my savings account linked to my debit / ATM card. If I want to make an impulse purchase, I have to put some thought into it and move money either online or at the bank. This delay gives me time to talk myself out of wasting my savings on something I don’t really need.
An added benefit to keeping your accounts separate, is that if your debit card is stolen, the thief cannot access the money in your savings.
Things that mean very little in a court of law:
- Your memories
- Your mother’s memories
- Your friends opinions
- Photos of you smiling with some of your stuff in the background.
What am I getting at? I want you to face the fact that paperwork is part of life.
You can have a lot of wonderful things without legal documents: love; a nice meal; a beautiful sunset. But, you can’t get legally married, register the birth of your child, or insure your home without them. So, if you’re basking in the glow of a beautiful sunset in your own backyard, enjoying a barbecue, and surrounded by family and friends – there was paperwork involved.
Don’t slack on it. Strive to keep it up-to-date on an annual basis. Neglecting your paperwork can be just as bad for your family life as neglecting a loved one’s birthday.
Go through your files and check up on your:
- Life insurance
- Long Term Care insurance that may combine with life insurance
- Retirement accounts – IRA’s, 401K / 403B, Roth IRA’s
- Savings bonds
- Bank accounts that are payable on death
- Investments (stocks, bonds etc)
Legal documents are too often overlooked and the results can be devastating. Who’s in charge of your stuff if you suddenly pass away. If you haven’t updated your paperwork, you may have left everything to an unreliable friend, or a deceased parent instead of your spouse or adult child. In this case, I suggest that you name a second beneficiary. For our wills, we even have a third beneficiary. My attorney suggested this and it’s terrific. When my father passed away, I didn’t have to update my will. My second choice was already in place. How easy was that?
I know you’re busy, but when you, or your family, are dealing with a major life crisis, you won’t want to spend time thinking about these things. Make a habit of reviewing your important documents on a regular basis so your loved ones will receive the things you labored to give them.
If you need more convincing, check out this ABC news story
In our last issue, we discussed whether you should blend your finances when you get into a relationship. Money will be your biggest source of friction, and having boundaries doesn’t hurt. I listed some of the different financial relationships couples choose. There are different options besides “What’s mine is mine and never ‘ours’ or “It’s all or nothing or I’m out of here.”
Sometimes your best efforts to create a life together fail, and the relationship ends. Today, we’ll discuss how to unblend your finances. Whether you decided to share all of your accounts, or only share expenses, you should separate your finances as soon as possible, because you can be sure that someone’s name is on the wrong paperwork.
Take a look at your…
- Rent or Mortgage: Who is on the lease agreement or loan? It should be the one who actually lives there. Ignore that piece of wisdom and risk having your home sold out from under you.
- Utilities, cable, and cell phone: Whose name is on the accounts? They should be in the name of the person using them. If you don’t transfer ownership, you could have your utilities cut off without notice.
- Insurance: This includes car, apartment, home, life, and medical. You don’t want to be without insurance, and you don’t want your money going to the wrong person if you don’t update your beneficiaries.
- Credit cards and loans: Do you want to have your credit affected by charges that aren’t yours, or be forced to make payments on a car you don’t use?
“But Jill,” you say, “these all sound like things that happen in a hostile breakup. We’re not like that.” Even if your breakup is friendly, and your ex is as trustworthy and competent as a super hero’s alter ego, you still need to separate your accounts to protect yourself in case something happens to one of you. If one of you dies, or is mentally incapacitated, the law won’t recognize verbal agreements or promises. They only see whose name is on a piece of paper.
Let’s talk about verbal agreements. Let’s say the house and car loan are in your name, but you want to be nice. You don’t need them, and your ex does. Your ex has agreed to make payments, so it’s no big deal, right?
Wrong. Your credit will take a hit with the first missed, or late, payment. And, you may not be able to get a new car or house for yourself because your debt to income ratio is too high. The bank won’t take verbal agreements with your ex into consideration when you apply for your loan.
Here’s something else to think about: Can you maintain your current lifestyle if you live separately?
If you end up with the house or the car, can you afford the payments? Can you pay for the utilities, the maintenance and the insurance? You may have to make tough decisions, because you could be without the things you need to live if you don’t plan ahead.
Too many people have found themselves temporarily homeless, or had their credit ruined, after a breakup. Don’t let this happen to you.