One of my favorite mottos is, “expect the best but prepare for the worst.” As an optimist, I have no trouble expecting the best, but that very optimism can be a deterrent to preparing for the worst. Why? Because I allow my optimism to cloud reality. This post is therefore a self imposed challenge to become better prepared. Hopefully, these tips will also help you if any of the following unexpected events occur in your life:
Your wallet is lost or stolen.
Remove sensitive information you don’t need to have with you, such as your Social Security card and personal information numbers for any and all financial transactions. Photocopy (or make a list) of the items you normally carry in your wallet.
You lose your cell phone.
Download one of many free or low cost apps which will track your phone by GPS. Lookout Mobile Security, for example, will not only find your phone, but will allow you to remotely make it “scream” even if the device volume is set on low or silent. (Note: I downloaded the free app on my Droid, tried it, and was quite impressed. It does what it says, and the “scream” will definitely get your attention.) Another tip: you should also check with your carrier to learn how to make a backup of your address book.
Your power goes out.
The best preparation is to have a whole-house (or portable) generator, fueled up and ready to kick in. Other suggestions: know where to find your candles and matches, keep flashlights readily available, maintain an inventory of extra batteries (including an extra, charged cell phone battery), purchase a portable – perhaps a hand cranked – radio, and keep your freezer packed with ice in order to be able to preserve your food as long as possible.
Your car breaks down.
If your car’s warranty or auto insurance includes road side assistance, keep the contact number in your glove box and your cell phone. Make sure you know where your car jack is located and how to use it. Also, double check your spare to ensure that it is inflated and road worthy. Keep an emergency roadside kit which includes a jumper cable, flashlight (with extra batteries) and, if winter weather is a factor, a blanket and gloves.
The IRS audits you.
In general, you need to keep your tax returns and all supporting documentation for at least seven years, but IRS publication 552 specifies which documents to keep and how long to keep them. Keeping good records, such as your tax deductible mileage and dated receipts for charitable contributions will be invaluable in case of an audit. Take time to include some hand written notes of anything you might need to remember with your return. Keep your digital copy of your return on your computer, and back it up outside your home.
You lose your job.
This is the biggie. The bad news is that it takes time to prepare, but the good news is that this preparation is necessary if you ever lose your job or not. What am I talking about? Getting out of debt and building an emergency fund. Once your debt is gone, you will be able to live on less (a necessity when you don’t have a job), and once you build your emergency fund (consider at least six months of expenses), you will be able to breathe while you plan your future.
Reality happens to everyone, and it will happen to you. Don’t wish you had been prepared; take time to prepare now.
How prepared are you? What other unexpected events should we be preparing for? Leave a comment!
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