Hurricanes Harvey and Irma may be over, but the recovery is just beginning.
As any victim of a natural disaster knows, putting your life back together may take weeks, months or even years. Fortunately, when it comes to property and finances, you can take actionable steps to reclaim what you lost.
The following tips can’t undo the damage, but they can put you on the road to financial recovery.
1. File insurance claims ASAP
Getting assistance for the damage inflicted on your home may take a while. So as soon as it’s safe to enter, survey your house and photograph the aftermath. Save receipts for related expenses as well. Having detailed records will help bolster your insurance claims, and improve your chances of receiving coverage.
2. Beware of financial scams
Never missing an opportunity to swindle people, scammers often prey on victims of natural disasters. If someone contacts you about a “relief” loan with a too-good-to-be-true interest rate, avoid it.
3. Contact creditors if you’re unable to pay
If you exhaust your savings and max out your credit cards to cover disaster-related expenses, let your creditors know ASAP. Similarly, if you’re unable to pay your mortgage or other loans, don’t blow the monthly due date. Explain your situation and politely ask for an alternate plan (e.g., reduced or delayed payments). Failing to contact them may look like negligence on your part.
If you’re struggling to manage your finances or need help dealing with your creditors, you can always contact one of BALANCE’s Certified Financial Coaches for one-on-one assistance.
4. Prioritize your expenses
In a time when costs quickly pile up, you may have to make some tough decisions. Replacing essential damaged items might mean you don’t have enough money to pay a bill. Make a list of financial necessities in order of importance, and see what you can postpone for now.
5. Use caution with contractors
Like loan scammers, shady contractors may also try to take your money. If you need help rebuilding your home, get estimates from three different professionals. Pro tip: avoid the cheapest bid. Typically, the medium-price estimate will deliver quality work at a reasonable price.
Individuals and business owners who sustained losses from Hurricane Harvey can apply for assistance by registering online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362).