Just as the daffodils and tulips in spring signal new beginnings, April is a great time to renew your efforts to become financially resilient. Being financially resilient can help you bounce back from unexpected emergencies, such as pandemic-related money challenges and being prepared for and recovering from natural disasters.
Gather all your financial information at your fingertips so it’s ready when you need it. Take time to organize and safeguard financial documents now in waterproof, airtight, and fireproof containers. The Emergency Financial First Aid Kit (EFFAK) has handy forms and checklists that will help you organize your financial information. New animations about the EFFAK like the one in this article can help you get started.
Make sure you have the right insurance to protect your home so that you can repair your home and other property, if it is damaged during a disaster. Review your policy to ensure the amount and types of coverage meet the requirements for all possible hazards. Homeowners insurance does not typically cover flooding, so check if your home is in a flood zone to see if you may need flood insurance. If so, check out the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to find out how you can be covered.
Be wary of identity theft scams, especially those surrounding COVID-19 and tax filing. Do not click on links in texts or emails from people you don’t know. Scammers can create fake links to websites and may try to take advantage of financial fears by calling with remote work opportunities, debt consolidation offers, and student loan repayment plans. The Federal Trade Commission offers additional help in identifying scams.
After the historic flooding in Louisiana in 2016, FEMA’s Paul Huang deployed to help with recovery efforts. He recalls an elderly couple whose grandchildren were helping clean out their home after three feet of flood water destroyed everything they owned. During the storm, the couple was rescued by rowboat.
Huang notes that as a result of flooding from Hurricane Harvey, the devastating Category 4 hurricane that made landfall in Texas and Louisiana in 2017, those without flood insurance got an average of $4,000 from FEMA’s Individual Assistance, while those with flood insurance received an average of $110,000. Huang previously served as Assistant Administrator for the Federal Insurance Directorate, supporting the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
This experience captures the power of financial resilience for Huang.
“We are investing in measures to ensure that when something shocks our system — natural disaster, pandemic, etc. — we are protected and don’t fall as deep as we would without having those resilience measures in place.”
What are the steps to becoming financially resilient? Huang says it starts with setting up a budget, which he remembers learning from his parents. He believes financial preparedness should start early, from the time kids receive their first allowance or paycheck from a summer job.
Schools need to step in as well. Huang notes a recent conversation with a member of FEMA’s Youth Preparedness Council (YPC). He told Huang that while he is taught advanced biology, there’s no course that teaches the fundamentals of saving money or balancing a checkbook.
The pandemic has underscored the importance of financial resilience, according to Huang.
“The consequence of financial resilience hasn’t changed, but has only become more apparent over the last year. With that in mind, it’s critical to consider how to bring more equity in the distribution of financial resilience.”
Those are issues on which FEMA and other government agencies are working, says Huang. As part of the solution, he notes FEMA’s role in the supplemental unemployment payments during the pandemic, as well as funding for states, tribes and local governments. Huang also started FEMA’s Asian American Pacific Islander-Employee Resource Group to help advocate for more diversity and inclusion in the Agency, as well as in the communities it serves.
Looking toward the future, Huang sees opportunities for innovation in financial resilience. He notes an example of banks using data to help guide automatic deposits of customers’ funds directly to savings or investments.
Greater focus on human behavior should be another priority, he says. Huang notes that many people spend hundreds of dollars a year on lottery tickets, where the chance of winning a large lottery like Powerball is about one in 300 million. By contrast, there is a one in four chance during a 30-year mortgage that your home will be flooded if you live in a high-risk flood area. Still, only three out of 10 homes in those areas buy flood insurance.
“What that tells us is that, generally, people want to spend their money on things that bring them hope. They don’t necessarily want to think about spending to protect themselves from the possibly negative things. It’s human nature,” he says. “We can learn more about these human biases and how to sell financial resilience as valuable, worthwhile, and a ‘norm’ to do.”
FEMA Releases the 2019 National Household Data on OpenFEMA
In April 2021, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released the full data for the 2019 National Household Survey (NHS) on OpenFEMA. There are now complete datasets available for 2017-2019 NHS iterations on OpenFEMA. FEMA encourages researchers, academics, emergency management personnel, and all members of the public to download and use the NHS.
Two Years of Financial Resilience Surveying
FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) advises that every property is vulnerable to flooding, and that most homeowners insurance does not cover flood damage. Just one inch of water can cause more than $25,000 in damage to a home. In these events, flood insurance can be the difference between recovery and financial devastation. Read more…
While to many people being prepared means making a plan and having an emergency kit, FEMA’s Youth Preparedness Council (YPC) member Madeline Ortiz knows it’s also about making responsible financial decisions.
Like many teens, Madeline dreams of buying a car. She is working three part-time jobs—working at a farmer’s market, a clothing warehouse, and a kombucha brewery— to earn money and save.
Madeline, who lives in Alaska, usually saves her entire paycheck, but sometimes she puts some into her checking account for small purchases. She hopes she’ll have enough to buy her car by the end of the summer.
She has advice for fellow teens to get a head start on preparing for their financial future. Read more…
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