Clear Information Clutter by Creating a Home Continuity Plan

Information, it is everywhere, growing, essential and out of control. Do you ever feel lost in a paper jungle? Have you ever considered what would happen if you could not get back into your house due to a fire, chemical spill or other disaster or if you had to get your family out immediately? The last thing on your mind would be your information, no matter how vital that information was.

There is one solution for both of these problems and that is to have a home continuity plan. A home continuity plan contains the information needed to respond to an emergency and the information needed to recover after the initial crisis has been handled. As you identify and document the information for your home continuity plan, you will be organizing your most critical information, making it easily accessible and making sure that other family members know where the information is and when and how to use it.

So what is a home continuity plan, do you really need one, how do you get started, and how will it also save you time day-to-day and clear up your information clutter?

What is a home continuity plan? Continuity planning is preparing for a possible emergency so that you can not only respond to the crisis, but have what you need to recover. In the 50’s there were the fallout shelters of the cold war. Storm shelters are common in the Midwest. Schools practice file drills. Local communities are rehearsing their response to storms and terrorist attacks and business have a plan so they can survive a disruption. When time is critical, people are stressed, and confusion abounds, you need a plan. There are five categories of information in a plan: contacts (names and phone numbers), emergency procedures, personal identification/significant events, medical information, and financial and assets information. Once identified and documented, that information has to be stored some place other than in your home.

Do you really need a home continuity plan? Ask yourself… Can adult family members, responsible teenagers, babysitters or house guests find emergency phone numbers for physicians, plumbers, security services, people who could help?

Who knows how to shut off the water, electricity, gas? You may not be the one at home during a crisis.

Are you confident that you can easily list the contents of your wallet and be able to react quickly if your wallet is stolen?

If you cannot get back into your house for a few days to a few weeks, could you easily continue paying bills, contact insurance companies, collect social security, collect dividends?

If something happens to the person in your family who manages the finances, who knows how to take over?

Who knows where the emergency supplies are? Who knows what to take if there is an evacuation?

How to Get Started

Most people do not have a plan either because they do not believe they will need it or they don’t know where to start. This is YOUR vital information. You will be able to use the information in your plan day-to-day. How and where do you begin?

1. Decide how you will document the plan. Remember that you want to have a copy of it stored somewhere other than your house. Suggestions are a word processing or excel spreadsheet, or software specifically created for this type of project. You can then put a password on the file that contains your information and save it on a CD, DVD or flash drive. Ask yourself who will read the plan.

2. Decide where to store the original documents that you list in your plan. Part of the vital information in the home continuity plan is the location of your family documents. What documents should be copied and stored in alternative locations? Can you scan and save a copy of the documents with your plan?

3. Talk to the members of your household about this project. Include those who may not live with you full time. See what ideas they have. Who can be involved in this project?

4. Start by completing the first category listed above, Emergency Contacts, and then move on to Emergency Procedures and then to the last three categories. You will be motivated by being able to use the information immediately as you collect it.

So how will this project clear my information clutter and save me time day-to-day? You now have a specific purpose to go through your papers. You will create one notebook or file that includes contacts, procedures, locations of documents including user manuals, personal and medical information, financial accounts, inventories, insurance information. You will be finding, organizing, copying and moving original documents such as birth and marriage certificates, wills, living wills, power of attorney and insurance policies.

Use the information in the plan for:

Medical histories and preferences, school records, resumes, loan and insurance applications, user ids and passwords, baby sitter instructions, important phone numbers, information on how to secure your house for a storm or react to an emergency such as burst pipe…

Just begin. Your plan does not have to be finished to be useful. Every family is unique and changing. The plan will always be reviewed and updated. There is no such thing as perfect and completed. Even getting started, you will have more peace of mind that you are doing the best that you can do for your family and will immediately have something useful that you can use.

Simple Financial Truths

It may seem obvious, but as a BUYER you want to invest in instruments that are going UP in value. The converse is true if you’re a seller. Seems simple enough.

However something gets lost in the heat of the moment, when YOUR money is on the line causing the application of this simple truth to fail. Something that makes you lose sight of this simple truth. Unfortunately at some point it ceases to become a series of financial decisions and becomes perhaps a series of emotional ones. During this heated time you forget that the most important thing is to decide if the reason for investing in this instrument has changed. Has the investment stopped going in your direction? I contend that this is the most important question that you must ask-and keep asking-while your money is on the line. The answer while not immediately apparent is key to what you do next. Whatever criteria you use, you must have the answer to the questions-is THIS investment still increasing in value or is there some better place I could put my money where it will either have better appreciation, less erosion of value or more generation of income? While this may seem too simplistic a series of questions, when you see the huge losses sustained all around you in various(even yours) portfolios, it’s abundantly clear that someone isn’t asking these simple questions.

Questions asked. Now where do you find the answers? Having this information is no guarantee of action, but it’s the necessary next step in the process of making informed financial choices. Tomes have been written about financial analysis and various theories of buying, holding and selling. I propose that in the final analysis, the answers are very simple-what you want to know is: Am I making money, losing money or just keeping pace with inflation? Your financial freedom is at stake. Do your research to learn some of the keys to increasing your financial situational awareness. The truth is out there.

To your increased financial situational awareness.