Life Comes At You Fast - Be Organized and Financially Prepared
Published 10/26/07 (Modified 3/8/11)
You never know what life will chuck your way, so you should always be prepared for anything. If you keep your finances and paperwork in order, you'll be in better shape to handle anything unexpected.
A few nights ago I received a sudden flurry of phone calls and e-mails from family members with sad news. My ailing grandfather, who had been bedridden in the hospital for more than a year due to a stroke, suddenly took a turn for the worse and was nearing his end. As the oldest grandson, I had a familial duty to be there. But since my grandfather lived overseas, getting to him at a moment's notice wasn't going to be easy. Things started to get hectic immediately as I began to make plans to fly overseas to join my parents at my grandfather's side as soon as possible. I wish I had anticipated earlier and made better preparation for the unexpected.
Here is how you can stay ready and avoid the chaos that follows an emergency situation:
Keep Important Documentation Up To Date And At the Ready
If you have family in another country, including Canada and Mexico, make sure your passport is valid and ready for travel at all times.
In my case, I had one major problem. My U.S. passport had only one more month before it expired. Since most countries require that your passport be valid at least 6 months beyond the date of your trip, I would not be able to travel internationally unless I got it renewed as soon as possible.
Luckily the U.S. Department of State, which processes all passport renewal applications, has a special expedited process for such emergency life and death matters. Normally the renewal process can take more than 10 weeks, but by paying an extra fee and providing documentation of the emergency, I could shorten the application process to just a few days. Potentially big problem solved.
Make Sure Your Bank Account Is Prepared To Handle Emergency Expenditures
It's important to make sure you have emergency funds in case something unexpected happens, whether it involves losing your job or a family situation. Always make sure you have access to back up money.
Because I wasn't prepared for the family emergency and was caught completely off guard, I did not have an adequate balance sitting in my checking or savings account to handle major emergency spending. I had big expenditures coming, including almost $200 for expedited passport processing and $1200 for a last minute international plane ticket.
Fortunately, I could access my investment brokerage and shuffle some needed cash back into my bank accounts.
Automate Your Monthly Expenses And Have Less Things To Worry About
During emergency situations, it's hard to deal with the urgent situation while still balancing your monthly bill obligations. I find it much easier to set up automatic billing and debit payment for all of my regular recurring expenses such as electricity, gas, and credit card bills. When something unexpected happens, those are just a few less things to have to worry about. Since the vast majority of my bills are viewable online and registered for online or automatic payments, I can still conveniently make bill payments even if I'm not physically in the country.