There are a lot of emotions pre, during, and post a hurricane. As I write this post, I haven’t had power for 4 days and millions of Floridians are patiently waiting for their utilities to get back on track and for their lives to get back to normal. As many friends have posted on social media, “I can’t wait to get back to work so I can have AC!” These moments make you truly appreciate the luxuries we have in life and how fortunate we really are, even to have AC.
During the pitch black night and the high pitch screams of the hurricane’s gusts, Vania and I conversed about a lot of random things to keep our minds away from thinking that our windows would blow out. One of the topics was about the unexpected costs that come with preparing for a hurricane, especially if you were one of the 6.5 million that had a mandatory evacuation order.
During these times your nerves are eating you alive because you’re constantly worried about whether the eye of the storm is going to hit your city directly or if you are 50-70 miles away from the eye wall. In addition, you also have to deal with the extremely long lines at the supermarkets, Target, Walmart, and Home Depots to find the supplies and food you need! On top of this, many families were limited in their preparedness due to financial resources.
After speaking to a couple of friends and family, out of pocket expenses ranged between $300 – $3,000 for 1 week. Those on the lower end of the spectrum had a hurricane stash in their homes year round and simply needed some additional supplies/food (take notes if you in live in FL). The year round hurricane stash includes a radio, 24 packs of water, first aid kits, canned foods, flashlights and some batteries. This is a great strategy because you won’t have to spend much time store hopping looking for additional foods and supplies on your checklist. But truth is, you’ll always need more food and supplies because you can never be fully prepared for a hurricane.
On the other hand, if you were on the upper end of the spectrum, you most likely evacuated and the tab wasn’t cheap. By evacuating, you had to worry about fueling your car (multiple times), food at restaurants or fast food chains, and the cost of the hotel for 1-2 weeks. If you were lucky to find a flight out of FL, some airlines like JetBlue had $99 tickets to help support the evacuation (kudos to JetBlue!). No matter the means on how you got out of the state, the costs adds up very quickly and for nearly half of Americans who can’t afford a $400 emergency expense, this becomes a serious challenge.
The $300 – $3,000 in unexpected costs is all pre hurricane, so what about the post hurricane costs? Unfortunately, properties and vehicles get damaged and hopefully you had great insurance coverage. Depending on your insurance deductibles, you’re looking at more cash out of pocket! For example, the deductible for each of my own vehicles are $1,000 and my home owner’s insurance deductible is $5,000. Between all 3 assets, if I had to submit claims and get repairs that’s potentially $7,000 in just deductibles (assuming the damages exceeded the deductibles). Add this to the pre hurricane costs and the financial impact is rough. My wife and I were lucky that we did not experience devastating damage but, like I said, we got lucky.
In the worst case scenario, Americans could suffer a crippling financial situation if you aren’t prepared for these unpredictable hurricanes. That is why I can’t stress it enough that you need to prioritize having a fully funded emergency fund. What families have experienced in Houston and in FL is precisely why an emergency fund needs to be a crucial part of our lives.
In the end, regardless of the financial burden we experience with a natural disaster it does not outweigh the potential price to pay if you choose not to prepare for a devastating storm. If cash on hand was limiting there would be no choice but to use a credit card to pay for food, supplies, and the costs of evacuating. However, lets learn from this experience and position ourselves and our families to be financially better prepared.
Now that we are in recovery mode from both Harvey and Irma, I encourage you to follow these 7 steps to build your emergency fund. An emergency fund is designed for these very instances in life and we should always prepare for the unpredictable and the unexpected.
My wife and I are blessed and extremely lucky that we are OK. However, so many families are suffering from natural disasters. My heart and prayers goes out to them and I’d encourage you to visit the Red Cross’ website or any other legitimate non-profit to provide financial support for the relief efforts. Also, help your communities and neighbors with the cleanups and offer a helping hand. Financial means is not the only way to help support disaster relief efforts.
Suggested articles to read: 7 Steps To Build Your Emergency Fund and use a high yield savings account for your emergency fund