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So you've carefully filed all your important documents but how can you protect them from being destroyed if the worst happens to your home or business?

Follow these tips to help you disaster proof your important documents and financial records.

Secure important documents

Consider placing originals of important documents and critical records in a fire resistant, waterproof safe at home or in a safe deposit box with your bank or deposit box service. Then if your home is damaged by fire or flood those items will be protected.

Documents to safeguard

Here are some examples of the types of documents you will want to keep safe:

  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage certificate
  • Will and powers of attorney
  • House deeds
  • Life insurance policies
  • Home, contents, car and other insurance policies (apps like Know Risk can help you retain these policy details)
  • Health insurance policies and other important medical files
  • Bank account details
  • Passports
  • Copies of your driver's licence, Medicare card, bank and credit cards
  • Superannuation papers
  • Investment documents (securities, share certificates, bonds)
  • Details of funeral investments or arrangements
  • A selection of photos, especially of valuable items like jewellery, furniture or paintings (having a listed home inventory or photographs can help you file a claim if disaster strikes)
  • Receipts for expensive items in your home

Case study: Sandra and John lose their house in a bushfire

couple in front of doorSandra and John's home was destroyed in a bushfire last year. They were not home when the fire hit and most of their possessions were destroyed.

Even though they didn't live in a bushfire prone area, Sandra and John had bought a fire proof safe to protect their important documents. Having their documents safe made it easier for them to contact insurers and start rebuilding their home. They had also saved a back up copy of their photo collection on a portable hard drive that they stored in the safe.

They were so glad they were able to save these items even though their home couldn't be saved.

Keep an electronic copy offsite

Rather than buying a safe or hiring a safe deposit box you could backup all your information on an external hard drive. This may include a backup of data stored on your computer, or scanned or electronic copies of important documents and personal items.

Find somewhere safe and secure to keep this away from your home, for example a locked drawer at work, your solicitor's office, or a secure place in the home of a close friend or relative.

Back it up in the cloud

Cloud computing allows you to store data electronically so it's accessible anywhere you have an internet connection. If you use a smart phone or social networking sites and platforms you are already using cloud technology.

While this technology is great for keeping family photos and other information accessible, think carefully before storing personal documents that could give a hacker access to your bank accounts and other personal details.

Find out what sort of security the platform uses and what safeguards are in place to protect your valuable data.

Find out more on the Australian Government's Digital Business website.

Use plastic for purchases

If you are paying for something that you may need a record of, consider using a debit or credit card to pay for it. If your receipts are misplaced or destroyed there will still be a record on your bank statement. Common reasons for wanting a record of your purchase include:

  • Being able to claim the expense as a tax deduction
  • Needing proof of purchase for a warranty or insurance claim

If you use a credit card for purchases, try to pay it off in full every month so you don't accrue debt.

Update your records

Whether you are keeping physical or electronic copies of your important documents, it is important to review the documents regularly and whenever a significant event or purchase occurs.

How often you review your information is up to you. Heavy computer users may back-up their data on a weekly or monthly basis, others may be storing documents that rarely change and only need reviewing once a year.

Consider what is right for you and set appropriate reminders.

Making sure you have appropriate insurance is a great start to recovering from an unforeseen disaster. Protecting important documents, records and other personal items will also make it that little bit easier if you ever have to rebuild your life after a disaster.


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Last updated: 12 Oct 2016