In good times, prepare

Published 2:30 pm Wednesday, May 12, 2010

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times . . . to paraphrase Charles Dickens in “A Tale of Two Cities.”

When your life is relatively free of crisis and worry is the best time to prepare, but human nature appears to resist facing potential problems.

On a personal level, you know theft, fire, sudden illness, harsh weather, an energy crisis, even, a terrorist attack can occur at any moment. Do you have immediate access to all your bank cards, medical information, and important documents?

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It takes very little time to digitally photograph or scan the front and back of all these items to store on a USB flash drive or a CD.

Another option is to simply print copies and file them in a fireproof safe or safe deposit box. Then, no matter what the catastrophe, you can retrieve critical information.

If youre using a computer, the possibilities of identify theft multiply. Insure you use a very personal password (one you can remember but is extremely hard to break). Perhaps youve chosen red tulip since thats your favorite flower. The password redtulip is reasonably easy to break but rD&tUlp is far more difficult (notice dropping two vowels, using unusual capitalization, and adding at least one special character).

For medical emergencies, do you and your health care provider have a copy of your medical durable power of attorney? Forms for your state are generally available free on-line or from a local hospital.

Do you know what to do if someone else is having an emergency? Basic first aid skills and the latest CPR technique (from the Mayo Clinic) are easy to learn and help you feel secure if you need to act. And, dont forget the mantra of healthy diet and regular exercise to minimize future problems.

Consider adding green tea (steeped for ten minutes), 2000 IUs of Vitamin D3, and 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric as supplements to make it harder for cancer cells to develop (from Anticancer: A New Way of Life by Dr. David Servan-Schreiber).

Turning to your home and your possessions, analyze your when things go wrong plans. Are all the critical files on your computer backed-up frequently with a copy stored away from your home or office?

When the power fails, do you have alternate methods to cook, a way to keep warm, means to prolong foods in the refrigerator, and a source of drinking water?

In case of traumatic events such as theft, fire, wind, or water, do you have an updated home inventory with images, video, or computer descriptions? Do your smoke detectors work? And, especially for families, do you have an emergency exit plan and have you run the drill?

Your vehicle can use a few moments of your consideration. Store a spare tire, a jack, extra fuses, water, wrenches, screwdrivers, cord (can work as an emergency fan belt), a quart of oil, and duct tape. In winter, add a sleeping bag or space blanket.

Face the possibility of having your income suddenly change (loss of job, vacant rental units, declining stocks and investments).

A rule of thumb is to hold in reserve at least six months of cash at your current living standard. If the shortfall looks more serious, cutting expenses can prolong your reserves.

To help your partner and family, take time to set up a will and living trust. It will significantly smooth the settlement of your estate. If your situation is reasonably straightforward, free on-line forms can handle the situation. In the case of living trusts, remember, first, you create the trust and, then, you change each account or deed for example, the Mary and John Doe Account becomes the Mary and John Doe Trust Account.

Perhaps the single most important act you can take to simplifying your preparedness for the future is to de-clutter and rationally organize your life. Out of the maelstrom come peace and serenity.

Editors Note: Mara & Ford Smiths non-fiction books are available at The Book Shelf. This article and earlier ones can be found on their website at