Money Matters

Five Tips to Help Disaster Victims Recover Financially

Floods, fires, storms and other disasters might come and go in a matter of days or even minutes, but it can take months or years for victims to overcome the financial devastation. Texas CPAs know that the weeks and months following a disaster can be confusing and difficult, and that's why the Texas Society of Certified Public Accountants (TSCPA) compiled the following five tips to help victims get back on their feet.

  1. Give yourself time.

    You need time to think through your situation, absorb what has happened, and seek advice. Don't immediately make any important financial decisions in the wake of a disaster.

  2. Assess your financial position.

    The first step toward financial recovery is to prepare a plan for managing your income, expenses, and debt. If you're in need of cash, determine whether you're eligible for disaster relief funds from federal, state, or local governments. Make every effort to keep up with your bills. If you can't, call your creditors to explain the situation and work out a payment plan.

  3. File insurance claims quickly.

    Estimate the losses you have sustained as a result of the floods, gather your policy numbers, and then file appropriate insurance claims. The sooner you get started, the sooner your claim will be processed. Claims are frequently settled in the order in which they are received. If you do not have a complete listing of household items damaged in the disaster, check with relatives and friends for photographs taken in your home that may help to support your claim.

  4. Deduct casualty losses.

    If your property has been damaged or destroyed by a casualty and your loss meets IRS deductibility guidelines, you may be eligible for a tax refund based on unreimbursed losses. Usually, this means claiming the loss on your next income tax return. But in cases where the President declares a federal disaster area, you may be able to accelerate your deduction by amending your return for the prior tax year.

  5. Reevaluate your insurance coverage.

    Inevitably, disasters compel you to reconsider the role of insurance. Evaluate whether you have the right type and amount of property, health, disability, and life insurance.

Additional disaster recovery tips and personal finance information are available on TSCPA's consumer Web site, http://www.ValueYourMoney.org, including the free publication Disaster Recovery: A Guide to Financial Issues. The guide was created by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the American Red Cross, and the National Endowment for Financial Education to help people affected by natural and man-made disasters recover from financial loss.

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