By: Joe Delaney
At times like these, when record-breaking fire is again ravaging parts of California, we remember that our financial portfolios are not just numbers on paper. They are about protection for ourselves and our loved ones. They are also about our human desire to be good custodians of the world and empathic neighbors.
Here in the San Francisco area, we at Lifeguard Wealth are having a lot of conversations with people about what they can do to help. We share our thoughts below. First, let’s summarize what’s happening in this state.
At the time of this writing, the Camp Fire in Butte County, northern California has become the most destructive and deadliest in California history, eclipsing last year’s Tubbs fire in Santa Rosa. CBS News reported on November 13th that it had burned through 130,000 acres and taken 48 lives.
Meanwhile, the Woolsey and Hill Fires are burning to our south, northwest of Los Angeles. These have claimed over 100,000 acres and 2 lives.
As always, high winds, high temperature and dry air are fueling this latest outbreak. Firefighters are doing their best to channel the blaze away from population centers, but many people have already lost their homes and business. There will be more destruction before this is over.
How You Can Help (and Be Smart About It)
There are many organizations you can support that are claiming to help. It is important to use both your heart and your head when the need is so great. If you do not have a personal relationship with a charity’s leadership, you must do your research to be sure it is utilizing your donations effectively.
A good resource to consult is charitynavigator.org. When you plug in an applicable key phrase such as “California fire,” you will see a list of organizations and their classifications. This makes it easy to identify whether their mission includes providing immediate assistance. You can then select a charity to review details including its Form 990, which includes service accomplishments from the previous tax year.
This is a good way to check up on a charity someone has recommended to you. You can type in the name of a specific organization to see its details. We recommend the American Red Cross and Salvation Army, two strong charities that had a big presence in the communities struck by last year’s fires.
Another Reminder to Be Prepared
As I shared in an article last year, we should do more than donate to worthy causes when disaster strikes and move on with life. This is an opportunity to prepare ourselves for the next one.
1) Get an emergency kit,
2) Make a family plan,
3) Be informed, and
4) Review your personal lines of insurance coverage annually.
To the last point, I will add a tip to minimize the financial impact of a loss of home and property: Video your home. This is simple, easy and could save you a lot of time and money when working with your insurance company after a disaster. Take 10 minutes to walk around your home, garage and outside on the property and capture all that you own.
Today’s technology makes this easier than ever. If you take the video with your smartphone, you need only upload it to your cloud service of choice. Google Drive, Apple’s iCloud and Dropbox are a few of the most popular.
It doesn’t hurt to load it onto your computer and copy it to a flash drive that you keep in a fireproof box as well. While unlikely, the structures housing the servers where your backed up files are stored (the “cloud”) are susceptible to natural disaster and failure as well.
Be Smart About Helping Others and Yourself
In summary, keep these two takeaways in mind:
- There’s nothing wrong with acting from the heart in the midst of a disaster like these wildfires, as long as your head is also at work. There’s no sense giving money to an organization that may squander it.
- Also, put yourself in the place of the families affected by tragedy and consider what you can do now to be better prepared if and when it happens to you.
Lifeguard Wealth is eager to help you with both. Philanthropy and wealth protection are two important legs on a four-legged stool of wealth management (along with wealth accumulation and wealth transfer to the next generation).
Let’s put our hearts and heads together to guard what matters most.
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The opinions expressed by featured authors are their own and may not accurately reflect those of the Lifeguard Wealth. This article is for general information only and is not intended to serve as specific financial, accounting or tax advice.