Do you have an emergency 'bug out' kit?

Allworth Co-CEO Scott Hanson outlines some of the most important financial documents you should have ready to go (or ready to protect) if you're ever forced from your home. 


Hurricanes, fires, tornados, and floods.

From the current smoke-filled skies out West and hurricanes in the South, to the potential for floods and tornados in the Midwest, we are all currently faced with either an ongoing or a pending natural disaster.

So, what happens if you need to evacuate your home?

Or course, when you’re in danger, the most important thing is safety: yours and your family’s. There’s not a possession, asset or artifact in the entire universe that is worth your life.

Once you’re certain that you have some time to pack—say, you have some advanced warning before you must evacuate—then having a plan in place that will give you immediate access to the financial records you’ll need in-hand, later on to recover, will save you time, money and stress, down the line.

During an emergency  

Bug out: To bolt, break, flee, skedaddle. To depart, especially in a hurry.

In a perfect world, like an earthquake preparedness kit with water and food, you’ve already gathered together the materials I’m going to list here long before disaster strikes (or, even better, you pack a perfect financial 'bug out' kit and never have any use for it). Preparation is key, because, once an emergency hits, not only will you likely not have the time to organize, it’s going to be impossible to think clearly and remember everything you need to take.

But you work with what you got.

When forced to evacuate, most people tend to grab the things they use every day, such as computers and cell phones. Other people focus on the things that have special meaning, such as photo albums or personal mementos.

All those things can and should, if you have the time and space, come with you. Computers and phones are your connection to the world, and a key resource for the news and information you’ll need to have in-hand to help you navigate, communicate, stay safe, and recover from the event.

But the key here is your financial life. And, with that in mind, here are the essential financial items everyone needs to have in their 'bug out' kit.

Have copies of these things ready to go

Of course, there’s no upside or silver lining to this. It’s everyone’s worst nightmare.

Still, you need to respond.   

If you must evacuate, you also must accept that you likely have no idea just how long you’ll be away, or, as I’m incredibly sorry to report, as friends and clients of Allworth Financial experienced this week due to the fires, you might have no home to return to. 

A well-appointed, financial-emergency bug-out kit will ideally be a water-proof box (use an air-tight bin that can easily be loaded in the car) or container.

What follows is a well-appointed kit broken down by identification, legal documents, financial items, health items, insurance items, and a few other things you’ll need if the worst comes to pass.

Your emergency bug-out financial kit should include the following pieces of identification:

  • Passports
  • Other legal ID
  • Maybe an old driver’s license
  • Copies of your birth certificate(s)
  • Social Security cards

Your emergency bug out financial kit should include the following legal documents:

  • A copy of your last will or estate plan
  • Copies of your tax returns
  • Deeds
  • Copies of vehicle titles
  • Marriage certificates

Your emergency bug out financial kit should include the following financial items:

  • A checkbook
  • Extra credit cards
  • Reserve cash (The electricity might be out all over your region, which means no credit cards.)
  • Your advisor’s and accountant’s contact information
  • Statements for all your investments, including stocks and bonds
  • All bank account information
  • Statements from any creditors or debt you have
  • A list of any other assets you own

Your emergency bug out financial kit should include the following items related to your health:

  • Medical records
  • Copies of prescriptions
  • Your doctors’ names and contact information

Your emergency bug out financial kit should include these insurance items: 

  • A copy of all your insurance policies
  • Your insurance agent’s contact information
  • Photos or video of the inside and outside of your home
  • Car insurance information
  • Health insurance information

Your emergency bug out financial kit should also include these things:

  • Names, addresses and numbers of friends and relatives
  • A paper copy of all your digital passwords and online account numbers
  • Photos, medical records, and chipping information for your pets

With everything our nation was already facing, this list feels like piling on. Mother nature, however, very much has her own sense of timing.

The fact remains that natural disasters are currently impacting (or threatening) millions of Americans, so while even having to consider how to artfully stock a financial bug out kit in the middle of a pandemic, while that might have felt like something out of a disaster movie a short time ago, it’s now the reality we all face.

Please remember, as something I seem to have been writing quite a bit lately, at the end of the day, we are all in this together.

True, we may not all agree on everything, but most peoples’ intentions are good.

Next, we’ll get through this. As many of you remember, the late 60s and early 70s were an incredibly difficult time for America. From hot and cold wars, to assassinations, to civil unrest, to stranger-than-fiction events such as the Patty Hearst kidnapping, or the Zodiac or Manson crimes, it seemed then that the world was coming apart at the seams.

We got through it then. And, we’ll get through it now.  

Also, be it advice or guidance, or someone to really listen, if there’s anything we can do for you, please let us know. (We are a close-knit firm comprised of people like you. And, at the end of the day, we know the most important thing we do, is listen.)

So, lastly, even though things feel uniquely uncertain, and even under all the weight of all the burdens we are all facing, I still very much hope that you’ll take the time to pack your kit.