I learned the hard way how important it is to protect myself from the sun. On my first trip to the Caribbean — Jamaica — not only did I neglect to put on sunscreen, I applied baby oil, because I wanted a very bronze tan while keeping my skin moisturized.
I was a young adult. And growing up, we never went to the beach, so I didn’t know. Plus, I foolishly believed the myth that African Americans don’t sunburn.
I woke up the next day in so much pain I cried. I peeled for days as my skin began to heal.
Lesson learned: Prepare and protect yourself.
Hurricane Dorian has become an all-out disaster and one that not even the most prepared could weather without loss or damage. However, as I view the satellite images of the storm, it reminds me of how often people fail to prepare for the financial disasters that are just as unpredictable — a recession, a job loss or a monster storm.
I shake my head when folks — who can afford to leave — ignore the dire warnings from authorities to evacuate believing they can ride out the hurricane. They’re overconfident of their ability to manage in a crisis, much like the people who keep saying, “I’ve got a secure job, so why do I need to save?” Or they use the expression “you only live once” to justify taking that vacation, when they needed to save their money for an emergency.
The time in between storms makes us complacent.
When Hurricane Maria hit in 2017, you promised to look over your homeowner’s insurance policy. Did you? When was the last time you double-checked what’s covered and what isn’t?
Remember when your relative died and people were scrambling to find the money for the funeral? You vowed you wouldn’t leave such a financial mess for your family to deal with. Yet it’s been a year or two, and you still haven’t gotten around to getting life insurance or increasing the value of the policy that you do have in place. Do you even have a will?
Have you updated your beneficiary designations for your insurance?
Yes, your mother was the best person to designate as your beneficiary when you were single, but now that you’re married and have children, make sure you’ve provided for them. If mama doesn’t like your spouse, she may not hand over the money.
Do you have flood insurance? Typically, a basic homeowner’s policy does not cover flooding. Even if you’re not in a high-flood-risk area, you might still need protection. Just one inch of water in a home can cost more than $25,000 in damage, according to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which operates under the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
If your community participates in the NFIP, a policy can be purchased through an insurance agent. Even renters should consider getting flood insurance. The policy your landlord carries probably does not cover damage to your personal possessions.
For information on flood insurance, go to floodsmart.gov or call NFIP’s Help Center at 800-427-4661.
What’s the state of your emergency fund?
What if you need to evacuate because of a hurricane, tornado or wildfire? Would you have enough in savings to cover a week or two at a hotel? If a natural disaster knocked out power, do you have enough cash on hand to purchase essentials for a few days?
You’ve been in a panic about whether a recession is coming, but what have you done to prepare for when it arrives? Because — now or later — there will be another recession.
If you lose your job, how long could you sustain your household? Two months? One? Or maybe things would become dire right away. Think of your emergency savings like the sandbags used when a storm is coming.
How’s paying off that credit card coming? Get rid of your student loans as quickly as possible. A loss of income may be less catastrophic if a lot of your cash doesn’t have to be used to service debt.
All the planning in the world may not completely protect you from a hurricane or a major financial disaster. But giving yourself some cover — like using sunscreen to shield your skin — can make the recovery a little less painful.
Readers may write to Michelle Singletary at The Washington Post, 1301 K St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or email@example.com. To read previous Color of Money columns, go to http://wapo.st/michelle-singletary.