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Natural disasters don’t need to be financial disasters

Patrick Hanning didn’t plan to evacuate. With Hurricane Sandy bearing down on his home in Breezy Point, New York, the financial professional with Prudential Advisors thought he’d ride out the storm with a few friends. A phone call from his worried daughter changed his mind.

“It’s not like I was going to save my house. There was no reason to stay except to be macho,” Hanning says. “I’m glad I listened.”

The headlines have been filled lately with natural disasters: hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate, wildfires in California, and earthquakes in Mexico. Survivors are beginning to pick up the pieces, just as residents did in Breezy Point, where Sandy’s flooding and a resulting fire leveled more than 350 homes. Hundreds more required significant repairs[1].

Even if the damage to homes and personal property is devastating, the financial impact of a natural disaster doesn’t have to be. There are lessons to be learned from those who bounced back from past disasters—and the strategies, programs and policies that helped them do it.

Before disaster strikes

The best way to financially survive a disaster, of course, is to prepare for one in the first place. Hanning suggests:
  Early days of recovery

“I couldn’t live in my house for many months,” Hanning says. “Even when I got back in, I didn’t have any running water. No heat. All my neighbors, all my family were in the same position.”

For immediate help after a disaster, Hanning suggests thinking about the following: Keep a long-term view

Hanning says that while some life insurance policies and retirement plan accounts allow for withdrawals in case of emergency, this can negatively impact your financial future. Find help, and keep the faith

Having a trusted financial professional may help survivors navigate the steps they need to recover. According to Hanning, he helped more than 500 clients following Sandy.

“I helped people with their insurance claims, but I also helped people find places to live,” Hanning says. “That’s not part of my job, but I’m a human being. I had people crying to me on the phone every day, asking me, ‘What do I do?’ I told them I would try and help them in any way I can. The fact that I went through Sandy with my clients, they understood that I was doing everything I could for them.”

Many of his neighbors and clients have rebuilt their lives better than before.

“My heart goes out to everyone in Houston, Florida, Puerto Rico, all who are going through this,” Hanning says. “It will get better, it definitely will. We’re proof of that. My town is back. They’ll be back, too.”

To request an interview with a financial professional about preparing financially around a natural disaster, please contact Sheila Bridgeforth.