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  • Hanjin Shipping Declares Bankruptcy: Stranded Cargo Prompts Financial Preparedness

    Hanjin Shipping

    On August 31, Hanjin Shipping declared bankruptcy. The South Korean company’s declaration left $14 billion worth of cargo and more than half a million containers stranded offshore, as ports fearful of going unpaid refused to allow the company’s ships to dock or unload.

    So why should we care?

    First, Hanjin Shipping transports 8 percent of manufactured goods that enter into the United States. Look around. Imagine if one item of every 12 you see suddenly became unavailable. It adds up fast, doesn’t it? Companies like Wal-Mart and Target are twiddling their thumbs while they wait for Hanjin to work out how it’s going to pay to get everything unloaded. Even if they don’t have anything on the ships in limbo, they still have to try to find other ways to ship their goods. Samsung, for example, is considering sending smartphones and devices in cargo planes to accommodate its U.S. market. That’s going to cost extra.

    And this time of year, as retailers order more goods for holidays, there’s not a lot of extra shipping space to go around. Already, freight prices for Asia-U.S. cargo have jumped 40 percent, according to The Wall Street Journal. Honestly, what are the odds retailers won’t pass any of these costs on to consumers?

    Second, for the moment, fewer manufactured goods are reaching the U.S. Though no one is predicting shortages, and every financial planner predicts the bankruptcy mess will be sorted out by the end of the year, it means supply could be temporarily reduced, again driving up prices right around the holidays.

    “This is not impacting store shelves now,” Nate Herman, a senior vice president for the American Apparel & Footwear Association, told The Wall Street Journal. “It will impact store shelves if the situation isn’t resolved.”

    pipeline-colonial-pipeline Hanjin Shipping Leaking oil pipe in Alabama - Image via Colonial Pipeline

    The world is a global marketplace. A bankruptcy in Asia can cause the cost of goods to increase in Indianapolis. A leaking oil pipe in Alabama can cause fuel shortages and governors to declare states of emergency in six states.

    “The key to keep in mind is that anything can happen,” said Kaylee Chen, a peer mentor at the University of Utah Personal Money Management Center, in an e-mail. Add, “anywhere.”

    “Therefore, always prepare for any possible emergency,” she said.

    Start by building long-term food storage. And don’t be afraid to use it when you need it.

    Early in 2015, avian influenza affected more than 35 million egg-laying hens, or 12 percent of the domestic population, according to a June 22, 2015 blog from the American Egg Board.

    The USDA’s Egg Market News Report said for the week of June 22, 2015 a dozen large eggs sold for a $2.35 national average. The average price over the previous three years, for the same week, was about 95 cents.

    If you have powdered eggs when eggs prices are sky high, you can use them instead. This 2010 article in the Deseret News, a Utah newspaper, tells how to use powdered eggs in everyday cooking.

    Second, have an emergency savings.

    Kayleen Chen, a peer mentor at the University of Utah’s Personal Money Management Center, suggested the 50/30/20 rule. Fifty percent of a paycheck should go toward fixed expenses, like house payments and utilities. Discretionary expenses that can be adjusted, like grocery bills and fuel, should take up about 30 percent. Twenty percent should go toward short-term savings, an emergency fund and retirement.

    Hanjin Shipping Containers

    The short-term savings fund is for future expenses like holidays or a down payment. An emergency fund helps when things come up like car repairs or doctor bills, to avoid paying for them with high-interest debt like credit cards or short-term loans.

    Women should put 12 percent of their salary toward retirement; men 10 percent, Chen said.

    “The reality is that women live longer and make less income than men,” she said.

    Third, get out of debt. Interest never stops, even when you’re struggling.

    Consider learning additional skills that can translate into side jobs for additional income or to help get out of debt. Chen used the example of a piano teacher. She also encouraged a budget or lifestyle change. Peter Dunn, a financial columnist for USA Today, suggested decreasing spending by 10 to 15 percent over time.

    Personal finance collapses like job loss, divorce, medical emergencies and retirement are far more common than a major shipping company’s collapse. Creating a long-term food storage, getting out of debt and saving can reduce their impact.

     

    Disaster_Blog_Banner Hanjin Shipping

  • Financial First Aid Kit: 5 Tips for Financial Preparedness

    Dolla billz financial first aid kitWhen it comes to preparing for disasters, emergency kits are usually one of the first things people think of. But what about financial preparedness? Sure, being prepared with food, gear, and other necessities is important, but a lot of times, financial preparedness is forgotten. Having a financial first aid kit can bring immediate relief during a financial crisis, much like an emergency kit built for disasters can alleviate issues following natural upheavals.

    Why have a financial first aid kit? Well, for starters, emergencies don’t suddenly negate your responsibility to paying bills. How you get that money could very well come from the contents of your financial first aid kid.

    Not sure what to put in a financial first aid kit? Check out the official Emergency Financial First Aid Kit checklists and forms from FEMA. For an abbreviated version, keep reading.

     

    1. Household Identification

    Having proper identification for everyone living in your household (you, spouse, children, etc.) can provide proof when proof is needed. Photo ID such as a copy of a driver’s license or other ID should work. Especially important for children is to have their birth certificate safe in this emergency kit, to prove to any authorities that you are indeed the parent. Social security cards, military service and pet ID tags are also a good idea to keep in this kit.

    Having all your household identification documents in one place can help provide proof of household members, maintain or re-establish contact with family members and employers, and even apply for FEMA disaster assistance.

     

    1. Financial and Legal Documents

    Being able to continue making payment and credit during an emergency is crucial. Certain documents containing housing payments, insurance policies, sources if income, and tax statements are important to have for many reasons. Identifying financial obligations will be much easier with these documents, and you’ll be less likely to forget about something that needs to be paid. Such documents will also help re-establish financial accounts, provide contact information for financial and legal providers, and of course, apply for FEMA disaster assistance.

     

    1. Medical Information

    Home Filing Dividers showing Bank Statements financial first aid kit

    Health insurance cards are a must. In the event of a disaster or other emergency, injury is much more likely, and health insurance cards can help you get the medical attention you need. Your physician information and immunization records will also provide doctors with your current medical situation and the information they need to provide proper medical care. Also, if you are currently receiving medical care, this information can ensure it continues uninterrupted.

     

    1. Household Contacts

    Your contacts are likewise important. Know who to talk to at your bank, as well as how to contact them. Other people to have contact information for would be your insurance agent, health professionals, and service providers. This information will allow you to begin recovery quickly, including contacting utilities about outages and restoration, insurance, and other aspects of recovery.

     

    1. Emergency Money

    If there’s an extended power outage, ATMs may not work and banks may be closed. Credit and debit cards will likewise be useless. If this is the case, acquiring money for, well, anything could be all but impossible. It’s recommended to have at least $100 in cash on hand. Make sure your cash is also separated into small bills. During an emergency, people may not have change, in which case a $2.00 bottle of water could cost you $20 or more, depending on your smallest bill denomination. $20 bills should be your highest value, with ones, fives, and tens mixed in.

     

    For forms and checklists for you financial first aid kit, visit FEMA.gov by clicking here.

     

    Disaster_Blog_Banner financial first aid kit

  • Importance of Preparedness: Remembering September 11, 2001

    A month before the September 11, 2001 attack, I snapped a photo in the restaurant atop World Trade Center 2. It was a sign by the elevator, indicating the floor we were on and a notice: “In case of fire, use stairs.”

    I was there celebrating the end of an internship in the World Financial Center building directly across the street. My fellow intern and I found the sign hilarious. If something went wrong and we were that high, we agreed, there was no point in obeying. We’d be dead anyway.

    trade-center september 11A month later, I watched on TV from my new job in a rural U.S. Army base while planes hit both World Trade Center buildings.

    I emailed my former employer. Everyone was fine. The company had an evacuation plan, and as soon as the first plane hit, all but essential personnel left and caught a ferry to the company’s New Jersey headquarters. Everyone made it safely out of the area, though the building sustained heavy damage. (I saw a picture. My former desk was covered in grime, and the windows were blown in.)

    On the other hand, if a terrorist had attacked the rural base where I was on September 11, we could have been in trouble. The front gate had a toll booth-style guard building that was wide open. It might as well have been. Barbed wire fences marked the base’s perimeter in the sparse shrub and dirt wilderness. They kept cows out, but not much else. Admittedly, any attacker would have had to travel a long way to find anyone to attack.

    When we left the base that day, we followed directions through a ditch, past the newly-closed gate and newly-armed guards. An enormous machine gun now pointed menacingly outward, except … it was mounted on what looked like a folding card table. My absurd mental image of what would have happened if they’d fired it was the one funny part of a terrible day.

    That day, an emergency plan protected my former coworkers. At my new job, well, we were remote.

    September is National Preparedness Month. This, in conjunction with the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11, is a great time to remember why to be prepared.

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency gives two reasons to be prepared.

    First, “being prepared can reduce fear, anxiety, and losses that accompany disasters,” a FEMA brochure said.

    september 11 Flooding from Hurricane Irene

    A study by Rice University educators showed that people who prepared for Hurricane Ike, which hit Houston in 2008, were calmer and less likely to evacuate in advance of the storm. Those who lived outside the recommended evacuation zone stayed off the road, allowing those at greater risk to leave more quickly and reducing auto accidents, the study’s authors wrote.

    For older adults, families with young children and people with special needs, preparation is vital to survival. More than half the people who died in Hurricane Katrina were age 65 and older, according to a New York Times story about disaster preparedness for older people.

    “They can’t get out of harm’s way fast enough,” Jenny Campbell, a nonprofit consultant who deals with age-related issues told the New York Times. “And sometimes they may not even have a way to flee. Or they may lack a larger social system, and so they may not be warned in time.”

    Second, being prepared reduces the destruction from disasters, according to FEMA. The Rice University study called this type of preparedness hazard mitigation.

    Hazard mitigation includes trimming branches and making repairs before a disaster to reduce damage. It also means making copies of important documents. Helene Dressendofer was in her late 70s when Hurricane Sandy destroyed her home in 2012, according to the New York Times. Her documents were stored in cardboard folders and were destroyed. As of January 2016, she was still waiting for insurance reimbursement.

    She recommended scanning photographs, making a list of possessions and putting the list and other important documents in sealed waterproof boxes, according to the story.

    FEMA provides a free, 204-page, step-by-step guide to help individuals and families prepare for many types of disasters, called Are You Ready.

    When I returned to the military base several days after September 11, it was transformed. My carpool van had to zigzag through concrete barriers to enter, and U.S. Army soldiers scrutinized identification of every person in the vehicle. When I went out jogging, I passed new sentry boxes and soldiers on patrol in the scrub. It was comforting in a way.

    Being prepared provides peace of mind. And it may save your property and life. On September 11, 2001, one of my employers was ready. The other was lucky. Which would you rather be?

     

    september 11

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