- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Duct tape and plastic sheeting? Check. Three-day supply of food and water?Check. Cash, a will and an estate plan? Probably not.
Since the Bush administration elevated the nation's terror alert this month to the second-highest level, Code Orange, Americans have stocked up on duct tape and canned goods. But the government says it is also important to prepare financially for a terrorist attack, something many families have overlooked.
Even some financial advisers concede they aren't fully prepared.
"We don't have any cash on hand, but that's a good idea," said Patrick Price, president of Bethesda financial-management firm Exeter Trust. Mr. Price said he and his wife have planned their estate and they have bought a fireproof safe to store important family documents in their McLean home.
The Homeland Security Department says Americans should think green during Code Orange. The department advises people to keep some cash or traveler's checks and change on hand in case an emergency shuts down banks or automated teller machines.
Just how much money should be set aside depends on whom you ask.
The American Bankers Association, a trade group for banks, said families should set aside the same amount for an emergency that they would for a three-day holiday weekend. Banks are safe, and money that is kept in a safe at home doesn't draw interest, spokesman John Hall said.
"The best place for your money is in a bank," he said.
Financial adviser Ric Edelman said having two or three weeks of cash on hand is a better idea.
He compared last week's winter storm, which dumped as much as 2 feet of snow on some parts of the Washington area, with a terrorist attack.
"We were just attacked last week. It happened to be Mother Nature, but the result was the same: You couldn't get to the bank," he said.
It is best to have small bills on hand and to keep the money in a safe place, said Mr. Edelman, who plans to publish a book in April on preparing financially for emergencies called "What You Need To Do Now."
Mr. Edelman also advises clients to consider keeping emergency supplies including some cash in their automobile and at their desk at work.
"Every day you leave home, you should be prepared to not return that night. And when you are at work, you should be thinking that you may not be able to get to your car in the garage. You have to be prepared for anything," he said.
The American Red Cross also recommends consumers keep their credit cards paid off in case they are needed during an emergency.
Mr. Price advises his clients to buy a fireproof safe for their homes to store money and important family documents, such as insurance policies, bank records and wills and deeds.
A fireproof safe can cost a few hundred dollars, but they are worth the money, he said.
"My wife and I have one and we throw everything into it, even warranties," he said.
Americans also should get their personal affairs in order, said Jack Rittenhouse, president of the National Association of Estate Planners and Councils trade group. Having a will makes life more comfortable for those living in uncertain times.
The National Association of Financial and Estate Planning, a for-profit group that helps link consumers with accountants, tax lawyers and financial planners, said the number of clients seeking estate-planning services rose 15 percent after the September 11 terrorist attacks, but leveled off after about four months.
The threat of another terrorist attack has changed life for financial planners like Mr. Price. In addition to dispensing advice on money, he has compiled a free "home-preparedness manual" that he gives his clients.
The 108-page book has emergency medical tips from the American Red Cross, excerpts from the Homeland Security Department's Web site, www.ready.gov, and terrorism-preparedness clippings from local newspapers and magazines.


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