In the aftermath of Harvey, I have some thoughts to share, more for the next flood than this one.

The best first responders are neighbors, friends, and family. It’s worth moving to be near people that can help.

Flooding is for the young. One flood decimates finances, strains relationships, and turns the best of us to mush. The second flood is worse. No one over 70 should flood. Everyone should budget to flood.

A well-crafted estate plan does not help. Unless it does. If possible, my own parents are happier after the flood than before. The kids stepped up, decisions were made and accepted, and the parents moved, all within days of Harvey. The move was abrupt; the preparation was not. In recent years, my parents had delegated ever more tasks. With reason, they had confidence in their team, but the teamwork began well before any crisis. Sometimes, as Eisenhower said, “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.”

Buy and keep flood insurance, even after the mortgage is paid. It’s subsidized. If you can’t afford flood insurance, you bought too much house. Insured properties are grandfathered against certain rate increases, making them more valuable than uninsured properties.

No one with flood insurance makes money, they just lose less. Settlements are slow, painful, and inadequate. Even if losses were settled immediately, automatically, and fairly (they’re not), the standard policy caps building coverage at $250,000. In a regional disaster, that’s not enough, because everything is much more expensive.

High ground is the best flood insurance.

Nobody knows how high is high enough. Your Base Flood Elevation is supposed to answer that question. It doesn’t. A surveyor’s elevation certificate documents the height of a home above sea level. After that, it’s not clear what to do with the information, although it does determine flood insurance rates. As many of us learned, low rates do not mean low risk.

Once a year, everyone gets a questionnaire from their insurance agent. It looks like a combination of homework and sales pitch, and it is. The agent wants to sell you more insurance, and asks questions that flag the need for increased limits or additional coverage. Inadequate coverage is usually the insured’s fault, not the agent’s. This year, complete and return the questionnaire.

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