We usually write about small things you can do to improve your finances but the fires in Northern California drove home a reminder that you have to protect the assets that matter the most. Specifically, your home, your health and your family.
If you live in areas that are prone to fire, improve your home's chances of survival by creating defensible space around it - http://www.readyforwildfire.org/Defensible-Space/. This is critically important because in a large scale fire, like the ones that hit the Napa Sonoma region, firefighters will only expend their stretched resources trying to protect the homes they believe they can save. Your house is not defensible when the yard doesn't have a buffer between the building and flammable vegetation or structures. Good habit: Check your smoke detectors twice a year, whenever you change your clocks for daylight savings time is a good trigger. Insure your property if you are an owner and if you are a renter, consider renters' insurance to protect your belongings.
Protecting your health is a smart investment since your ability to earn and to be at your sharpest to make good decisions depends on staying healthy.
Smoke from forest fires spreads particulates that are bad for you to breathe in, for anyone, but especially for those with prior heart and lung issues. If you are at risk, be aware of the air quality in your area. Here is a great site where you can just plug in your zip code to check on the air quality: https://airnow.gov
If the reading is high, consider staying indoors and postponing your exercise until the air clears. Another thing you can do is buy breathing masks. Make sure they have the N95 or P100 rating, otherwise the single strap masks or hospital masks are useless for stopping the small particles that cause the most harm. Do I feel like a dork walking to work with my mask on? Not really - I hope that by example it might prompt others to do the same when the air is bad.
In closing, don't forget about your family - make sure that you have life insurance to cover their needs if anything unexpected and untimely happens to you. We'll talk more about how to assess your need for life insurance in future posts. Let us know if this is an area of interest for you.