How Much Cash Would You Need After a Terrorist Attack?

How Much Cash Would You Need After a Terrorist Attack?
See Gallery
How Much Cash Would You Need After a Terrorist Attack?

The 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks should remind us how important it is to be prepared in case the worst happens -- and part of that preparedness requires money.

Not in your bank. Not tied up in stocks. And not in the uncashed birthday check from Grandma Gertie.

In the wake of any major emergency, you'll need cash on hand to pay for the necessities -- food, water and anything else to to stay safe until the chaos subsides.


Thirty days' worth is the minimum to have at home in case the unthinkable occurs. "In the end, it's cold hard cash that will get you through," said Robert Siciliano, a security specialist for McAfee. "You want to have enough cash reserves to get through at least a month. That's not paying bills. Your concern is sustainability."
One calendar page means at least a few thousand dollars that you can access immediately. Remember, Siciliano advised, in the event of a catastrophe in which power is cut, ATMs will be down, banks will be closed, credit cards will be useless, and price-gouging at stores and at gas pumps will be rampant. You'll need a surplus of cash to deal with it.

A dirty bomb or nuclear tragedy could put you even further away from your money for a longer period of time, he said. There will be no substitute for physical currency.

It doesn't take an apocalypse to stir panic, Siciliano said. Hurricane Irene blacked out more than 4 million homes and businesses, including communities on the fringe of the storm.

Siciliano offered these other tips for keeping a reserve during a disaster:
Walmart sells a fireproof, water-sealed First Alert safe for $338. Siciliano endorses the Sentry line of safes. One costs $209.99 at Sears.
Have a means to physically protect your money and, more importantly, you and your family. Disorder -- caused by anything from civil unrest to an earthquake to terrorists in our midst -- brings out the worst in many. "Desperate people do desperate things," said Siciliano, who has a German Shepherd and a "safe wing" in his house. If you wish to legally own a firearm, he urges you to learn how to use it; store it locked in the safe; and make sure the bullets are in there as well.
If you don't have extra lucre to keep in your coffee pot (or new safe), Siciliano suggests selling old gold jewelry that might be lying around. With gold trading above $1850 per ounce on Friday, selling now will net you a far better deal than trying to barter it or pawn it during a crisis. "if there's ever a time to cash in, it's now," he said. Sicilano recently urged his wife to sell jewelry given to her by old boyfriends. She came home with $1,400.

For those seeking additional peace of mind, Siciliano recommends knowing how financial institutions protect your assets during the unforeseen. Call your branch and ask. Banks, especially smaller ones where an actual person can address your needs, he said, might volunteer some useful information on their backup systems. "They're not going to tell you everything, like where the servers are," he said. "That same intelligence can be used by the bad guys to do bad things."

Mitch Slater, senior vice president of investments at UBS Financial Services, said many firms have a "How Secure Are Your Assets?" brochure that can address basic concerns. (Not all banks will be so forthcoming: We reached a Chase spokesman who said the bank would not divulge anything about security procedures.)

While the chance of data loss during even a cyber-virus attack is remote, the possibility of an extreme event might call for extra caution. "It's not a bad idea to have backup paper files of your accounts," Siciliano said. "In the end, that's all that might be left."

Return to

Return to