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Smart Money: From the evacuation zone

It was an interesting situation. Calmly waiting for a potential disaster that may or may not happen.
wildfire crews keremeos
BC Wildfire Service crews continue to fight the Keremeos Creek wildfire.

brad-brain​I am writing this week’s column from the evacuation alert zone of the Keremeos Creek forest fire.

It hasn’t been perilous for us but we were instructed that, if the situation deteriorated, we would have just one hour’s notice to leave with whatever we could take with us, and it wasn’t up for negotiation.

That didn’t give me a lot of options. We are camped south of Penticton. But my pickup truck, which I need to haul my travel trailer, was in Kelowna, about a hundred kilometres away.

Which basically means I need to be prepared to let my travel trailer, and everything in it, burn to the ground.

We did what we could to get ready for a hasty departure, just in case. Took the awning down. Put things away. Took a lot of pictures of the trailer and contents in case I needed it for an insurance claim.

But even as the smoke blotted out the sun, and ash rained down on us, and the firefighting helicopters buzzed overhead, I wasn’t as concerned as you might think.

The fire wasn’t close enough that we needed to be evacuated yet, we were just on alert for the potential of evacuation. There were lots of firefighters on duty. We were supposed to get an hour warning if we needed to get out, and there was a back road escape route.

With no truck to haul my trailer, all we would need to do was get in the car and go. I really didn’t agonize over the potential for loss, and part of the reason for that was there wasn’t anything more for me to do. It was out of my hands now.

It was an interesting situation. Calmly waiting for a potential disaster that may or may not happen.

Part of the reason why I wasn’t more agitated is that I wasn’t in the same situation as others. I wasn’t going to lose my house, or my livelihood. After all, it’s just a travel trailer filled with things, including my golf clubs and the Xbox. But still, these things are mine and I like them.

I quickly found perspective on the importance of all the things that we accumulate. If it came right down to it, I could cut all this stuff loose without regret. I can always buy another Xbox.

​​Of course, I have the luxury of saying all this because the trailer is insured.

The funny thing, now that I am in this situation where I know in advance that I could suffer a loss, is that I usually renew my trailer insurance automatically. But, like most people, I never really expect to actually need the coverage.

It’s not as if when my insurance comes up for renewal I say to myself. “Yep, better get full coverage. I don’t want to lose everything in an inescapable forest fire.” I simply renew the coverage without giving it much thought.

Here’s the point. We insure our stuff, and we do it automatically because we wouldn’t dream of being uninsured. But too often we don’t adequately insure ourselves.

Without question my most valuable asset is my ability to earn an income. And its probably yours as well.

I can always buy another Xbox. But if I can’t work because of accident or sickness, now what? Where’s the money that I need to live going to come from now?

The answer is disability insurance. Personally, I own as much as I qualify for. Nobody ever plans to be caught in an emergency situation, or to suffer a loss. But it happens.

You can always buy another Xbox, and still we put insurance on our stuff without thinking about it. Replacing your ability to earn an income is not as easy, yet some people walk around with inadequate, or even zero, disability insurance. Or, they think they may have some sort of coverage through work, but don’t even know what their coverage is.

If that sounds like you, talk to an insurance professional about your income protection needs. You can always buy another Xbox, but replacing your income is not as straightforward.

And you don’t usually get advance warning on a potential disaster.

Brad Brain, CFP, R.F.P., CIM, TEP is a Certified Financial Planner in Fort St John, BC. This material is prepared for general circulation and may not reflect your individual financial circumstances. Brad can be reached at