By ALEX VEIGA
The Mayan calendar is supposed to end next week and that has led some to believe we're on a countdown to a global apocalypse.
One gambling website, MyTopSportsbooks.com, puts the odds of the world ending on Dec. 21 at 300 million to 1. But that's not keeping some believers from stockpiling food and preparing to flee urban areas.
Whether you fall into that camp or are decidedly more skeptical, being prepared to ride out everything from a worldwide cataclysm to the aftermath of a hurricane begins with getting one's finances in order.
"Before the disaster strikes is the time to start getting prepared, in terms of financially getting yourself out of debt and establishing some savings and supplies," says Arthur Bradley, a NASA engineer and author of the "Handbook to Practical Disaster Preparedness for the Family."
But clearing out the liabilities on one's personal balance sheet is only the beginning.
A severe-enough calamity could render the banking system inaccessible, something for which many Americans aren't prepared, says certified financial planner Louis Scatigna.
Scatigna, who lives in Jackson, N.J., saw firsthand what that could be like after Superstorm Sandy left much of the Jersey Shore without power for weeks, effectively shutting down ATMs, many stores and gas stations.
"It was a real good dry run for something that could be substantially bigger in the future," Scatigna says.
Here are six tips on how to prepare financially to make it through the next major disaster, short of the world coming to an end:
1. KEEP CASH AT HOME
In a severe economic disruption, access to credit or investments may not be available. Stocks may suddenly drop in value. Lenders may reduce or eliminate credit lines overnight, as many borrowers discovered in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.
"Your money is just bytes in a computer," Scatigna says. "It's very, very important for people to have cash on hand."