Where is the best place to keep irreplaceable valuables: in a safety deposit box at the bank, or in a fireproof safe in your home? While banks have 24-hour security that makes them seem like the best place for valuables, the FDIC does not cover the contents of safety deposit boxes, and many of the items you might keep inside them are not insurable anyway: things like passports, original birth certificates, and other crucial paperwork. Further, you may need access to such documents at a moment’s notice, but you will only be able to get to them during the bank’s operating hours.
There are a lot of reasons to choose a fireproof safe instead of a safety deposit box for valuables. A fireproof safe can be made burglar proof as well, with options for bolting them into the wall and hiding them behind artwork or furniture. Your valuable items are safer with you and more accessible too.
Note: a safety deposit box at the bank is a good place to keep a copy of the combination to your fireproof safe (and copies of the important original documents you store in the fireproof safe).
Once you buy a fireproof safe, what types of items should you store inside? Here are 10 of the most common items stored inside a water and/or fireproof safe.
1. Cash. Do you keep extra cash on hand in the home, apart from the cash you keep in your wallet or purse? A fireproof safe is a good place to store uninsurable and irreplaceable items like cash.
2. Jewelry. While jewelry and other valuables may be insurable, they are often irreplaceable. Any jewelry that is either extremely valuable or infrequently worn should be stored in a safe.
3. Family heirlooms. Many family heirlooms and other items passed down over generations are extremely functional and may get daily use in your home. But any important heirlooms that aren’t in use or on display in your home are good items for the safe so you can continue to pass them on to future generations.
4. Other valuables and collectibles. Valuables or collectibles that are not on display in the home—or ones that currently are but you couldn’t bear to lose—should be protected in a fireproof safe. These items may include traditionally collected items like coins, stamps, cards, comics, or action figures, or your own unique and irreplaceable collection.
5. Backup data drive. If you use an external hard drive or other auxiliary backup disk to protect files on your computer, it should be stored in your fire and waterproof safe. Many families copy their digital photo collection to CDs or other backup disks, and should be stored inside a safe as well.
6. Print albums. If you have print photo albums, scrapbooks, baby books, or other memory books, these may be protected inside a safe, if there is room available. If room is limited, consider storing the most important and irreplaceable items such as a baby book or an album from a parent’s or grandparent’s childhood.
7. Wedding memorabilia. Likewise, a wedding album, dress, and other items you wish to save from special occasions and significant life events should be stored inside a fireproof safe if there is room.
8. Copies of keys. Any important key that you might need a copy of at any time should go in your fireproof safe. Consider keys to vehicles, safety deposit boxes, and sheds, garages, and other accessory buildings on or off your property.
9. Guns, ammo, and other weapons. Guns and ammunition are best stored inside a water and fire proof safe that few people have access to, as are other types of dangerous or lethal weapons. Depending on the size of both your weapons and collection, you may need a separate and specialized water and fireproof gun safe. It is also recommended that ammunition is stored in a safe apart from the gun safe.
10. Important records and paperwork. There’s a long list of records and other paperwork that should be stored at home in a fireproof safe:
• Original birth certificates
• Original social security cards
• Property insurance policies
• Health care records and copies of health insurance cards
• List of bills, debts, and other monthly financial obligations, along with passwords to accounts and other crucial account information
• Copies of bank account numbers
• Paperwork related to investments and retirement plans
• Legal documents such as wills, powers of attorney, and health care proxies