Whether you're just starting out or have spent years raising a family and building a nest egg, you'll rest easier with a well-stocked financial-survival kit.
Keep an emergency cash reserve. It's better to have some money saved than to get into high-interest credit-card debt. Stash your cash in savings or a money-market account for easy access.
Buy life insurance. If someone is financially dependent on you, you need coverage equal to between six and 10 times your annual income — or use the financial-needs calculator at Kiplinger.com to figure your coverage more precisely. Families with young children should generally buy term-insurance policies that lock in the same rate for 20 or 30 years. Most healthy people under age 50 can buy all the protection they need for less than $1,000 a year. You'll find quotes at Insweb.com, Insure.com or AccuQuote.com.
Cover all your bases. Update your homeowners policy to cover the replacement cost of your home. To make up for any increase in your premium, raise your deductible to $1,000 or more. Shopping around may turn up a better deal on your auto insurance but don't skimp on liability coverage. Look into individual disability insurance if you don't have adequate coverage through work. If you're in your 40s or 50s and have covered the rest of your bases, consider buying long-term-care insurance. If you no longer need life insurance, shift the premiums to a long-term-care policy instead.
Update your estate plan. If you have gotten married, had a baby or experienced some other life-changing event, update the beneficiary designations on your insurance policies and retirement plans. Review your will and the guardianship arrangements for your children. You can find a lawyer through the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel, www.actec.org.
Plan for the worst. With the economy still unsettled, a safety net can make all the difference if you happen to lose your job. That means stockpiling cash, paying down debt — especially any 401(k) loans — figuring out where you want to move your retirement assets and looking into purchasing your own health insurance.
Look for deals on individual health insurance. If you need it, you can find quotes at eHealthInsurance.com. If your employer is raising premiums of co-payments through a work-based policy, use a flexible-spending account to cover your increased out-of-pocket costs.