Brian Jackson—Alamy
June 28, 2014

Home buying: “Get your free credit report and address any errors before applying,” says Juliana Eades of the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund. Also, make sure to understand all of a loan’s terms and conditions — any prepayment penalties, for example — not just the interest rate.

Financial education: “Take advantage of free financial workshops,” says Sandra Olson, who teaches financial skills to refugees in Minnesota. Many credit unions, banks, community centers, and libraries offer them. But be aware, she adds: Some speakers are there to sell products.

Illness: Make health care and property powers of attorney and advance directives known to your loved ones before the need arises, says Sylvia Rudek of Illinois, director of the National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse. This reduces the chance of a dispute that might end up in court.

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