You can summarize everything about personal finance in two words: be prepared.

Life throws a bunch of things at you that you need to be ready for. There are the challenges everyone faces, like making enough money to pay your basic living expenses. Then there are the dreams you really want to plan for, whether it's buying a home, starting a family, retiring at the end of a prosperous career.

But you'll also have deal with some curve balls. As residents of New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast learned two years ago, it's not easy to prepare for the worst. Even when you think you have everything figured out, an unexpected catastrophe can throw your best-laid plans into turmoil.

Not just Mother Nature
The weather certainly has many dramatic ways of surprising you, but there are plenty of other causes of financial woe. Personal tragedies like a serious illness or injury can ravage your emergency fund and leave you struggling to avoid financial ruin. Economic conditions can worsen, leaving you without steady income and forcing you to find new ways to support yourself and your family. Choosing investments always involves risk, and when the markets fail to cooperate, you can end up with big losses in your portfolio. Yet there are times when hard-hit stocks rise from the ashes. To see how companies can recover from hard times, just look at turnarounds at companies like USG (NYSE:USG), NutriSystem (NASDAQ:NTRI), Ceradyne (NASDAQ:CRDN), and Charter Communications (NASDAQ:CHTR).

In this special series of articles, you'll learn what you need to know about protecting yourself from financial disasters. You'll be able to take steps to protect yourself and your loved ones from the worst effects of hurricanes, tornados, and other natural disasters before they strike. You'll find out what to do when bad news sends your stocks reeling. You'll even get some insight on how to deal with fears of future problems when things are going well for you. Good times don't have to be too good to be true.

In addition, helping people through hardship is big business. The insurance industry banks on weathering big storms with their profits intact. When they fail, it can quickly spell the end for an entire company. Our analysis of the insurance industry will tell you how to navigate troubled waters and find the companies that will make it through hurricane season in one piece.

Get help
To see how you can be ready for anything, read these articles now, before the power goes out:

May you have a safe and uneventful hurricane season!

After nearly a decade out West, Fool contributor Dan Caplinger is back on the edge of the hurricane zone. He doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned in this article. USG is an Inside Value selection. The Fool's disclosure policy is worth its weight in gold.