Keeping yourself and your family on track in your role of primary breadwinner

According to our 2014-2015 study, "Financial Experiences & Behaviors Among Women," 44 percent of women surveyed are the primary breadwinner of their household. How women step in to this role can have a strong impact on their financial future.

Tips for married women
If you have suddenly found yourself as the primary breadwinner of your family as a result of a spouse’s or partner’s unemployment or underemployment, these tips may help you and your family adapt to this major change:

  • Establish expectations. Since your responsibilities have been altered, decide who will take control of such duties as child care and daily household maintenance.
  • Explain the household changes to your children. Children have certain expectations from both parents. If you're no longer able to fulfill certain needs, let them know up front who will be taking over.
  • Ask for help. To take some of the stress off both you and your spouse, get help around the house whenever possible. If you have older kids, ask them to help out with chores or to babysit your younger kids.
  • Work with a financial professional. Take time to review your finances and your life insurance needs with your financial professional to ensure that your portfolio supports the changes within your family.
  • Talk with a counselor. Many couples find it difficult adjusting to their new roles in the household and benefit from talking with a neutral party.

Tips for single women
If you are the breadwinner as a result of choosing to be single or being divorced or widowed, these tips may help you plan for your situation:

  • Save for a rainy day. Since you are the sole provider for your household, it’s important that you save enough money to weather an unemployment situation. A cushion of six months’ salary is a good start.
  • Save for retirement. Whether through a company 401(k) plan or an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), you should save for retirement.
  • Get life insurance coverage. Purchase a life insurance policy and designate a close family member to be your beneficiary so that he or she can pay off any expenses should something happen to you. Learn how understanding risk can help you prepare for the unexpected.
  • Work with a financial professional. A financial professional can help you set up a financial plan that includes investment accounts, retirement plans, and insurance policies so that you can feel better prepared for the future.
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