If you’re the female breadwinner in your family, you know how challenging this role can be. The demands on your time and attention are constant and come from all areas of your life — your boss and colleagues, your partner or spouse and kids, extended family and more. It’s hard to tackle and complete your daily to-do list, much less think about the long-term, especially when it comes to big-picture finances.

Sound familiar? You’re not alone. Women are the primary breadwinners in half of American families that have children under 18 years old. So what can you do today to help ensure you’re protecting your family and their financial future?

1. Save for Retirement…Really

It may be the most obvious advice out there, but it might also be the most ignored. One in three Americans has saved nothing for retirement, and experts are increasingly talking about the gender retirement gap. You might think you have to set aside a certain amount of savings to reach your retirement goals, but even saving a little bit each month is better than saving nothing.

Does your employer offer a 401(k) program? It’s one of the easiest ways to save for retirement and it gives employees a tax break on money they set aside. No 401(k) at your job? You might want to think about setting up an IRA (individual retirement account) at a brokerage firm or other financial institution.

2. Get on Top of Your Debt

No doubt about it: debt is depressing, and hardly anyone likes to think about it. But you could be paying between hundreds and thousands of dollars per year in the form of high interest rates, especially on credit cards, student loans and home loans.

If you’re juggling credit card debt, think about consolidating, and transfer your balances to a low-interest card.

3. Do an Insurance Check-up

It’s not easy to think about what you or your family would face should the unexpected happen, but making sure your income and your financial future are protected is important. Take a look at your group benefit options through work to see if life insurance, disability insurance or even home and auto insurance policies are available to you. You might even be able to pay for additional voluntary coverage options, like critical illness insurance or a legal plan, which could help you save money in situations when you need it most.

When it comes to life insurance, you can also supplement with an individual policy to make sure you have coverage that meets your needs.

4. Create an Estate Plan

Create a plan now to ensure your estate — your personal assets and possessions — is handled according to your wishes. You will need trust and estate documents for this to happen, so doing your research and speaking with a financial professional can help you get everything you need in order to make sure your family is taken care of.

5. Consider a 529

A 529, or qualified tuition plan, is a way to save for higher education through a tax-advantaged savings account. Even small amounts can grow each year, just as your children do. These funds can be a big help with expenses for college tuition, textbooks and vocational schools. You can even set up a 529 for yourself, if you intend to go back to school.

A proactive, organized approach to financial planning can help you worry less about your family’s financial security. Take these important steps now to ensure you continue to provide for your family, and protect their financial future.

Posted: December 19, 2017