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Are you a breadwinner mom? Here's how to cope: Panel

When Mom is the family breadwinner, different financial planning issues come into play.

Women play an increasingly significant role in the family finances, panelists told financial advisors Thursday at the TD Ameritrade National LINC conference in Orlando. Moms are the sole or primary breadwinner in 40 percent of households, according to a 2013 Pew Research Center study.

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Women are also more apt to be the family's primary financial decision maker and are controlling more and more wealth from spousal and intergenerational transfers, said Hemington Wealth Management co-founder Eileen O'Connor, who moderated the panel. "This is a complete seismic shift," she said.

Yet breadwinner women juggling work, family and household duties often fail to consider a long-term financial plan, O'Connor told CNBC after the panel. "The biggest complaint I hear is, 'I don't have time, I don't have time, I don't have time,'" she said. But considering that women typically earn less and live longer than men, procrastinating can be an expensive mistake in lost investment growth.

"Don't assume you're going to earn your way out of it," said panelist Elisabeth Cullington, managing director of HoyleCohen and co-founder of the firm's Women's Practice.

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Get involved with money management

Being the breadwinner doesn't necessarily go hand-in-hand with financial confidence. "Some women make all the money, and then once it's in the bank, say, 'I don't want anything to do with managing it,'" panelist Jen Dawson, a certified financial planner and wealth manager at Balasa Dinverno Foltz, told CNBC.

But it's not smart to let one spouse take the lead, she said — both should be actively involved in steering the family's finances. That will serve women well in the event of divorce or widowhood.

Sharing the role can also alleviate some of the emotional issues that pop up when the wife is the breadwinner, which can be tough on both spouses, Dawson said.

Assess insurance needs

Family breadwinners need adequate disability and life insurance to replace their income, Sheryl Garrett, a CFP and founder of the Garrett Planning Network, told CNBC this week. But women also tend to be the primary family caregivers for children and older adults, a dual role that likely means you need even more coverage.

"You've got a working individual that you need their income, and you have a service provider that you need their services," Garrett said.

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Outsource chores

"If you're the primary breadwinner, more than likely that means you're engaging in intense working hours," Lazetta Rainey Braxton, a CFP and founder of Financial Fountains, told CNBC this week. "Women also feel like they need to clean the house, help the kids with homework and take them to every lesson."

That adds up. In the average day, women spend twice as much time as men do cooking, cleaning and caring for household members, and quadruple as much time on laundry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' latest Time Use survey.

"It's OK to outsource," said Dawson. It can be a good investment to hire someone to complete tasks you don't enjoy and that take up a good chunk of valuable time.

Some women make all the money, and then once it's in the bank, say, 'I don't want anything to do with managing it.'
Jen Dawson
wealth manager at Balasa Dinverno Foltz

Plan for life transitions

Taking any unpaid time off from work — whether it's to go back to school or have a baby — requires forethought for a family breadwinner, said Garrett of the Garrett Planning Network. "We don't plan for that in our finances that often," she said.

That might mean beefing up your emergency fund and other savings, as well as reassessing expenses to see where the family can spend less during the period where you aren't working.

(Perhaps not surprisingly, how long to take off from work after having a baby is one of the issues couples fight the most about during pregnancy.)