Advising Breadwinner Moms

Financial challenges can be overwhelming, though many face them with resilience

Washington, DC – The reality faced by women who are primary wage earners in their household depends upon which of the two circumstances they are facing.

A recent study by Pew Research reveals that some are among the 5.1 million (37%) who are married mothers with higher incomes than their husbands, while 8.6 million (63%) others are single parents earning substantially less than their married peers.

While a significant dividing line between the two groups exists, there are a range of life experiences that impacts the financial health of each. The National Foundation for Credit CounselingⓇ (NFCCⓇ) and The Ohio State University (OSU) worked together to survey participants of the NFCC Sharpen Your Financial FocusTM (Sharpen) program.

Data from this program identified 52% of participating breadwinner moms as being single and 32% identified as being divorced. “Working women who support the needs of their families are faced with difficult financial choices every day”, said Susan C. Keating, president and CEO of the NFCC. “We are proud to offer support that helps them provide a more stable financial future for themselves and their families.”

Some of the most significant financial challenges include:

• Reduced Income
Managing a household budget is difficult enough for anyone with a stable income, but sudden decreases can cause a damaging ripple effect in a family's finances. The OSU data revealed that 29% of breadwinner moms participating in the Sharpen program were affected by unemployment or underemployment. Nearly as many (22%) suffered negative financial consequences resulting from domestic conflict, including separation and divorce.

Low credit scores and high levels of credit card debt can pose seemingly insurmountable financial obstacles for women seeking a balance between work and family

• Increased Expense
Medical costs and increases in the family size are among the top challenges faced in this category. Personal savings is one way to offset the pain of unanticipated increases, but for the majority of single mothers it is often impossible to maintain savings growth on a shoestring budget. The Pew survey revealed that the median household incomes of divorced or single mothers was $57,000 less than their married counterparts who earned more than their husbands.

• Bad Credit
Low credit scores and high levels of credit card debt can pose seemingly insurmountable financial obstacles for women seeking a balance between work and family. Sharpen results showed that revolving debt levels decreased by nearly half (49.5%) from pre-counseling to fourth quarter for wage-earning mothers in the program.

Counseling and education have proven to be significant change factors for breadwinner mothers who are facing tough financial choices. NFCC member agencies are able to provide financial counseling in-person, by phone, or online.




To reach a certified financial counselor today, consumers can call (877) 402-6322 or visit
About the National Foundation for Credit Counseling
The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), founded in 1951, is the nation’s largest and longest serving national nonprofit financial counseling organization. The NFCC’s mission is to promote the national agenda for financially responsible behavior, and build capacity for its members to deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services. NFCC members annually help millions of consumers through more than 600 community-based offices nationwide.
For free and affordable confidential advice through a reputable NFCC member, call (800) 388-2227, (en Español (800) 682-9832) or visit