After years of talking about money with women and men, Ann Morrell says there are definite differences between the sexes when it comes to their finances.
"Men are probably more fixated on the technical aspects," she says.
"Many have a grasp already on how compounding interest works or what the sharemarket does.
"Whereas women, they are looking more for how is the money going to improve their lives - more the touchy-feely side of things."
Research by the Financial Services Council has found 60 per cent of women worry about money on a regular basis and 80 per cent rate their financial wellbeing as moderate, low or very low.
Women often earn less than men, take career breaks to have a family and then work part-time, meaning their income is lower for longer - and that feeds into how much they can save for retirement.
But Morrell, a financial adviser with Trustees Executors, believes women could be doing more to help themselves.
When it comes to the mistakes women make, she says the age and stage of the individual plays a big role.
"It is not just a gender thing. Personally, I think there is a generational issue with regards to financial literacy."
Most of the clients Morrell sees are older - those who have accumulated some wealth and now want to protect and invest it.
Leaving it to the other half
In that generation, one of the biggest mistakes she sees is women leaving it to their partner to handle the finances. When the partner dies or there is a divorce, the woman can be left totally unstuck.
"Often the men in their lives, or the stronger dominant partner, may well have been in control of all of the finances, and I have seen circumstances where women have been left suddenly alone and had no idea what was going on in the finances within the household.
"It is absolutely shocking."
She knows of a case from a few years ago where the husband died suddenly and the wife got a huge surprise when she found out how deeply they were in debt.
"I heard of a woman whose husband was a successful professional and he died unexpectedly. They had a couple of investment properties and their own house was in an affluent suburb in Christchurch.
"She sat around the solicitor's table and discovered everything was absolutely borrowed to the hilt."
Despite having signed bank documents for the loans, she had no idea of the complete financial picture.
Putting it in the too-hard basket
Morrell says even some younger women she deals with are afraid of going into detail about what is happening in their financial world.
"The language is so jargon-laden and difficult to understand. It is not made easy for lay people to understand."
But Morrell says she tells many of her clients it isn't rocket science.
"Many women are managing a household and budgets on a day-to-day basis. They actually understand the concepts of financial management. It is just when they are put in a foreign language that they struggle to understand it."
Others have received an inheritance and don't know what to do with it.
"They feel this burden of the money that has suddenly landed in their lap. They feel this responsibility that they have to honour this inheritance and make it work harder for them.
"But they don't know where to begin."
Just not being engaged
Morrell says more than half of the people enrolled in KiwiSaver are women, but many are still just sitting with their money in a provider's default scheme.
People are placed in a default scheme when they start a new job and don't select their own scheme provider.
Until December last year those funds were invested conservatively, meaning members who sat in that type of fund for their entire working life risked having a lower return and smaller amount saved by retirement. The rules have now been changed so default schemes follow a balanced investment strategy, meaning they invest more in growth assets such as shares and listed property funds.
Morrell asks: "It is one thing to be enrolled but how many just slip into the default scheme and don't review how much they are contributing?"
Research by the Retirement Commission released in April found on average women have 20 per cent less in their KiwiSaver funds than men.
Those lower balances are linked to women earning less than men, taking time out to have a family and being much more likely to work part-time.
"A woman who is 30 now should be making decisions for her financial future," says Morrell.
And yet there are so many pulls on her often-lower income.
"I have been in the workforce for over 40 years and the glass ceiling has maybe shifted up a floor but it is still there."
Morrell likens saving for retirement to running a marathon.
"You quickly learn if you go too slow at the beginning or you stumble across an obstacle along the way. If to meet your goal you needed to do six-minute kilometres - but you slow down - you have to run faster again to make up for that loss and it is really hard to do.
"It is trying to be consistent in your savings plan right from the word go. And not be tempted to touch the money."
She says part of the problem is that many people want to live for the now.
"They think 65 is such a long way away, I'm not even going to think about it. As soon as you hit 45 those years start galloping by. Suddenly you realise you have not got as many years as you thought to save for it as you thought you did."
What to do about it?
"I think that a really good place to start is with generational discussions around how does money work. I think that every parent should be talking to their child from age 5 onwards about savings and how your savings grow over time."
She says there are many free resources for people to use on the Sorted website.
"There are plenty of resources there - it's just about getting people to get off their arse to have a look at it and take responsibility for their own finances to a large extent. But I fully understand how daunting it can be.
"I think again, talking about it and making the topic less complicated is a really good start."
She urges women to talk friends and family about money and find out what they are doing.
For those looking for a steer on what to do with their KiwiSaver, they could start by talking to their scheme provider.
"Talk to your provider and make sure you are in the right fund, are you maximising your contributions to it?"
Seeking professional, qualified help is key, Morrell says.
"Most advisers would give up half an hour of their time for free to chat with somebody. I have done it often myself in terms of young women who have made contact and want to know where to start."
Campaign launched to help women
If your wallet could talk, what would it say about you?
That's just one of the questions the financial services industry has come up with to prompt women to talk about money.
At the start of this month the Financial Services Council (FSC) in conjunction with the Retirement Commission launched "It starts with action" - a three-month campaign specifically aimed at women.
FSC chief executive Richard Klipin said there were three drivers for the campaign.
One was the organisation's establishment of a diversity and inclusion committee last year. As well, research showed women were highly stressed by money issues and had low confidence in themselves.
Then the FSC was approached by the Retirement Commission about raising awareness.
The campaign involves financial companies ranging from banks to KiwiSaver providers, financial advisers and trustee companies talking about money to their women stakeholders - both staff and clients - alongside a website that aims to bust common myths with videos of women from the industry.
Every fortnight there are different topics such as raising financially resilient kids, protecting what matters to you and retirement saving - culminating in a conference at the end of July.
"It's the first campaign we have really done in a concerted way," Klipin says. "The momentum is really growing."
He said the campaign's success would depend on women taking action with their finances.
"I think in the end what will resonate is how many actions are being taken by women across Aotearoa to change their behaviour or habits, or reinforce the fact they are actually pretty good with money. They don't need to be self-doubting around the issues where they are actually in pretty good stead."
Retirement Commissioner Jane Wrightson said women often related to money in different ways to men, and financial capability messages had not always resonated with them.
"By focusing on women's particular needs, in ways that will reach them, the sector will support women's financial empowerment."