Women need to stop thinking "the universe" will provide and start planning better for their financial security, says Retirement Commissioner Diane Maxwell.

Speaking to the Herald as part of Money Week - which begins today - Maxwell said there was a need to address the larger gender gap around financial literacy.

Women tended to be good at short-term financial planning such as budgeting, but were neglecting a longer-term focus. This, coupled with the fact that women earned less than men over a lifetime and were paid less in similar jobs, meant they were reaching retirement in poorer shape.

Money Week, a project of the Commission for Financial Literacy and Retirement Income, is a nationwide week of events designed to motivate Kiwis to look at their financial situation and get their money "fighting fit".

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"Broadly we're doing okay - but that overall figure hides some real discrepancies among groups," Maxwell said.

"We know from local research and OECD research we've been involved in lately that Maori and Pasifika people have far lower levels of financial literacy," she said.

"I have to tell you too, and it's quite depressing, that women still have far lower levels of financial literacy than men and we're doing quite a lot of work around that too."

Some separate issues for women were that they tended to earn less than men over a lifetime because they were more likely to take time out of work, they earned less even if they were doing the same job, and they tended to choose careers that were less highly paid.

"If you add all that together then you reach retirement in far worse shape," Maxwell said.

"I have to say this, and I run the risk of offending people but women ... some women, do still take quite an emotional view of money and make decisions sometimes based on 'the universe' and what the universe is thinking.

"Women might say, 'I'm not going to plan for that, because the universe will provide'. That frankly scares the life out of me, because frankly that's not Plan A for getting to retirement in good shape."

Asked if the end goal of increased financial literacy was a more wealthy community, Maxwell said she had started using a new phrase: Building wealthy lives.

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She said this referred less to material evidence of wealth, for example cars, boats and baches, than to wellbeing.

"The wealthy life might mean very different things for different people."