When it comes to financial planning, men and women are just different.

Though they face similar challenges in preparing for their financial futures, men and women think about and respond to them in divergent ways, according to research released Wednesday as part of Northwestern Mutual’s ongoing 2013 Planning and Progress Study.

But the online survey’s larger finding is that men and women alike are falling behind on their financial planning.

“While the differences in perspectives between men and women are interesting, ultimately our study found that too many people – regardless of gender – ended up in the exact same place: trying to play catch-up,” said Northwestern Mutual executive vice president Greg Oberland in a statement. 

The survey, which was conducted by Harris Interactive, found that 63% of the more than 1,500 people surveyed said they need to improve their financial planning, about half reported they have no financial plan in place, and 23% said they have a lot of catching up to do, whether due to debt, unexpected expenses, or a lack of job security.

In response to such financial concerns, women showed a greater inclination to curtail their spending, with 44% saying they plan to tighten their belts over the next 12 months compared to 34% of men.

Women also were more likely to attribute their need to play financial catch-up to unexpected expenses and debt. Men often cited a lack of long-term financial planning as another reason.

The genders also preferred different investment strategies. Men contributed more to their 401(k)s  (35% to 21%) and put their savings in the stock market (17% to 8%) whereas women favored saving early, paying off their mortgages, and purchasing annuities, insurance, and well-priced real estate.

Personal attitudes about financial planning also diverged along gender lines. According to the study, men are more likely to consider themselves “disciplined” financial planners compared to women (37% to 31%) but tend to believe that their financial planning skills still need work (66% to 59%).

Though feelings of financial insecurity were widespread, women reported more unease, both in the present and for the long-term. Only 40% described themselves as financially secure now as opposed to 47% of men, and just 53% said they were financially prepared to live to 75 compared to 60% of men.

“This is less about men being from Mars and women being from Venus and more about finding themselves on the same planet,” said Oberland, “and the only way off is to have a good financial security plan.”

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