27/02/2016 4:33 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST

How Women Can Improve Their Financial Fitness via Getty Images
Businesswomen in a meeting

As women continue to earn less than men, a recent survey by Fintech start-up Map My Plan reveals they also score far lower than men when it comes to financial fitness.

The survey revealed only 37 per cent of working women fell into the ‘financially fit’ category, compared to 45 per cent of men.

It’s well known Australian women earn approximately 17.5 per cent less than their male peers -- one reason is because they are predominately the primary carers in families, for children and/or aging parents. But women are also known for saving less than men, and that’s the impact on financial fitness.

Catherine Robson, from Affinity Private, told the Huffington Post Australia that while women save less money than men, there is excellent research about the things that women value more than money, which is key to empowering women financially.

“As Harvard professor Claudia Goldin has proven, it is actually temporal flexibility. This is about control over how much and when you work. It’s also about strong family relationships which women truly want and are happy to accept lower pay and less savings as a result,” Robson said.

“Australia has one of the highest levels of income per person in the world. So it’s not lack of money which is the problem, but lack of understanding and agreement between couples about how to use it. Once women recognise that financial strength is not about luxury cars and status purchases, but about achieving what they really want in life -- the ability to choose satisfying, flexible work and strong relationships, women often become super savers.”

There’s something of an urban myth that women are not good with money. Yet research shows that when factors such as lower income are filtered out women make great investors. Robson said women usually achieve higher net returns than their male peers.

“One reason for this is because women don’t suffer from overconfidence to the same degree as men, tend to trade less, have lower transaction costs and taxes as a result and therefore achieve higher net returns. This phenomenon is so well recognised that there is even a book about it!”

"Louann Loftan's book Invest Like A Girl explores the characteristics that have made Buffett such a successful investor – thorough research investing for the long term and not chopping and changing to make quick money, are all traits that women naturally display when investing."

Culturally, men tend to talk about money more than women do. But Robson said it’s less what you discuss with friends at a BBQ and more about getting comfortable with numbers.

"If you want to be a leader in any field, from running an art gallery to an investment bank, you need to feel confident that you can express yourself numerically. If we can get more girls engaging with numbers at an earlier age, we will not only lift financial confidence, but also ensure that women are engaged in the high skilled, high paying careers of the future, including information, technology and innovation," Robson said.

"It’s also important to rethink why women’s financial health is important -- and it’s not just for the benefit of individual women -- the whole community is a beneficiary. There is strong evidence that societies which have greater equality, also achieve greater wellbeing for everyone, not just the lower socio economic groups."

Robson's Tips

1. Understand and harness the power of compounding -- with your health, relationships, career and especially money. Smart choices you make when you are young, pay off in multiples as you get older. Consider this, if you invest $2,000 pa between 19 and 25 and then stop investing completely, this will grow by more than if you start investing $2,000 pa every year in the very same investment between 26 and 65 years. Starting just 7 years earlier means you can invest 14 times less just as a result of the magic of compounding. Even at 20 years of age nearly everyone can save $40 a week and that might be all it takes to provide you with the freedom to make the choices you want and still secure comfortable retirement.

2. If you are a couple, live on one income and save the other. This was the best thing my husband and I ever did as it accelerated the repayment of our home loan and savings. We did not even notice financially when I took unpaid leave to have our two kids or leave a high paying job to earn nothing in the first years of building my business.