A new study has found that while women are more conservative with their finances than men, 63 percent still believe their financial planning needs improvement.

The survey, commissioned by Northwestern Mutual and conducted by the research firm Ipsos, polled 1,015 people online. It found that women are more likely than men to feel their financial planning needs improvement (63 percent vs. 54 percent) and more likely to consider themselves "informal" planners (41 percent vs. 35 perhaps).  Despite having longer lifespans than men, women feel less financially prepared to reach age 75 (48 percent vs. 65 percent), 85 (37 percent vs. 55 percent), and 95 (30 percent vs. 43 percent).

While women are more likely to feel their planning needs improvement, they are approaching their finances more cautiously than men. For both men and women, the preferred approach to saving and investing is "slow and steady wins the race" (36 percent). Yet women are more likely to have a strong preference for safe but lower returns with very low risk, over high returns with high risk (44 percent vs. 35 percent).

Among Americans who are taking steps to become more financially secure in 2012, women are more likely to make "building up an emergency fund" a financial priority (61 percent), compared to men (54 percent).

"There are some good signs here—particularly in women's recognition that their financial planning needs more attention," said Northwestern Mutual vice president Rebekah Barsch in a statement. "But as is the case with everyone we surveyed, not just women, there is a distinct need to bring more focus and discipline to the financial planning process."

The survey also found that the majority of Americans are taking steps to pay down their debt (62 percent), develop a budget (61 percent), save a portion of their paycheck regularly (58 percent) and build an emergency fund (58 percent).

Younger Americans aged 25 to 59 feel less prepared than older Americans (60 years and up) to live to 75 (47 percent vs. 79 percent), 85 (37 percent vs. 66 percent), and 95 (29 percent vs. 52 percent).

Among the priorities for improvement in 2012, finances (43 percent) jumped 7 percentage points from 2011 and came in second only to personal health (48 percent). This was well ahead of spending time with family and friends (31 percent), career (12 percent) and education (5 percent).

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