Physical differences between women and men are apparent. But fiscal differences? Not so much. Still, while they may not be visible, they certainly exist: Women are significantly worse off financially than men, living longer, working fewer years (due to caring for children and other family members) and earning less.

Thus, unsurprisingly, they're stressed out. A recent study by Northwestern Mutual financial network and LLuminari (a health and wellness organization) found that:

  • Roughly half of women who actively manage their finances report "far too much" or "somewhat too much" stress. Among those not taking control of their money, it's more than three-quarters of women.
  • Whereas almost three-quarters of women think financial security is critical, just 62% of men think so. Women are also less satisfied with their financial progress than are men.
  • Only 14% of women say they feel financially prepared.

The good news
But step back from that ledge -- things don't have to be so bad, ladies. You can improve your situation financially, and improve your health in the process! The study found that "Women who are proactive in managing their finances are significantly more likely to report that they are in excellent to very good health, happy, hopeful, optimistic, confident, cheerful and upbeat." They were also found less likely to be worried or depressed.

That makes sense, because when we feel like we don't have things under control, that's when we tend to stress out and worry. This is a big deal, because stress alone can seriously hurt our health.

Here are some ways you can get in better fiscal and physical shape -- whether you're a woman or a man:

  • Dig yourself out of debt.
  • Develop a financial plan, and don't just file it away. Do what you need to do to get on track for retirement. Save and invest enough.
  • Open an IRA account, if you haven't already. Make the most of your 401(k) at work.
  • Invest in some stock mutual funds or stocks that hold the promise of steady growth. The following have averaged annual growth of more than 8% over the past decade:

Company

10-year avg. annual growth rate

Sysco (NYSE:SYY)

8.2%

Allergan (NYSE:AGN)

10.7%

McCormick (NYSE:MKC)

10.0%

Autodesk (NASDAQ:ADSK)

10.1%

Graco (NYSE:GGG)

13.3%

Adobe (NASDAQ:ADBE)

18.5%

Stericycle (NASDAQ:SRCL)

27.8%

Data: Yahoo! Finance.

For tips on a stress-free retirement, along with stock and fund recommendations, try the Fool's Rule Your Retirement newsletter service, free for 30 days.

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article. Sysco is a Motley Fool Income Investor pick. Try any of our investing newsletters free for 30 days. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.