Home Page > About Capital One > Investor Relations > Capital One Survey of High School Seniors Reveals Gender Gaps in Financial Literacy

Release Details

Capital One Survey of High School Seniors Reveals Gender Gaps in Financial Literacy

June 24, 2009 at 10:02 AM EDT
Financial Education Classes Key to Preparing All Students for Post-High School Money Management Responsibilities

MCLEAN, Va.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Jun. 24, 2009-- With high school graduation and summer just around the corner, many young adults will soon be experiencing newfound freedom and heading out into the world on their own. For many, this next chapter in life also means taking on the new financial responsibilities without the help of their parents. Capital One Financial Corporation (NYSE:COF) recently surveyed high school seniors to see how prepared they are to manage finances on their own.

Although the survey data shows the majority of soon-to-be male graduates believe they are ready to take on these new challenges, the female students are less certain of their ability to manage their finances on their own.

According to the survey, two-thirds (65.4 percent) of the male students rated themselves as “highly knowledgeable” about personal finance compared to less than half (49.2 percent) of the young women who participated in the survey. While the gender differences are surprising, these numbers also show a striking correlation between the students’ confidence about their financial knowledge and whether or not they had participated in a financial education class, with 45 percent of the male students surveyed and 61 percent of the female students reporting that they have never taken a personal finance class.

Overall, one-third of the students (33.8 percent) said that they were either unsure or unprepared to manage their own banking and personal finances.

“It’s clear that financial education, or the lack of it, has an impact on students and the level of confidence they have in their ability to manage money on their own,” said Diana Don, Director of Financial Education at Capital One. “"Basic money-management skills are important building blocks for economic self-sufficiency and success and it’s important that all students understand the fundamentals of personal finance when they graduate from high school."

Early practical experience with money and banking helps establish good habits

Real world experience also prepares seniors for the financial challenges and independence they will face upon graduation. Eighty percent of the high school seniors surveyed report that they have had a bank account for one to two years and that they are regularly checking their account balances. Most of those with checking accounts (73 percent) balance their checkbooks at least once each month and one quarter report that they check their bank account balances weekly for activity and errors. The vast majority (85 percent) of the students also said they at least periodically set money aside in savings. However, only half of the students surveyed (50.6 percent) use a budget to manage expenses and savings.

Parents are a primary resource

The majority of the student’s participating in the Capital One survey (70 percent) reported that they, at least occasionally, look to their parents for advice about money management and personal finance. However, only 27 percent said that their parents are their primary resource for financial information.

For seniors who will soon be graduating and experiencing more financial freedom, Capital One offers the following tips for a healthy financial future:

  • Establish financial goals – As a first step to financial freedom, consider and establish your own financial goals. Short-term goals could include setting aside money to cover everyday expenses or saving toward a vacation with friends. Long-term financial goals might include planning to repay student loans or saving to buy a new car.
  • Develop a realistic budget that you can stick to – After graduation, many seniors may be responsible for a number of bills and personal expenses for the first time. Once you’ve established financial goals, create a budget of expenses you expect to incur. Gather recent receipts and be sure not to forget bills or things that may be automatically deducted from your bank account. Then determine your expected income. Determining your expenses and your income will show any gaps and will allow you to allocate your money properly, ensuring you are in control of your income and on track to meet your financial goals.
  • Prepare for the unexpected – When creating a budget be sure to set aside money for emergency situations or unexpected fees.
  • Balance your checkbook – It is one of the easiest ways to keep track of your finances and avoid unnecessary fees that will eat away at your budget.
  • Simply pay attention – Thoroughly read all bills, contracts and fine print. This is one of the most important keys to financial responsibility. It’s important to know your interest rates on all credit cards and loans. You should also check your bills closely for mistakes each month and report any erroneous charges immediately.
  • Pay on time – Paying your bills on time is the most important step toward establishing a good credit history. If you anticipate that you will be late on a payment, contact your lender in advance to make them aware of your situation and see if there is any room for negotiation.
  • Be smart about credit – Look for ways to establish a good credit history early on as your credit rating will play an important role down the road. If you choose to apply for a credit card or loan, be sure to read the fine print and understand any fees associated with the card. Also be sure to check your credit report at least once a year; regularly checking is one of the best ways to protect against identity theft and credit fraud. Consumers are eligible for one free credit report every year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. Individuals can request their free credit report online at or by calling 1-877-322-8228. Consumers should also be sure to correct any mistakes on their credit report right away. You can do so by contacting each of the three major credit reporting bureaus – Equifax, TransUnion and Experian.
  • Save, save, save – While it might be challenging to put aside money in savings, this is an important habit to establish. No matter how little you put away, every little bit helps so don’t wait to start saving. Put aside anything you can today. One way to do this is to have money automatically transferred to savings. This is one of the easiest ways to begin saving. Set up automatic transfers in regular increments to ensure that money goes directly to savings.

More information about personal finance and money management is available on the Capital One website, including a free interactive online tool developed in partnership with the non-profit consumer advocacy group Consumer Action, which is available at

MoneyWi$e program arms consumers with financial tools and information

Education is the key to a healthy financial future. To help consumers, Capital One and Consumer Action created the MoneyWi$e financial education program. The MoneyWi$e eLearning tool provides interactive modules, worksheets and calculators to help consumers with various personal finance topics, including saving, budgeting, and rebuilding credit. The program includes a special section dedicated to “Talking to Teens About Money.” Through interactive modules, parents can learn how to teach teens about saving, talk to them about credit, help them set financial goals and dispel myths about debit cards and writing checks. Consumers can access the MoneyWi$e eLearning tool in English and Spanish at

Survey Methodology

The findings reported in this release are from an online panel survey conducted by the opinion research firm, Braun Research of Princeton, New Jersey. The survey was sponsored by APCO Worldwide in Washington DC. Braun Research completed 500 interviews with High School Graduating Seniors throughout the United States. The interviews were conducted between May 13, 2009 and May 18, 2009. The margin of error for this study is ± 4.38 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. Sampling for this study was supplied by invited panelists.

No statistical weighting was accomplished as all samples were drawn at random and designed to fall proportionally to the population of High School students in the United States by Census region.

About Capital One

Capital One Financial Corporation ( is a financial holding company whose subsidiaries, which include Capital One, N.A., Capital One Bank (USA), N.A., and Chevy Chase Bank, F.S.B., collectively had $121 billion in deposits and $150 billion in managed loans outstanding as of March 31, 2009. Headquartered in McLean, Virginia, Capital One offers a broad spectrum of financial products and services to consumers, small businesses and commercial clients. Capital One, N.A. and Chevy Chase Bank, F.S.B. have approximately 1,000 branch locations primarily in New York, New Jersey, Texas, Louisiana, Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. A Fortune 500 company, Capital One trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "COF" and is included in the S&P 100 index.

Source: Capital One Financial Corporation

Capital One Financial Corporation
Diana Don, 212-580-0161