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IRS Reports of Increased Tax Refunds Offer Consumers a Unique Opportunity to Jump-Start Their Savings

March 16, 2005 at 10:54 AM EST

MCLEAN, Va., March 16, 2005 /PRNewswire-FirstCall via COMTEX/ -- The Internal Revenue Service reported last week that the average tax refund grew to $2,436 for tax returns filed through the end of February. That's a 9 percent increase from the average $2,230 check sent to early filers last year.

Yet, with personal savings decreasing, and reports that the majority of Americans plan to spend -- rather than save -- their tax refunds, financial experts and Capital One (NYSE: COF) point out that most consumers may be missing out on the opportunity to maximize that extra cash.

"Tax time is a great opportunity for people to start saving," said Lynnette Khalfani, personal finance expert and author of Zero Debt: The Ultimate Guide to Financial Freedom. "Whether they have as little as $100 or as much as $10,000 to invest, there is a wide range of flexible savings options available to help consumers make the most of their money."

For those consumers who need a jump-start on saving, Khalfani offered these guidelines:

  • Start Now. The earlier you begin saving and investing, the better your chances for building long-term wealth.

  • Be Consistent -- No Matter How Much Money You Have to Save. Consumers should commit to adding a fixed amount of money into their investment accounts every month -- regardless of what the market is doing. Even for those with a limited amount of money to save, saving on a regular basis is important. A convenient way to save is to establish an automatic savings or investment program linked to your checking account, to enable an automatic deduction from your paycheck.

  • Diversify. Studies show that 90 percent of portfolio performance is determined by asset allocation -- in other words, the ways in which consumers divide their investments. This means being less worried about specific products and more concerned with making sure consumers have the right mix of stocks, bonds, cash and other investments in their portfolios.

"When it comes to saving money for the long-term, it's important that consumers develop their personal savings strategies to match their financial lifestyles," said Pam Girardo, spokesperson at Capital One. "That's why Capital One offers a variety of savings. Our products range from high yield savings and money market accounts with very low minimum balance requirements to our No Regrets CD that offers the ability to bump up the rate once during the term of the CD if interest rates rise."

Khalfani added that consumers should always shop around and read the fine print when it comes to choosing the right investment products -- regardless of how much money they have to invest.

"Rates and terms on savings and investment accounts vary dramatically. It's important that consumers understand the value of shopping around. Currently, the average money market account pays less than one percent -- but that doesn't mean that a better rate doesn't exist. Capital One offers a range of flexible savings options that generally pay two to three times the national average and have lower minimum balance requirements to open," said Khalfani.

Consumers can access additional information on savings and investment products, tips and advice on savings online at http://www.capitalone.com.

About Capital One

Headquartered in McLean, Virginia, Capital One Financial Corporation (http://www.capitalone.com) is a bank holding company whose principal subsidiaries, Capital One Bank, Capital One, F.S.B. and Capital One Auto Finance, Inc. offer customized financial products and services to meet individual consumers' needs. Capital One's subsidiaries collectively had 48.6 million accounts and $79.9 billion in managed loans outstanding as of December 31, 2004. Capital One, one of the largest providers of MasterCard and Visa credit cards in the world, also provides auto and other motor vehicle financing products, savings vehicles and a host of other financial services. Capital One trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "COF" and is included in the S&P 500 index.

SOURCE Capital One Financial Corporation

Pam Girardo of Capital One, +1-703-720-2351,
Pam.girardo@capitalone.com; or Alison
Athay of APCO Worldwide, +1-206-383-9476, aathay@apcoworldwide.com, for
Capital One
Financial Corporation