Or maybe not. Capital One conducted a survey of high school seniors to determine how many of these young adults are prepared to handle finances on their own. The company asked the students to rate their own levels of knowledge of personal finance. The results may be interesting, but they don’t reveal anything about financial preparedness.
If you ask students or anyone to rate their own knowledge, they can’t produce accurate answers. According to the survey results, 65 percent of the male students rated themselves “highly knowledgeable” about personal finance while only 49 percent of the female students rated themselves the same. With this information, Capital One came to the conclusion that young men are more prepared to handle personal finances independently than young women. That is the wrong conclusion here. This only proves that male students rate themselves higher than female students rate themselves.
Asking people to rate themselves is more a measure of confidence than actual knowledge. When it comes to knowledge, there are things you know, things you know you don’t know, and things you don’t know you don’t know. Think of the “known unknowns” and the “unknown unknowns” popularized by Donald Rumsfeld a few years ago. The world mocked him for sounding somewhat ridiculous, but in the case of this survey, students may not realize how many aspects of personal finance of which they have no knowledge.
Perhaps, in addition to finance, schools and parents should be teaching high school students how to understand statistics to better help detect false conclusions drawn from inadequate data. If drawn from a large enough sample size, we might conclude than male high school seniors are more likely to rate their personal finance knowledge highly, but we should not conclude that boys are more mentally prepared to handle their own finances than girls.
Published or updated June 24, 2009.