In a recurring theme on, we have noticed many differences in the ways men and women manage their finances. We have discussed couples’ retirement management, budgeting among parents and financial planning among spouses, and all of these resonate with another group: recent graduates.

As the most indebted graduating class in history, it makes sense that most of the class of 2011 will be nervous about paying back their student loans. However, in a survey released this week from Capital One many of these seniors and recent graduates admitted that they have practiced impulse buying as well as overlooking opportunities to improve their finances.

College students overspending and impulse buying is not groundbreaking research, but the apparent differences between gender among students in their approach to their finances can indicate the need for parents and even financial institutions to understand these differences and address them.

The importance of enterprising

The survey data suggest that the male respondents were somewhat more proactive than their female peers. While half the males reported that they put money away into savings on at least a monthly basis, only 40 percent of females could say the same.

Charles Schwab Retirement Study we covered noted that 46 percent of all women surveyed are more focused on whether or not their investments or retirement savings are performing well and are less concerned about the underlying reasons for success. Only 38 percent of men feel the same. It is likely that a more proactive financial outlook in college will lead to similar habits closer to retirement, and both surveys point to a more passive approach to finances from women.

Consistent financial patterns

Males are also more likely to keep up with technology to stay on top of their finances. 68 percent of males graduating this year or who recently graduated (2008 – 2010) reported using mobile and/or email alerts to track their credit card balances and due dates compared to just 55 percent of females.

In a survey by the wealth management unit of PNC Financial Services Group, results showed that men were more confident in their financial planning, with 51 percent of men versus 38 percent of women saying “nothing has changed.” This type of composure can only come from years of careful planning and most of all consistency, starting as far back as college or when they get their first credit card.

Similarly, current and recent college graduates who have their own credit card are more knowledgeable about credit terms and credit scores than those without a card. 55 percent of current and recent graduates without a credit card, versus 74 percent of those who have a card, know that paying on time is the most important factor in determining one’s credit score. Similarly, only 52 percent of respondents without a credit card correctly identified what APR means, but 74 percent of those with a credit card answered correctly.

“It’s important for all young adults to recognize the impact the financial choices they make can have on their future and examine their financial habits with an eye toward saving for the future and building a strong credit history,” said Shelley Solheim, director of financial education for Capital One. “For parents whose children are graduating high school or college this year, graduation is an opportune time to have the conversation about how money management fits into their children’s future plans.”

Confident financial literacy

Finally, the Capital One survey revealed that 44 percent of male respondents check their credit report at least once each year as recommended, but only 35 percent of females follow this recommendation. 21 percent of females surveyed have never checked their credit report compared to 12 percent of males.

This links up to a TD Bank survey about each parent’s financial role, where 34 percent of respondents rated their financial knowledge as “good” or better, but dads were found to be nearly 10 percent more confident than moms. This confidence comes from proper budgeting and being financially literate which starts with your own financial statements.

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