Three-quarters (76%) of younger investors who have put money in high-risk products such as cryptocurrency say they are driven by competition with friends, family, acquaintances and their own past investments.
More than two-thirds (68%) likened placing their money in an investment to gambling.
The findings were released by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), which has launched a new £11 million five-year campaign called InvestSmart, targeting inexperienced investors.
The campaign asks investors to consider their appetite for risk and ignore hype, directing them to advice on the FCA’s website.
The FCA commissioned a survey of 1,000 people aged 18 to 40 who had invested in one or more high-risk investment products.
More than half (58%) said hype on social media, from other people, and in the news encouraged them to purchase specific investments.
Only a fifth (21%) were considering holding their most recent investment for more than a year, and less than one in 10 (8%) for more than five years.
This is despite 60% of those surveyed saying that they prefer more stable returns than investments that rise and fall dramatically.
More than one million UK investors have increased their holdings, or bought a high-risk investment during the coronavirus pandemic, the FCA estimates.
The regulator is concerned that new investors are increasingly accessing higher risk investments which may not be right for them, or reflect their risk tolerance.
The majority of those who had purchased forex (foreign exchange) or cryptocurrency (57% and 69% respectively) investments incorrectly believed these to be regulated by the FCA. As a result, they were unlikely to understand the lack of investor protection and the risk to their money, the regulator said.
The FCA has joined forces with Olympic BMX gold medallist, Charlotte Worthington, to highlight the pitfalls of high-risk activities.
She said: “BMX is about big risk, and big reward – but it has taken a lot of preparation to get to this point, with highs and lows and hours of training to get the basics right one trick at a time. Anything high risk might not always go to plan, it’s about being prepared and minimising your risks through research and information.
“For example, my first run at the Tokyo Olympic Games didn’t quite go to plan, but because I had prepared properly I was able to get it right in the next run. It’s all about the smaller calculated risks in practice that don’t always go to plan, to gain the right experience to pull off something bigger at the right time.
“When it comes to investments, I would only take on high risks if I felt like I’d done enough research and I was properly prepared.”
The campaign is part of the FCA’s consumer investments’ strategy, which was launched in September. This aims to give consumers the confidence to invest, supported by a high-quality, affordable, advice market leading to fewer people being scammed or persuaded to invest in products which are too risky for their needs.
Sarah Pritchard, executive director of markets at the FCA, said: “We are seeing more people chasing high returns. But high returns can mean higher risks. We want to give consumers greater confidence to invest and help them to do so safely, understanding the level of risk involved.
“With our InvestSmart campaign, we’re taking an innovative approach to reaching those tempted by high-risk products so that they can better understand the risks and where to get advice.
“We will be targeting people online and through social media, helping ensure inexperienced investors don’t get played. Together with a more assertive approach to finding and taking action against scammers, we hope InvestSmart will help people invest confidently.”
The FCA recommends five important questions to ask yourself before you invest:
1. Am I comfortable with the level of risk?
2. Do I understand the investment being offered to me?
3. Are my investments regulated?
4. Am I protected if the investment provider or my adviser goes out of business?
5. Should I get financial advice?
More information is available on the InvestSmart website at fca.org.uk/investsmart.