Written by Rosie Neill

Head of marketing

Trading and investing was the focus for part 4 of our CPD-accredited webinar series for university and college staff, all about how best to support students with financial risk. In the session, Vivi covered:

  • What is the difference between investing, trading and meme trading?
  • Why are students increasingly engaging in stock market activity?
  • What are the dangers of trading and investing for students?
  • Can money be accessed once it has been traded or invested?
  • Spotting trading and investing activity in a bank statement
  • How can staff support students to trade and invest safely?

Here’s a summary, plus the link to Vivi’s slides and the recording of the full session. 

Please remember that this session, and others, are designed for learning and education purposes only! Nothing should be considered guidance and advice and certainly no personal investment actions should be undertaken without professional advice.

What is the difference between investing, trading and meme trading?

Investing and trading are two different approaches to ‘playing’ the stock market.


Investing is putting money into a financial asset (stocks, bonds, funds, exchange-traded funds, etc.) that you expect will rise in value over time (due to gradual appreciation and compound interest), rather than short-term gains. Investors tend to measure their time horizon in years.


Trading is putting money into a financial asset (stocks, bonds, funds, exchange-traded funds, etc.) that you hold for a short period of time with the goal of making quick profits. Traders think in terms of weeks, days, or even minutes. This shorter period of time typically makes trading more risky than investing. 

Meme trading

‘Meme trading’ is putting money into an asset that has seen an increase in volume not because of a company’s performance, but rather because of hype on social media and online forums – like Reddit. The valuation rarely lines up with the price changes, or the hype. Here’s a recap of what happened back in January with GameStop. 

While both investing and trading have been around for many years, meme trading is relatively new. And it’s one for support staff to keep an eye on as the majority of those engaging with it are young people. It’s more comparable to trading cryptocurrency than other stocks, bonds, funds etc. For a detailed explanation of meme trading, watch the recording of the session from 4:20 to 12:45.

“Our young people are addicted to screens – and online trading platforms may be the next menace preying on them.”

Scott Galloway

Trading, investing and young people

There’s no question that young people are interested in trading and investing – in fact, the number of students joining our Blackbullion investing, trading and financial planning webinars has increased approx 2,000% during Covid!

Generational differences in trading and investing

  • 75% of millennials and Gen-Z
  • 62% of Gen-X
  • 60% of baby boomers
  • 41% of the silent generation

Young people – by the numbers

According to a survey by the Financial Times:

  • 59% of young people claim that a significant loss would have a fundamental impact on their current or future lifestyle.
  • 38% of those surveyed did not list a single functional reason for investing (e.g. “I want to build wealth”) as one of their top 3 reasons for getting involved – instead, they are perhaps investing because it’s what their friends are doing or because they think it will be fun.
  • 40% don’t view ‘losing some money’ as one of the risks of investing.
  • 78% reported: “I trust my gut instinct to tell me when it’s time to buy and sell.”

“I kept quiet about my investing as family thought it was too risky.”

Student Money Confessions submission

Why are students increasingly engaging in stock market activity?

Easy access

It’s easier than ever to trade and invest online, with user-friendly apps and the ability to set up an account within minutes. This is likely one of the most prominent reasons why more and more young people are trading and investing.

Poor interest rates on savings accounts

We are in a period of historically low interest rates and climbing inflation, which is leaving many to think that trading and investing is a better option than putting money into a savings account. 

‘Opportune timing’ in our post-2008, Covid world

Covid has meant that young people are at home, bored and online, perhaps with spare money that would usually be spent on socialising, days out, etc. 

Appetite for risk

There’s also an increasing appetite for risk amongst young people, due to the feeling that there’s time to recover from any financial dips. 

FOMO, thrill and status

Just like with cryptocurrency, FOMO (fear of missing out) can drive young people to get involved with trading and investing. 

Pressure is creating a herd mentality, where people feel like they need to invest in high-risk products (like crypto) because they hear stories of others benefiting, or see influencers that look and sound like them suggesting it on social media platforms.

What are the dangers of trading and investing for students?

Social media

Learning about trading and investing, and the sharing of financial ‘advice’, is happening more and more on social media. Many tutorials are available on platforms such as YouTube and TikTok, with students turning to them for knowledge and guidance.

This is a concern because:

  • Influencers (or ‘finfluencers’) can be aggressive and not always knowledgeable
  • Students can fall victim to unsound advice or fake news
  • There can be overconfidence in knowledge – or perceived knowledge 

New apps

Apps have been criticised for gamifying investing and luring young traders to take on inappropriate risk without adequate support and customer service functions in place. Robinhood, for example.

Additionally, not all platforms are FSCS authorised. Without FSCS authorisation, the investor/trader’s money is unprotected and if something happens to the organisation holding the money, there will be no way to get it reimbursed.

It’s also important for young people to be aware that there’s no such thing as a ‘free lunch’ and ‘commission free’ doesn’t mean there are no fees to be paid.

Reddit’s r/WallStreetBets community

r/WallStreetBets community is a ‘subreddit’ (a forum on a specific topic within the website Reddit). It’s known for aggressive and risky trading strategies.

Its members aren’t finance professionals and they’re often young. They’re known to ignore fundamental investment practices and risk management techniques. As a result, their activities are often considered gambling. 

For a detailed explanation of the r/WallStreetBets community, what it does and why it’s important to be wary, watch the recording of the session from 32:03 to 37:44.

“I invested in stocks without my parents knowing 👀👀”

Student Money Confessions submission

Can money be accessed once it has been traded or invested?

If money is being traded or invested within a major exchange like the FTSE 100 or the Dow Jones, it’s what’s known as ‘liquid’ (meaning it can be quickly and easily accessed). Other types of assets that take time to sell, a house for example, wouldn’t be considered liquid. 

When deciding whether to access money that’s been traded or invested, the real question is whether a profit or a loss has been made. Depending on how much has been lost, it may be a better idea to ‘hold’ the investment in the hope that the price of the asset recovers and that the ‘paper loss’ is not realised and made real.

We see this as a potential challenge for staff who need to determine how to classify trading and investing activity when considering applications for hardship support.

Spotting trading and investing activity in a bank statement

Like with cryptocurrency, trading/investing is typically done via an app – to which funds need to be transferred.

The most common trading and investing apps are:

  • Trading 212
  • eToro
  • Freetrade
  • Interactive Investor
  • IG
  • Saxo Markets
  • FinecoBank
  • Hargreaves Lansdown
  • Interactive Investor

These are some of the names that could appear on a bank statement.

How can staff support students to trade and invest safely?

Investments have a component of risk, but they are also a key way of building future wealth and can be a great option for young people (depending on their circumstances and income). 

The real danger for students lies in trading and meme trading – as Warren Buffet said: “Beware the investment activity that produces applause; the great moves are usually greeted by yawns.”

In conversations about trading and investing, it’s a good idea for staff to suggest that students: 

  • Research, learn and get educated – but be wary of the source of information
  • Start small
  • Diversify investments to spread the risk
  • Determine types of investments
    • Shares, funds, index funds
    • Growth stocks vs. dividend stocks
  • Consider the time horizon
  • Consider risk tolerance
  • Be aware that international shares have double risk
  • Sign up for a free Blackbullion account to access our trading and investing focused learning content and resources

Final word

Investing is a proven way to build long-term wealth but short-term trading is risky (the more inexperienced you are, the more risky!) and meme trading is unpredictable.

Students should be encouraged to understand investing even if university days are not the best time to execute on this.

Watch the recording

Vivi’s slides are also available here.

If you have any questions or comments for Vivi, you can contact her directly on Twitter and LinkedIn or email us.

This session was part four of our 6-part series for university and college staff, all about how to support students with activities that carry financial risk. Check out upcoming sessions and register your free place now. The series has been CPD accredited – simply attend at least 4 of the 6 sessions to get your certificate.

And don’t forget to sign up to our staff email newsletter to be first to find out about upcoming staff webinars and get free financial wellbeing resources to share with students.

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