Life in the smart lane

From giving base jumping a go, to trusting gut over logic – just how many of us are happy to step outside our comfort zone and take a risk?

Our research* can reveal that half of the nation (50%) takes calculated risks, whilst one in seven (15%) always err on the side of caution. Moreover, more men (28%) than women (22%) would identify themselves as an out and out risk-taker.

The top five things people have taken a risk on:

  1. Making a big decision based on gut feeling rather than research or logic (44%)

  2. Quitting their job before finding themselves a new one (41%)

  3. Telling someone exactly how they feel, whatever the consequences (38%)

  4. Driving with an almost empty tank (36%)

  5. Spending money without looking at their bank balance first (36%)

Some of the more obscure risks Brits admitted to taking throughout their lifetime included surfing on a car doing over 50mph, flying to America to stay with people they only knew via interest forums, and moving away to be with someone they encountered online even though they had never met them before. 16% of us admit to having been skinny dipping, while over one in four of us (26%) have braved a blind date.

But why do so many Brits decide to take risks?

The top three reasons given were:

  1. To feel excited (53%)

  2. To feel alive (39%)

  3. To become more successful (36%)

Fearing the outcome (47%) and preferring to live a simple and easy life (46%) were the two main reasons why the nation chooses not to take risks.

Commenting on the psychology behind risk-taking, renowned specialist Diana Parkinson, said:

“To risk or not is influenced by upbringing and peers. Risk-takers are more likely to be extrovert, intelligent and positive people. Moderate risk-taking increases brain power and benefits mental health by boosting dopamine which produces a natural high.

“High risk-takers are high energy individuals and may well have addictive personalities. They dream big and make their dreams a reality. Put simply, we cannot live life without taking a single risk, humans are endlessly curious and inventive, constantly exploring.”

Diana Parkinson

The research also unveiled that age plays a significant role in Brits’ desire or willingness to take risks. From 45 people are much more likely to identify as a non-risk taker (22%) compared with 35-44 year-olds (13%) and 25-34 year-olds (7%). The top two reasons for taking less risk are an awareness of the consequences (39%) and greater responsibilities (20%). Interestingly, given our propensity to take less risk as we get older, one in seven over 35s (15%) believe that greater age and wisdom gives them more confidence to take a risk.

Jamie Smith-Thompson, managing director at Portafina, also said:

“When it comes to how we talk about risk I think the question needs reframing. It’s about how much risk are we prepared to take, rather than are we willing to take a risk at all. We are constantly making risk assessments, from the tiny to the possibly life-changing.

“And the key to being a savvy risk taker is understanding the potential consequences of a decision and how much you are prepared to put at stake. For most of us taking a calculated risk is part of the spice of life!”

Jamie Smith-Thompson

*Research from a survey of 2,009 UK adults in February 2018

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The details provided in this article are for general information only and are in no way deemed to be financial advice. All of the material is correct as of the publication date, but could be out-of-date by the time you read the article.