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Unbelievable! A news presenter just admitted on air ‘I don’t understand a thing about politics!’

Unbelievable! A news presenter just admitted on air ‘I don’t understand a thing about politics!’

I was just listening to the radio. A news presenter had just had a point about economics explained (rather well) by the in-house correspondent. Yet he replied, with an almost audible shrug of his shoulders and a laughing lilt in his voice, by saying: "I don’t understand a thing about finance." 

Now, apologies for deliberately mistitling this blog. But had I headlined it with "finance" instead of "politics", would it still have piqued your interest? That’s the problem! No presenter would ever say that about a politics or crime story, so why is it acceptable even for the supposed bastions of incisive journalism to joke about their own financial illiteracy?

This has happened to me a good number of times in my career. I’ve had interviewers look down the camera, in a way seemingly complicit with the viewer, and say: "I hope you understood that, as I never really got ISAs." Now apart from the professional discourtesy of this – saying that in effect my explanation didn’t make sense – it plays into the hands of the idea that the world of money is some type of ghetto that "normal people" don’t get. What rubbish.

If you don’t get ISAs, then learn! As a news presenter it’s your job to at least understand the basics of consumer finance, business and economics. If you’re not capable of it, perhaps look for a different profession.

In fact, invariably the reason the presenter doesn’t understand is because they haven’t listened – they’ve zoned out, or someone has spoken to them in their ear piece and they cover it with a gag about their lack of money interest. Yet again I ask – would they make the same gag about politics?

It’s time this changed. Perhaps the last great taboo in the UK is to talk about money – let alone show any interest in it. Those of us who do are mocked as "knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing" as if being educated and interested in money matters means you can’t have an emotional IQ as well.


PS: I’ve changed a few of the words and facts here to keep it anonymised as my aim in writing this blog isn’t to shame an individual, but rather to expose a common attitude.

An open letter to the energy select committee about comparison sites

An open letter to the energy select committee about comparison sites

This week the energy select committee took evidence from five comparison sites about energy switching, and in plain parlance, they gave them a kicking.

While it made interesting watching on the BBC Parliament channel, I’m slightly concerned that it may unwittingly end up doing more harm than good – as you’ll see explained in my letter below.

Go to an energy provider, and if you’re lucky and you ask about the price, it may switch you to its best tariff. Go to a comparison site and it should tell you about the whole of the market tariffs – yet even those who gemmy at the edges are still better than energy providers. And the best ones are actually a very strong service. I know how many of you have saved via our Cheap Energy Club.

So here’s the letter I’m sending to the chair of the committee.

Tim Yeo MP
Chairman of the Energy and Climate Change Committee
House of Commons
14 Tothill Street

6 February 2015

Dear Mr Yeo,

After watching the evidence session on energy price comparison websites earlier this week, I am writing to express my concern. I am the Editor-in-Chief of the UK’s biggest consumer help site,, which has 14 million users a month and 1.4 million members of its Cheap Energy Club, which incorporates a price comparison service.

I fully support the work of the committee to look at the role of energy price comparison websites and how they operate. The points made by the committee about practices which are against consumers’ interests are valid and valuable. Yet many of the statements by members made blanket remarks about ‘comparison services’ – it is crucial to remember the comparison sites interviewed were specifically selected because they were those whose default setting is not to show all tariffs.

To tar all with the same brush is unfair and risks creating a misleading impression. Our service is transparent…

  • We have always defaulted to a whole of market comparison.
  • We openly and prominently explain when we are paid and when not.
  • We give users links to providers who don’t pay us.
  • We explain the amount we are paid and give £30 of it (dual fuel) to consumers as cashback, meaning they get a better deal than going direct to the energy firms.

The understandably robust adversarial nature of the questioning meant many key points about the sector were missed and I am concerned members may infer the wrong conclusions about what changes are needed, and the potential value of these services as a result.

We would ask that evidence is taken on the positive aspects of comparison services in order to encourage switching – which is much needed – and that it be given equal prominence to the session earlier this week via an oral evidence session. My concern is that by not doing so, we risk disincentivising people from switching and playing into the energy firms’ hands.

Yours sincerely

Martin Lewis
Founder and editor,

Top 10 blogs 2014 – from a ‘Zara trick’ to ‘My five rules for a happy relationship’ and ‘Erudio sell out’

Here are my top 10 blogs by numbers of readers from 2014

No spiel, no chatter – just in true nerd style a list. Here are my top 10 blogs by numbers of readers from 2014. 

1. Does the Santander 123 3% interest beat the top cash ISA?

2. Buy Zara clothes at a fraction of the cost, and get a flight thrown in

3. The trick to access every network’s signal from your mobile

4. The UK’s mortgage ticking time bomb… Mr Osborne will you help?

5. Get 5% interest on your ISA money

6. Don’t shorten your mortgage term if you can overpay

7. My five rules for a happy relationship

8. The Chancellor’s pension changes are both wonderful and horrid

9. The Government has sold people out over Erudio student loans

10. The real reason why companies offer ‘a month’s free trial’

MoneySavingExpert voted one of the UK’s top 10 ‘brands’

MoneySavingExpert voted one of the UK’s top 10 brands

MoneySavingExpert voted one of the UK’s top 10 'brands'

We’ve had some good news in MSE Towers this week – again we’ve been voted one of the UK’s top 10 ‘brands’ in the YouGov Brand Buzz Index.

We’ve actually been in the top 10 a couple of times before (see MoneySavingExpert: a stronger brand than iTunes) but not for one or two years, (bouncing around the periphery I suspect) so it’s great to have re-entered the charts. 

These brands were rated using the YouGov Brand Index ‘Buzz score’, which asks respondents: "If you’ve heard anything about the brand in the last two weeks, through advertising, news or word of mouth, was it positive or negative?"

The Buzz Rankings chart shows the brands with the highest average Buzz scores between January and December 2014 and these scores are representative of the general population.

And our entry

(10) (new entry)
As Britain continues to emerge from economic difficulty, the rate at which this reaches the pockets of ordinary people is less clear. The desire to acquire the best deal still remains and the website is a great outlet for consumers to identify one. Martin Lewis, the face of the company, is very visible on television, helping to boost the website’s profile.

The results from the 2014 Buzz Index are as follows:

UK Top Buzz Rankings

Rank Brand 2014 Score
1 Aldi 26.3
2 Lidl 20.3
3 John Lewis 18.3
4 BBC iPlayer 18.0
5 Dyson 14.0
6 Waitrose 13.1
7 11.6
8 Netflix 11.3
9 Marks and Spencer 11.3
10 11

What is really interesting to see is that MSE is considerably smaller in terms of workforce compared to the other entities mentioned, with just under 90 employees rather than the 1,000s or 10,000s which I suspect the others employ. We don’t have a ‘brand manager’ – actually we don’t really think about ourselves as a ‘brand’ at all – we just focus all of our efforts on our main goal of saving people money.

I’m delighted that we hit this having just hit more than 10 million people on our weekly email list – rock on Tommy!

A deliberate threat to the govt: if you U-turn on the £21,000 student loan repayment threshold, I will organise mass protest

A deliberate threat to the government if it u-turns on the £21,000 student loan repayment threshold

A deliberate threat to the government if it u-turns on the £21,000 student loan repayment threshold

Let me be plain – I am writing this blog to put down a marker to the Government. If it decides to renege on its promise to uprate the £21,000 student loan repayment threshold, it will have mis-sold university education to many students, personally betrayed me and I will do all I can to organise protest.

It is thankfully only a mooted idea so far, yet I’m worried that it is quickly gaining traction. So I want to bash out a quick explanation…

  • What is the uprating of the £21,000 threshold?

    Students who started university in or after 2012 will repay 9% of everything they earn above £21,000 (pre-tax salary) once they graduate. The first repayment will be in 2016, then from the following year the repayment level is due to increase in line with average earnings. This is very important – if it doesn’t increase, in real terms students (ie, factoring out inflation) will be paying an ever increasing proportion of their monthly income on student loans. 

    For a more detailed explanation see my 20 student loans mythbusting guide.

  • Why it might be changed

    It’s pretty clear the launch of the 2012 fee system has been a bit of a disaster for the Treasury. The calculations on how much people would repay in the 30 years before the debt is wiped were wrong – far fewer students will repay in full than the Government thought (though interestingly, I and many others were saying this from the start). That means the gain to the Treasury is much less than thought – as a debate in the Commons yesterday showed, it loses around 45p for every £1 lent out.

    Freezing the threshold in 2017 would help recoup some of this and indeed as this Independent article shows, it is seriously being mooted – thankfully only by Government advisers, but that’s bad enough.

    And, I’ve heard rumours that off-the-record some have said:

    "If we do this we’d get bad press for one day, then it’d be over."

    So this blog is for me to say:

    "I will do my damndest to ensure the noise and bad press goes on and on and on."

  • Why I am so against it

    This seemingly small change actually has a huge impact on student finance. All the maths behind the explanations of what will happen to university students is based on the promised uprating.

    There is also a principle here – while a Government is free to change how student finance is done for future university starters it should never retrospectively change things (if it only froze the £21k threshold for new starters, with a decent notice period, while I wouldn’t like it I wouldn’t be protesting). Retrospective changes haven’t happened before (well there are some arguments that the sale to Erudio has resulted in such changes, but nothing as fundamental as this). It shouldn’t happen now.

    The terms that you get at the time of the loan should never be negatively changed (or even positively changed without giving you the option to opt out). This would be a negative change, so it is wrong.

  • Why I’d see it as a personal betrayal

    In 2011 I was asked by the Government via the then universities minister David Willetts to head the Independent Taskforce on Student Finance Information. I "ummed" and "ahhed" about it as while I didn’t support the change to student finance in 2012, I was very scared that the huge myths and misunderstandings about it would wrongly put many students off going to university, especially those from non-traditional backgrounds.

    So I agreed. However, my condition was that the taskforce had to be independent of Government and that it had to include the National Union of Students. The job wasn’t to sell the changes, it was just to ensure people understood them. As part of it, I wrote guides like 20 student loan mythbusters and created the student finance calculator to show the real impact of the changes. I believe we did a great job and certainly decreased the fear for many students and their parents – without softening the increased cost of the changes.

    Repeatedly during the process (and since) I asked for assurances of the continuation of the uprating from 2017, and was promised it directly – it formed a major part of the calculations and explanations I gave out. I was also promised there would be no retrospective changes for anyone under the 2012+ system (though I did still continue to warn people that changes are always possible).

    Thankfully there haven’t been any – yet if this is changed, I would see it as a personal betrayal and if possible, I would retrospectively resign from the taskforce.

I am not sure that my threat will move the Government greatly, but I want it to know that if it does decide to do this I will use my media presence to ensure it won’t be a "one day of bad press thing".  

While it would expect radical students to protest, I want it to know that my voice too will be shouting very loudly and at the mainstream public. I hope that if this is currently just a ‘blue skies idea’ this threat will be enough to knock it off the table.

Your thoughts welcome below….

Related past blogs