No one has ever quite said to me, "you run that one man, bank-hating website charity, to help those in debt stop spending".
But in combination, that’s some of the assumptions people make about the site. So I thought it time for a bit of myth busting.
MoneySavingExpert.com hates banks.
Not true. We hate bad bank behaviour, mis-selling, treating customers poorly and over-expensive products. Yet we don’t hate banks or any company simply for existing.
A company’s job is to make money. There’s nothing wrong with that (unless you’re an anti-capitalist – I’m not). Our job as consumers is to keep our cash in our pockets. I call this the Adversarial Consumer Society (I go on about it in detail in The Money Diet).
The fact the two are sometimes in opposition doesn’t make either wrong. It’s just like when Manchester United play Manchester City (my team). I don’t want United to score, but I don’t think they’re wrong for trying.
The real problem is that banks and companies are much better at their jobs than consumers are at ours. Hence there’s a misbalance in the system. When I started the site I used to say that was one of its remits, to give buyers training. In recent years, it’s why we’ve been campaigning so hard to get financial education into schools.
I’m often asked to go on programmes when banks announce profits of billions, as they think I’ll "rant" about it. I usually have to disabuse them of this notion. I’ve no problem with banks making profits, that’s good for their shareholders and the economy.
The issue is when those profits are from systemic PPI mis-selling, unfair bank charges or quietly dropping their savings interest to 0.1%. If profits are from competition and great deals – then I hope they’re large.
MSE users are poor and in debt.
Not true. I’m never quite sure why people think this. Of course, sadly we have many users who are in debt, who’ve had problems, who need help and we do our best to provide good information for them (see the Debt Help guide).
This site is about saving money, and that applies to everyone. Quite rightly, many savers and more affluent people use the site too — people who earn well and want to make their money stretch as far as they can. Just look at the results of this poll from January when we asked how much users are worth:In debt: over £1 million more debt than savings/assets115 votes (0 %)In debt: £250,000 – £1 million more debt than savings/assets237 votes (1 %)In debt £100,000 – £249,999 more debt than savings/assets1,044 votes (4 %)In debt £25,000 – £99,999 more debt than savings/assets1,622 votes (7 %)In debt £10,000 – £24,999 more debt than savings/assets1,319 votes (5 %)In debt: £5,000 – £9,999 more debt than savings895 votes (4 %)In debt: Up to £4,999 more debt than savings1,034 votes (4 %)Roughly same debt as savings (or neither of both)1,198 votes (5 %)Saver: up to £4,999 more savings/assets than debt889 votes (4 %)Saver: £5,000 – £9,999 more savings/assets than debt777 votes (3 %)Saver: £10,000 – £24,999 more savings/assets than debt1,426 votes (6 %)Saver: £25,000 – £99,999 more savings/assets than debt3,608 votes (15 %)Saver: £100,000 – £249,999 more savings/assets than debt4,413 votes (18 %)Saver: £250,000 – £1 million more savings/assets than debt4,796 votes (20 %)Saver: over £1 million more savings/assets than debt723 votes (3 %)
What it shows is that MSE users are pretty similar to the demographic of internet users and society as a whole. Some have problems, others just want to make the most of their money.
I run it by myself in my bedroom.
Not true. Thankfully I’ve had this less and less in recent years. MSE is a top 100 UK website, and there’s no way one person could do it all. Just think of the content of the weekly email and all the updated articles it links to – that’s equivalent to a weekly newspaper on its own.
There are now 40 full-time members of the team, and a talented bunch they are too. On the editorial team, we have a money desk, consumer desk and deals desk — all researching and writing to feed the monstrous demand for info. For a while now our guides and news stories have had by-lines, the team have their own blog and you’ll see the likes of MSE Dan, Jenny, Guy, Archna and others being quoted more and more in the papers.
Then there are the technical and design teams, the forum team, a legal team (mostly for defending claims made against forum content) and admin and finance like anywhere else.
It does amuse me a little when I get asked: "What do you do when you leave the TV studio?" Actually, running and writing for this site and orchestrating the team is my real job, and a big one it is.
MSE is non-profit.
Not true. Our ethical stance means our core focus is always giving the best possible information to consumers based solely on what is the best deal. For that reason, companies can’t pay to appear on MSE — they are only ever included on editorial merit.
Yet if something is a top deal and we’re including it, it then goes to our small commercial team who see if they can find an identical link to the product that is affiliated (it’s tracked and pays if you act on it). For full information on how this works, see the How The Site Is Financed guide.
It’s very important users understand how the site is financed and how we operate. For this reason, we link to it on every page, it is prominent on every article. If a link does pay, we put a * by it and give you an alternative link that isn’t affiliated.
MoneySaving is all about thrift.
Not true. MoneySaving and thrift aren’t the same thing. The primary aim of MSE is about cutting bills without cutting back. In other words, getting more for your money.
Thrift is far more about spending less, cutting back and using your time and effort instead. While a laudable aim, and certainly a related family (and covered well by the Old Style MoneySaving board in our forum), that isn’t our primary remit.
In fact the purpose of this site isn’t to stop anyone spending, or enjoying using their money, PROVIDED THEY CAN AFFORD IT. It’s about spending less to get the same so you get more out of your cash. Whether that’s to help repay debts, buy a new car, or for a great night out.
I remember being on a telly programme once when a celeb said: "I once flew to New York on Concorde and came back on the QE2 – you’re going to really tell me off, aren’t you?" So I asked if she was in debt – she wasn’t. Could she afford it? She could.
So my answer was, provided she paid the cheapest price for it – it sounded fantastic.