Every Tuesday evening, an e-mail newsletter will issue about 13 million subscribers. It is much more popular than Gopsy Paltrow's Goop, who has 8 million and the New York Times Morning Briefing with 1.7 million. It's called Money Money Expert Money Tips, hardly suggesting the staggering variety of tricks and deals inside. Recent emails report "hacks" for cheaper food at Nando and McDonald's, broadband and savings accounts, codes for discounted access to airport lounges, and a range of free radiator spotlights.
The newsletter looks like a relic from the younger age of the internet: thousands of words without ads and few pictures. It began as an email that Martin Lewis, a personal financial journalist known as the Money Saving Expert, wrote for his friends. Today, it's dozens of people working on MoneySavingExpert.com, the Lewis website established in 2003, which has become one of the 100 most popular sites in the UK, with 16 million visitors a month.
Money-saving trading caused Lewis to be extremely rich. After selling the site in 2012 to MoneySupermarket priced at £ 87 million, the Financial Times called him "the most successful journalist in the world at all". A year later, in the UK, he was the seventh largest Google celebrity set between Taylor Swift and Beyoncé.
Lewis keeps getting every e-mail line every day. When I arrived in June on Tuesday afternoon, she met the draft newsletter and thought out loud about the benefits of competing broadband deals. He had a gold piggy on the table. It was the height of a wave of hot waves, and Lewis, slender and often tainted, was dressed in a reasonable father's uniform who did the best to enjoy the long-awaited summer holiday: the white short sleeve shirt and denim collar, the skirt and the Skechers navy , which he wore almost every time I met him.
At a time when money became a measure of everything – when people often think they are more consumers than citizens – Lewis has become the most trusted man in Britain. In 2015, seven months before the referendum on the EU, the survey found that 71% of people trusted him when he talked about Europe and set him up against some other public figure. It has achieved this state through an unusual combination of journalism, campaigns and light entertainment, without being a victim of public suspicion of journalists, activists and entertainers.
In our uncertain age, Lewis acts as a calming source of authority. If we solve a country that has never been content with talking about money, Lewis takes us by the hand and leads us through the confused world of finance. It seems like a double agent who falls between the powerful, then reports back to the rest of the company. It may feel as if banks, corporations and energy companies have opposed a person who has few politicians willing to intervene, but Lewis's work offers an overwhelming promise that in the fight between business and consumer you can get the right information with the right information.
Today, at the age of 46, Lewis is a television personality as well as anything else. Her week appears on Good Morning Britain and The Morning, while his ITV program, The Martin Lewis Money Show, regularly attracts around 4 million viewers.
Lewis's success depends on the trust he has built with the public, and he tends to be like an anxious parent. Everything that was featured on the Money Saving Expert was selected by its editorial team, but once it was decided to do so, the business team then tries to organize deals with companies offering products. The site makes a commission when readers click on associated links to products that are marked with an asterisk. Still, when I joined Lewis for an e-mail meeting, he was cautious. He feared that one description was too "rustic". "We do not want people to think we're advertising," he said. In a dishonest presence, she makes a very careful statement of the recommendations, with an emphasis on the impact that they may have: Tesco Bank's site crashed when one of her savings accounts appeared in her e-mail.
Lewis applies the same care for his campaigns and public statements. He set up his career on the very last thing we all have in common: the desire to save money. And he does not tend to regard the most controversial questions of today, because they are afraid of dividing opinion and undermine his movement. He believes he can have the greatest impact on society by changing our relationship to money – but it was harder for him to stay out of politics. He even considered a referendum on the EU, albeit ostentatiously measured: "I am generally risky, and it only pushes me to vote on security in the security services, maybe 55 to 45%," he wrote about saving money Expert. When we talked recently, Lewis said, "I've put up with what is at the moment a unique position in trying to bring people to the better with their finances, and I do not want to do anything to get rid of that trust."
With his fiery rhetoric, his attempt to defeat the little guy against his interests, Lewis may seem like a populist. But in the heart he has a technocratic temperament: he identifies specific problems and tries to resolve them by improvement. In rare cases when he says this, it's because he decided that the system stopped working properly.
Lewis is just a centrist – perhaps the only truly popular centrist in Britain. Instead of looking for structural changes, its formula combines with public education with a small editing campaign. But at a time of growing inequality, with politicians who are unwilling or unable to keep a corporation, is that enough? What is needed, economist John Kay told me, "there is not more information from the financial services industry, but in reality it is a trustworthy and reliable industry." The question remains whether Lewis' approach is the best we can hope for or distract from real change.
There is nothing new about saving money. But now, ten years after the financial crisis, it is very urgent. It is clear that things will never return to normal: days of safe working life, with ever-increasing pay and a generous retirement pot, have ended. You will not be able to take care of your retirement during your retirement; you may never be able to afford your own home.
You have to be cautious, but how? Since deregulation and privatization in the 1980s, we have had to make more and more financial decisions and these have become dizzyingly complex. There are so many options: Britain has more than 300 banks, dozens of energy companies. Then there are all credit cards, broadband providers, mobile networks. You know, if you make the wrong choice, you will get torn. It's easy to panic or bury your head in the sand.
What Lewis did so popular is that he offers a specific answer to this uncertainty. His work gives you the hope that you can take control of your finances and your life. It's not a question of stopping spending. "I do not think it's tight, it's a particularly reasonable thing to do with money," he told me. He wants to help people get the money they have and reduce the stress that can make money. The trick is to "play the system, understand how it works, get the best products" to make the diversity of modern finance development turn into your advantage before being overwhelmed and exploited.
In this regard, Lewis is more like a doctor who pulls the pills in order to swallow the patient than a personal trainer: he promises to be stronger because of your hard work. And no matter how little you understand at first, you can still judge his advice for himself with his effect on the bank balance. This is what Lewis saved from the fate of so many experts who revolted by discovering their masters over everyone else. Instead of telling you what to do, Lewis feels like you could also become a money-saving expert.
When Lewis was in charge of the Money Saving Expert, he worked 90 hours a week. Since his sale, he has played an important role as an executive chairman, and the paintings on him are appearing on the web as a talisman against deciphering. But even though he dropped to 50 or 60 hours, his schedule still looks exhausting in his variety and intensity. Instead of giving preference to a particular audience, it appeals to whom it can, and always adjusts its message as a clever ambassador for financial prudence. What matters to him is to get word.
On Monday morning last summer, I accompanied Lewisa to ITV in West London, where he appeared for this morning. When he waited for a set, he asked a crew member to watch Island of Love. She did not want to. "I think I'm doing Love Island this year," he said. When Morning appeared in the morning, he picked up questions about students' finances and watched the camera as he listened. As usual, he spoke in rapid explosions and slowed theatrically.
He then got a motorcycle taxi into the broadcasting house, the BBC headquarters, for the weekly radio live show Live 5. The segment was introduced with Bill's songs, American singer LunchMoney Lewis, and when he played Lewis air drummed, he bent his head. It was a longer time than To Morning, at a quieter pace; the caller seemed incomprehensible, and Lewis responded with the level of detail he was trying to avoid on television. In the afternoon, he attended a meeting at the Institute for Money and Mental Health Policy he founded in 2016 and conducted research and campaigns on the links between mental illnesses and financial problems.
The next day, Lewis met Matt Hancock, then secretary of culture. It was a few weeks after Lewis announced that he was suing Facebook for abomination, fake ads that included his name and image, and a few discussed online ads and scams. That evening, Lewis started dragging on Love Island. "I've never seen it before – this time I'll try – and yes, I'm impressed," he told his 566,000 followers. On Good Morning Britain this week he mentioned "Love Along the Russian Algae" competing with Love Island. When Lecturer asked what caused the kelp interference, Lewis replied, "Maybe they need to get them quickly." (He was once the finals in the competition for young Jewish comedians.) He made "ba-dum-tish" a drum-rushing sound and left the set. Two days later, he wrote a commentary to the Financial Times and proposed student finance reforms.
Lewis, who has the talent for memorizing numbers, is happy to play the role of financial expert on television shows. "Is there something you do not know? Something you do not know?" Asked Angelica Bell, co-owner of The Martin Lewis Money Show. His manifestations of knowledge, however, mostly relate to the show: their purpose is not to transfer information so they can master their material and their ability to learn. His real advice, on the other hand, is often surprisingly simple.
Consider the Money Mantras, which is the cornerstone of the philosophy of money-saving experts. Before you buy something, you will ask two questions. If you broke: "Do I need it? Can I afford it?" If you can afford the item: "Will it be used? Is it worth it?" If the answer to one of the questions is "No" then it is clear: do not buy it.
If it seems obvious, Lewis's budgeting rule is a little more technical. You will audit your expenses to find out how much you can actually afford to spend. Then you define a few major categories: these can be accounts, holidays, Christmas, savings and big purchases. Open a dedicated bank account for each one and use standing orders from the Master Account to make sure you postpone what you need for each category. It's quite simple, but it will make a lot of effort – daytime work, according to Lewis's estimate. He calls this technique "piggybanking," with each other's piggy bank.
The money-saving expert has proven to be very effective in making money, but Lewis considers it a public service above all. "It's a mission," he says. "It's a consumer website, but it's not all that amazing to give people what they want. The only thing they want is shopping vouchers worth £ 10 because they're fun and most people do not want to deal with their finances. And we have a job to be able to squeeze them in any way. "
Onot in the morning, a few months after meeting Hancock, I entered Lewis on a 50-minute walk from his house, just outside central London, into the Money Saving Expert. Lewis tries everywhere to go. According to his fitness trackers, in the year 2018 he was 13 miles a day, which is 4% less than in the previous year. The route just took us through Regent's Park; as we got to Euston Road, Lewis told me that I came to Cardiff University in 1997 to do a postgraduate diploma in journalism. "Everyone else wanted to be a war reporter or go to combat zones," he said. "I talked about making money for this morning."
Lewis was born in Manchester in 1973 and spent most of his childhood in Delamere Forest, Cheshire, where his father ran a Jewish boarding school for pupils with special needs. Three days before Lewis's 12th birthday his mother was killed in a traffic accident. The loss of a parent at a young age "gives you a way," he said in an interview in 2014. "Nothing will be as bad as it was before, so you can go for it."
After studying at the London School of Economics, Lewis spent two years working in financial PR, then moved to journalism. He got his first job in the air when a cable channel dedicated to Simply Money funding started in 2000. Angela Rippon, a television broadcaster who frontend the channel, told me that it was Lewis' sketches that made him distinctive. In addition to his regular reporting, he dressed up as different characters – Dracula, a card dealer – to prove his points. One of Lewis's strengths as a transmitter is that they are not afraid to be naff – in fact they like naff. "It has involved viewers as the financial statements have never done," Rippon said. He was never bothered by accusations of being nasty. "I know I'm good at what I do," he said. "For me, it is a passion for reaching real people and gaining better management."
In his first year on Simply Money, he asked Lewis to be known on the screen as the "Money-saving Expert". After the channel was shut down, he retained his name, paid 100 pounds to a web designer in Uzbekistan – his only capital for decades when he owned the Money Saving Expert – and launched the site in 2003.
At the time, Lewis told me that media coverage of personal finances was limited to "investment, protection, and perhaps mortgage if you want to be radical." What he meant was something else: a one-way store that covered the money because it works in everyday life. This meant consulting in supermarkets ("eye level products are where there is profit") and where to get the cheapest DVD rentals and perfumes. "He's taken it to get a good deal in every aspect of his life," says Anne Ashworth, who manages the Times & Money section. By overcoming the limitations of traditional personal financial journalism, it has become increasingly a life coach.
Lewis's approach was particularly striking, as was confrontational. The money-saving home page has promised the reader the promise: "Companies are trying to make a profit, money savings show you back." Journalists have long outlined companies that cut their customers but it was inconsistent – suggested that consumers could not trust anyone . In "The Money Diet," his 2004 money-saving guide, which doubles as a premature manifest, Lewis said it was the job of entrepreneurs to make money – "now it's bad." But for this reason he wrote: "All societies are an enemy."
The tools that this page offers do not always match this rhetoric. The Money Mantras itself will not help you to come back. It is making a real effort. you must use the Money Savings Expert gap and clean one initial bid after another. In the argot of the website, people who are still making it through the passage of banks are labeled as "tarty".
The Money Saving Expert quickly set out: by 2006, 1 million visitors were received monthly. As he expanded, Lewis's profile grew. He obtained the ITV series; the next series, "Pays to Watch!", broadcast on Five in 2008, when the global financial crisis began an era of lasting uncertainty. In 2012, when ITV launched the The Lewis Money Show, it finally won what it has spent years on the job: the mainstream program. On Monday, she is broadcasting at 20 pm between Coronation Street episodes. The show focuses on the questions Lewis takes from the public, on a roadshow across the country. It is more sophisticated than its earlier programs, but it contains sketches that first attempted to make simple money, which gave him something like that.
In June, Lewis recorded a live performance at Warwick Castle. The Martin Lewis flag, which contained coins, banknotes, credit cards, and a piggy bank, sprang from the tower. Lewis had wandered before, looking a little nervous. He was more elegantly dressed than usual, and he boasted the audience that he had bought his jacket for sale. "We will save millions of people a lot of money," he told them, "and that's why I got out of bed in the morning." During the show, Lewis recalled that everyone was leaving in summer and wrapped up their European health insurance card; until the end of the episode, the EHIC website crashed.
Lewis likes to say he has never been interested in money; you are more interested in what your money allows and the problems that arise from not having it. It is considered a "small p" policy, which aims to achieve "financial justice". He tried to do what he was doing without avoiding a political rupture. Over the last few years, however, this balancing act has become impossible. Lewis reluctantly found himself in politics.
Lewis's first campaign in 2005 was against bank charges: charges levied on customers exceeding the overdraft limit. At that time, even if someone was just a penny across the border, they usually had to pay their bankers about £ 35. Since Lewis launched a campaign against charges, the 7m letter template – which people filled and sent to their bank to ask for the fees to be repaid – was withdrawn from the Money Saving Expert program and returned 1 billion. The campaign inspired the song, I fought with Lloyds Oystar, a comedy-rock band whose singer used the Money Saving Expert to attack the charges. Recorded on # 25 and Lewis shot a video clip.
Shortly after this campaign, Lewis used a similar tactics against banks that had customer protection against error (PPP). This time the money saving letter templates led to a refund of up to € 5 billion. Recently, Lewis adopted another approach by attacking the government itself. In 2011, shortly after it was announced that tuition would increase from £ 3,290 per year to a maximum of £ 9,000, Lewis was appointed the head of the Independent Working Group on Student Finance Information, which tried to explain what new fees would include . At that time, Lewis said he was not a "fan of change," but his priority was to make sure everyone was properly informed about them. "There were people they could communicate with, who would not trust politicians," says David Willetts, the then university minister.
Lewis turned to the government when he froze the repayment threshold – the amount that graduates must earn before they start paying their loans. When it was set at 21,000 pounds, it should increase annually, but in 2015 George Osborne returned. Lewis was horrified. He still worked in articles and television shows; met with Jo Johnson, who was then university minister. In 2017, Theresa May finally returned: she announced that the threshold would eventually increase to £ 25,000 and then increase.
Lewis Journalism offers insights on self-sufficiency, ways to protect individuals. But he acknowledges that this is not always enough. "There are people who have less income than the basic minimum they need to exist," he says. As part of his "financial justice" effort, he promised approximately £ 20 million to charity.
Perhaps Lewis's most important public intervention came last year when he learned that his image was being used on targeted ads on the Internet without his consent. Many claimed to support bitcoin schemes, which were in fact prime for investment with a very high risk. one woman lost 100,000 pounds as a result. Lewis turned to Facebook for ads but could not take any serious steps, so he decided to judge.
When he announced the lawsuit in April, he struck his nerves. The story came out on the front pages. Lewis was on the television, but he looked angry. Unlike previous campaigns, this personal and personal attention did not appeal to him. "I am particularly stressful, I am a very shy person," he told me. Lewis very protects his privacy. He is married to Lara Lewington, the BBC chairman, with whom he has a six-year-old daughter. When I joined him at work, we did not meet him in his house; instead I waited in the hotel nearby. When he finally called me to hold a meeting, his number appeared as "No Caller ID".
It is tempting to see the Facebook allegations as a dramatic battle: Lewis, a champion of the people who received an irresponsible Silicon Valley monarch. Even politicians who do not want to invite a business want to play that role. "I had, let's say, very important members of the government who pushed me and said," Please do not be satisfied. Take it to court, set the precedent, "Lewis said, but his goal was still more modest." This is not a Facebook campaign, "he told me when we discussed the lawsuit last year." This is a campaign against fraudulent advertising. "Last Week announced that it would drop the case because Facebook agreed to introduce new measures that deal with fraudulent advertising.
It was a time when Lewis wanted to get into politics. He was elected to the LSE as head of the student union. He acted as an independent; The Union has dominated the far left in the past, and Lewis has promised to deliver a "student unity for all". Outside the LSE, Lewis was associated with Lib Dems and led the party in the National Student Union. "I did not have any doubts about becoming Lib Dem," said Raj Jethwa, who ran against Lewis in student union elections.
It is easy to imagine that Lewis is a deputy: he has the verbal tics of a modern politician who often begins his or her "glance" or "obey". Even after the founding of a money-saving expert, Lewis still imagined he would eventually enter parliament. But when he got to the mid-1930s, he decided he was not suitable for a political career. "I know I can not cope with it," he told me. "I'm just as robust as when I was younger."
A few years ago he asked Lewis to be a member of the House of Lords, which was open to all, and was rejected. It can be stressed that he does not consider himself a political party, although many parties, including the new centrist United For Change, are approaching it. He sees himself "somewhere from the wet Tory, the right labourist or the lee Dem". This outlook is not always associated with his more fervent rhetoric. During his career, Lewis faced overstretched deals and saw firsthand how they could affect people; attacked banks and energy companies. But while trying to empower individual consumers, it stops calling for radical solutions that can completely offset conditions: drastic regulation or even nationalization. His work seems to recall critical criticism of the status quo without trying fundamentally to change.
Money Saving Expert works on the optimistic principle that if someone knows enough, they should be able to make the right decisions. When I went to the events when Lewis was filming and talking to the people present, I was struck by the way it was all right. They saved thousands through cash services or switching between credit cards – tricks they learned from Lewis. But in their money-saving efforts, they were willing to give time that most people simply did not have.
What impact did Lewis have on the less prolific that he had so hardly tried to achieve? He certainly helped a lot of people: this is evidenced by the millions of template letters downloaded from his site. However, according to a survey by the Financial Control Authority in 2017, 46% of adults in the UK claim to have poor knowledge of financial matters; 24% have little or no confidence in managing their money. In 2017, British households spent an average of about 900 pounds more than they earned. For many, Lewis's advice is here. "People do not decide on a level playing field," says Liz McFall, a sociologist at the University of Edinburgh. "Not everyone has access to the same things" – eg 0% of credit card transactions.
Still, Lewis's ambition is far more than just to teach people about money. He wants to change the way he thinks and talks about it. "If we have an American view of money, which is where the money is just open, you think it's healthier than our British poe-facedness," he told me.
This restraint can have terrible consequences. "I think some differences in pay for women and men are that we do not talk about pay in this country," says Lewis. The discussion about money also does not affect how much we spend on things. "If I do not know how much you paid for your plumber, how can I know what to pay for my plumber?" Lewis, through his work, meets people with pungent debts and sees, marry. He can be emotional on the screen and open up for his vulnerable places. When people can not talk about their finances, he says, they mean they are not able to talk about the problems that come from them. "That's not good for our company."
This may change slowly. McFall notes that many young people are open to the financial difficulties they face: high student loan debt, barriers to the purchase of first assets. "All these things mean that financial details about how people live are in the public sphere so they are not historically," he says. But Lewis thinks it's a long way to go. "We've rid ourselves of taboo about sex and religion, and fortunately, we're starting to get rid of taboo and talk about your mental health, but the money is still there."
Lewis constantly reminds that his work is incomplete. When I joined him at work, he was telling me something he had recently heard at the restaurant. A group of young professionals sat there and discussed what cards they use when they go overseas. "Everybody was so bad," he said as we walked down Oxford Street. "I found them painful." It sounded personally furious. I wondered why she cared so much about what other people did with money. What was the conversation he found so painful? "Because it's a fact!" He said, and his voice rose furiously. "It's not an opinion, it's just a simple fact." Like many experts, if people would listen to it, it would have been much easier.
This is the territory where Lewis is still the most comfortable: an area in which there is one character higher than the other, where there is no politics or emotions that would complicate and corrupt. With money, countless things will always remain uncertain: what stock will go up, say, or when to buy the euro for your holiday. That's not what Lewis is. "People want to know what to invest in; I do not know," he said. "But I know what the best card is abroad, obviously, right on the table, there is no doubt I know the answer."
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