MArtin Lewis is in his happy place. The eager walker is sitting at an outdoor cafe in a London park he loves, and, just days before his 50th birthday, is a contented family man, who in the case of his nine-year-old daughter takes any oath from the record. Removes eclipse. Happens to read this piece.
When he left his postgraduate journalism degree in Cardiff more than 20 years ago, he had a simple thought: “I’ve always wanted to be the person talking about money on This Morning. When you see something like this, He says, “You see stylists and you see hairdressers and you see cooks and you see psychiatrists, you see all these people and they talk about changing people’s lives. Well, You can’t do any work without money.” It is an idea that has earned him enormous wealth – the Sunday Times rich list puts it at £123m, largely due to the sale of his website MoneySavingExpert, which he valued at £100 in the early ’00s. The comparison company was sold to MoneySuperMarket. But household-name status and, more recently, adoration.
Appreciation did not come overnight. This was first seen during the painful Brexit debate, when he was voted the most trusted voice on the issue in a general election. When I suggest he’s now a new wave Marcus Rashford—in which he’s offering a poignant critique of the status quo you weren’t expecting—he says: “Well, I’ve been around for too long. I’ve been.”
Yet despite his success, his approach is anything but reckless. And while there are many reasons for this, the immediate one is the cost of living crisis. On this he has emerged from the sea of willful political oblivion as one of the most bitter and steadfast voices. Two weeks ago, he says, “I made a deliberate, subtle and specific remark, which is that when it comes to helping people on energy, especially I don’t have the tools to help the poorest. ” It was a shocking statement from anyone but one from Lewis thanks to his controversial personality.
He wrestled by saying, “Because it was an obvious, political (small-p) comment”. And it was criticized, he says, with tweets like: ‘You’re the problem because you put a sticking plaster on the system and you should basically never help anyone because all you’ve done’ is them Capitalism inspires danger [I sense he is paraphrasing a bit] to: ‘Come on, friend, just say it as it is. call them [the government] out.’ Well, even if I want to, I am not who I am. ,
Clearly, though, what makes this situation “shocking and scary and anxiety-provoking”—he says it with emotion—is not his own situation, but the situation itself. It’s pretty much the end of the road, and—even when he describes it in very neutral, almost bank-manager-y language—”Micro-money management is now a tool suitable for many people with very low incomes.” No.” – That’s on the consumer side. In other words, while he looks and dresses like a man, he is on our side, a sheep in wolf’s clothing. I think that’s partly why people like him so much.
As an indication of how serious things have become, he describes a section on his website, MoneySaving Expert. It’s called Heat the Human, Not the Home and it’s a fine look at the ways to layer your clothes, the best power-heated gloves and heated insoles – all so that you spend £40 not 40p on keeping warm are doing. The fact that it can be so necessary is depressing. “None of this is good. I’m sorry to create this guide. But I have to substitute for people who tell me they can’t heat their house. I think that’s absolutely legit.” , but it’s a little sad for my site to do that.”
It also puts him in a delicate balance; If he comes out against the government, he loses his objectivity, which is why he is trusted so much. “If you are called to be free according to one point of view, you are no longer free.” But he has a strong sense of justice, especially regarding energy bills: “Unless you live in a bigger house, most people’s energy bills are roughly the same, whether rich or poor. So this one The poll is tax. That’s why it’s so amazing, even if people don’t define it in their minds.” Furthermore, he adds: “If politicians had my mailbag, you could understand the real, real problems being there. And so we have to solve them.”
His pronouns slide everywhere, from “they” to “you” to “we,” worrying him not to feel like he’s “hectoring” them. “I want the government to listen. I want them to fix this. I am not saying these things to try to make the government lose the election. I am telling these things to the government to try to help the people. It’s about praying, explaining, you know, completely crossing my fingers. Please, please… beg them to listen. ,
This, as he pointed out, is “a great distance” from 2002’s Martin Lewis doing the Deal of the Day on the satellite channel Simply Money. Then, he was a young man, “thinking: ‘Look at me, I’m getting too clever and I’m playing the system, and no one has done that before.'” He was still very much in his devil. enjoys, reminiscing about the time he showed anyone who was listening how they could use the cashback offer on credit card balance transfers twice a week, and he’s still laughing because She concludes “The whole marketing of finance has changed because of what we did. They’ll never put that stuff out there now because they know I’ll tell 8 million people a minute, and it’s going to cost a lot of money.”
But over time, their focus shifted – first, to customer fraud, and then to two big campaigns. “We got people back £1bn on bank fees and then £12bn on PPIs, right?” He says casually, as if he found £12bn behind a couch. Afterwards, he seems more depressed: “Boy, can we do this to him now.”
Gradually, he became more preoccupied with people who were either deliberately ripping off or not equipped to deal with the complexity of the system, particularly, but not exclusively, around Social Security. This inspired him, among other things, to create a financial literacy element for the school curriculum and in 2016 to launch the Wealth and Mental Health Policy Institute, whose work is essentially bug-fixing for society.
Take bailiffs, for example. “There are special requirements on how they deal with vulnerable customers, as they should be. We currently assume that you do not have any mental health problems. But – we’re still working on it, so I’m going to leave it as a gray state – 50% of people who visit bailiffs have a mental health problem. If you can be hospitalized because of anxiety and meet the bailiff the day you come out, that is not civilized society.”
This led to the creation of Breathing Space, a debt-relief scheme launched by the government last year. It’s refreshing how he brings exactly the same tenacity to everything, whether it’s saving you 50p in a pret or making sure you don’t get approved by the benefits office. They don’t have a particular tone for talking about the “weak” the way many people do. “My job is to help people be better off with money. I don’t make a difference.” And yet, because so much has happened to him during his career, it has changed his way of thinking. “When you gaze up, and you do it for so long,” he says, “you’re finally developing a philosophy.”
About 15 years ago when he was 35, he hit a hunch on the road. “I realized my own downfall. My mental health wasn’t as strong as I thought.” Before that, he thought he was invincible. He had an uneven, rural childhood. “I didn’t grow up with money, but neither did I grow up poor”. But His mother was killed in a car accident when he was 12. The rest of his school years were steeped in terrifying grief and anxiety; he sometimes lived almost at home with it. Arriving at the London School of Economics for a bachelor’s degree, he went to the capital only for the third time. “Then I was just filled with life and confidence. I thought: ‘Wow, life is here, and I can do things.’ Coming out of years of pain and trauma. Which can be very annoying,” he reflects.
“I was in your face a lot. I was good; I wasn’t terrible. But I was just OTT.” This boom saw him work for the financial and corporate PR company Brunswick through his 20s, then journalism in Cardiff, and burst into consumer finance like a dog with a really good price. He always had a new idea. And he thought he might eventually go into politics. But then he had what he describes as one of his “dark times.” When I find it difficult to deal with life. I remember the first time I was really shocked thinking: ‘Thank God I can take time off from work, and I don’t have to worry about paying the bills.’ This interrelationship of money and mental health is so deep. I swore to myself that when I was in a position to do something about him for others, I would.”
Once he started talking to charities—he mentions Citizen Advice (CA) and National Energy Action, but mental illness charities speak incredibly highly of his relationship with them—his compassion came from his inner terrier. . During a campaign against unfair bank charges, he prepared a template letter, and someone at CA told him that 15% of people weren’t getting “your name” before typing in, while 5% didn’t write down their details. Were were All in all, they were just sending the template blank.
“That was one of my epiphany moments. One in 20 people who had money withdrawn wrongfully didn’t understand that you needed to put your name and address on the template letter. They’ve been cut off, And they’ve become so desperate that they try, but they can’t. I still find it quite a shocking statistic.”
He dodges all these strangely complicated modern bureaucracies – how the universal loan form is too complicated for some to fill out, yet the paperwork you have to hand over to someone else to do it for you It’s still more complicated. And he’s no doubt about the gravity of the situation: “These figures are a few years old, but debt is an absolute monster. It’s debilitating. Four million people consider taking their lives every year because of financial issues.” , and 100,000 people strive for it.”
Now his mission is crumbling again, as a man who can’t do spreadsheets in his sleep No Join the dots, so he’s looking down the line of energy growth in the autumn and says that the figures for household bills are “amazing, terrifying, terrible in the worst sense. I’m trying to talk to politicians: ‘You have to do something or people’s lives are going to be destroyed.'”
In the days following this interview, a picture emerges as Lewis put it: the new forecast for the October energy limit is £2,800, an unimaginable amount for millions. He takes no pleasure in getting right on this stuff: In a perfect world, he’d help people make a good decision between a VW Golf and a Ford Focus. But his combination of pragmatism and empathy has put him on the front lines, where he will live and fight.
This article was amended on 25 May 2022. An earlier version stated that Martin Lewis created and sold the comparison website moneysupermarket.com. It has been fixed.
In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or emailed to [email protected]s.org. You can contact the mental health charity Mind by calling 0300 123 3393 or visiting mind.org.uk. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is at 800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.