For almost two decades Martin Lewis has provided consumers in the UK with financial tips and tricks to help them stretch their pay packets.
Now, as households face soaring energy bills, the founder of the MoneySavingExpert website has found himself on the “frontline” of the cost-of-living crisis, said The Guardian’s Zoe Williams.
He’s the nation’s “go-to guy” on financial matters, said Metro, and is now “so popular that Amazon sells masks of his face for fancy dress”, said The Sunday Times. But Lewis’s journey “from money tips curator to the UK’s most influential activist” took many years, said the Big Issue.
From comedy to consumer finances
Born in Manchester in 1972, Lewis was raised in Cheshire. His school years were “capsized by appalling grief and anxiety” after the loss of his mother, who died in a car accident when he was 12, said The Guardian’s Williams.
“Grief derailed his education” for several years, said The Sunday Times, and Lewis later became an ambassador and advocate for mental health and bereavement charities.
“He got back on track” studying government and law at London School of Economics, the paper continued, where, he told Williams, “I just exploded with life and confidence”. He even had a stint trying out stand-up comedy.
But he “always wanted to be the person on This Morning talking about money,” Lewis continued. He went on to study broadcast journalism at Cardiff University, before bursting on to the consumer finance scene “like a dog with a really good-value bone”, Williams continued.
Jubilee Sale | Try 7 free issues
Start your trial today and enjoy 7 issues for free.
In 2002, Lewis appeared on satellite TV channel Simply Money’s Deal of the Day programme. The following year he set up the MoneySavingExpert website from his living room, for a total cost of £80, according to the website. It quickly enjoyed what he described as “explosive growth”, becoming “an Aladdin’s cave for the thrifty, which teaches consumers everything bar how to tie their laces”, said the Financial Times.
MoneySavingExpert.com’s “astronomical success” rocketed Lewis to national fame, becoming a regular on TV shows and writing for newspapers, said Metro. He went on to sell the site to price comparison website MoneySuperMarket for £87m in 2012 – the same year that The Martin Lewis Money Show began airing on ITV.
Lewis “certainly put his money know-how to good use”, said The Sun. The Sunday Times Rich List estimated his net worth to be £123m last year. He gives generously to charitable causes, donating £2.1m to his Coronavirus Poverty Fund in 2020 alone.
7 Richly Funny Cartoons About Billionaires In Space
Artists take on the Virgin Galactic flight, his competition with Bezos and Musk, and more!
0 seconds of 1 minute, 16 secondsVolume 0%
The Guardian’s Williams said Lewis’s “uncontroversial persona” is part of his success. “A contented family man” with “a strong sense of justice”, in a 2015 poll he was voted the UK’s most trusted voice on whether the UK should leave the EU, putting him ahead of any politician at the time.
He has also worked to increase financial education for students, and launched the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute in 2016, “the work of which is essentially bug-fixing for society”, said Williams.
Lewis has spearheaded campaigns to improve consumer rights, saving up to £928m of consumers’ cash annually between 2007 and 2011 on unauthorised overdraft charges, according to MoneySavingExpert.
He was awarded an OBE in 2014 in recognition of his services to consumer rights and charity work, and last year Lewis added a CBE to his numerous accolades, awarded for his services to broadcasting and consumer rights.
Now, the financial guru has become a “champion for the vast sections of society being battered by soaring energy prices”, said the Big Issue. And “it is hard to imagine a more influential critic” of the Treasury’s handling of the cost-of-living crisis than Lewis, said The Sunday Times.
Even so, the money saving expert said earlier this month that he is “out of tools to help people now”. The husband and father has said he is “begging” the government to do more to help households with their bills, as the cost-of-living crisis has “plunged millions into poverty”, said the Big Issue.
Lewis is now performing a “delicate balance”, said The Guardian’s Williams: “if he comes out against the government he loses his impartiality, which is partly why he is so trusted”.
Still, “he has emerged from a sea of wilful political obliviousness as one of the most trenchant and steadfast voices” during a time of economic uncertainty. And it’s clear that “he’ll stay and fight”.