Martin Lewis biography

Martin Lewis biography

Martin Lewis OBE, the Money Saving Expert, founded this website in 2003 and is currently its Executive Chair. He's an award-winning campaigning journalist, TV and radio presenter, newspaper columnist, charity founder, author and according to Google, the UK's most searched-for British man.

Born in Manchester in 1972, he grew up in Cheshire's Delamere Forest. These days he lives in London with his wife, BBC Click presenter Lara (aka Mrs MSE), and eight-year-old daughter Sapphire (aka mini MSE). For some colour about Martin and his life… 

Yet if you're the Wikipedia type and want the exhaustive (exhausting) 'Who is Martin Lewis?' list of stats and facts, read on (remember, if there's a conflict between this page and the crowdsourced Martin Lewis Wiki entry, it's correct here, not there)...

Founder & Chair, MoneySavingExpert.com

Martin set up this site in his living room in 2003 for a total capital outlay of £80. With a focus on how to cut bills without cutting back, it soon saw explosive growth. And very quickly it became the UK's biggest consumer site, a title it has now held for well over a decade.

The site has also long resided in the top 100 biggest sites in the UK, and now has over 16 million monthly users. For more on how it got here, read the history of MoneySavingExpert.com.

In many ways, the site's success was powered by the Martin's Money Tips weekly email (these days it has been slightly rebranded to the MSE Money Tips Email). Over 14 million people have signed up to receive that email and it's received by over seven million active addresses.

In 2012, MSE joined the MoneySupermarket Group – with Martin continuing in his role as Editor-in-Chief. At the end of 2015, the period contracted in the sale, the contractual relationship was over and Martin could have left (or been asked to leave).

Yet no one wanted that. So in 2016 Martin moved from Editor-in-Chief to a permanent new role as MSE's Executive Chair, overseeing the site, focusing on journalism and content quality, ethics, strategy and creativity. A role he relished and continues to do to this day – still playing the leading role in MSE and what it does.

The Martin Lewis Money Show & journalism

In September 2020, Martin started the tenth series of his prime-time ITV current affairs programme The Martin Lewis Money Show. This year, the series has gone live and will run every Thursday at 8.30pm until March (except over Christmas). The shift to live came on the back of the popularity of his 15 weekly live coronavirus specials during the initial lockdown.

Earlier series were recorded at roadshows across the country, with up-to-date filming done just before transmission, so all the information was contemporaneous. These series consistently rated as the UK's most watched current affairs show.

Clip, courtesy of ITV, from The Martin Lewis Money Show Christmas Special 2018 (this clip went viral, viewed well over 16 million times and shared by over 310,000 people on Facebook).

For over 15 years Martin has appeared as the resident expert, with multiple weekly slots, on ITV's daytime shows Good Morning Britain, This Morning and Lorraine. Though since his own show went live each week, Martin has cut back on his number of appearances. He also appears each Wednesday at 1pm on BBC Radio 5 Live's Ask Martin (moved from Mondays at 12.20pm).

He has occasional columns in the Sunday Mirror, Financial Times and Telegraph, and a syndicated column published by over 50 regional newspapers and magazines.

Picture credit: The Martin Lewis Money Show, ITV

Picture credit: The Martin Lewis Money Show, ITV

Martin's charities, incl the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute

Martin has a substantial charity focus in his work these days. He's set up two successful charities, and provides both time and resources to a number of others. As he said in his life lessons lecture:

"I've been very fortunate to have more financial success than I could have ever dreamed of in my career – it feels almost accidental. So I accept that as with anyone's success, an element of that is due to luck.

"Once you understand that, then it feels important to acknowledge that what comes with that is a responsibility to give back. And that doesn't just mean writing a cheque, but by fully engaging in projects too, and giving them the same energy you give the day job."

Martin's donations are worked via the charity fund he set up in 2012. There are full details of all his wide-ranging charity work, including facts, figures and (for transparency) finances, in his What happened to my pledge to give £10m to charity? (spoiler alert – it's now £20m). But here are a few brief highlights...

  • The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute: Martin is the founder and chair of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute. The charity, which now has 13 full-time staff, was set up in 2016 to research, lobby and innovate policies to try to break the toxic relationship between mental health issues and debt.

    The institute has quickly established itself as an authoritative voice: making headlines, shaping policy and ultimately changing lives. It is the go-to organisation for high-quality research into practical solutions to the toxic link between financial difficulty and mental health problems (see MMHPI's impact).
  • Coronavirus Poverty Fund: In early 2020, Martin urgently set up his Coronavirus Poverty Fund, funding £3.4m across 400+ charities.

  • Financial Education: Having successfully campaigned to get financial education on the English national curriculum, Martin worked with Young Money to fund three years of My Money Week in most UK schools, and the UK's first financial education textbook – 365,000 copies were then distributed free to all English state schools (he's working on similar textbooks for the other UK nations).

  • The MSE Charity: In 2008, Martin launched the MSE Charity. So far it has helped connect about £2m in small grants to consumer finance and education charities.

  • Grief Encounter: He is also a patron of child bereavement charity Grief Encounter (see BBC Radio 5 Live's Martin Lewis on losing his mother). Plus since 2019, he has funded the charity's GriefTalk helpline, which gives instant counselling when children need it, which in his words "wasn't available when I needed it".

  • Citizens Advice Scams Action: Martin has long had a close relationship with Citizens Advice. As well pointing the £3m Facebook lawsuit funds at the charity to fund a new scam action arm, he's personally donated £2m to set up its innovation fund.

Campaigns – bank charges, financial education, Facebook & more

Martin is often credited as the "big gob in chief" behind campaigns to reclaim bank chargesPPI and council tax. Over 10 million of his template letters have been downloaded and possibly (it's tough to calculate) over £10 billion has been repaid.

In 2014, he was the linchpin of the successful campaign to get financial education on to the national curriculum, and he still works with the All Party Parliamentary Group, pushing to improve provision.

In 2018, Martin funded the UK's first curriculum-mapped financial education textbook via the Young Money charity, and 365,000 copies have been distributed to every English state school (100 copies each). It is also available as a free PDF download.

Unflinching from controversy, as the former head of the Independent Taskforce on Student Finance Information, he's berated the Government over retrospective student loan hikes, and pushed the plight of mortgage prisoners.

In 2018, he launched a campaigning lawsuit against Facebook to stop it publishing 1,000s of fake scam ads which target vulnerable people. To settle the case, Facebook agreed to donate £3m to set up the new Citizens Advice Scams Action project and to add a 'scam ads' reporting button to Facebook UK (the first of its kind in the world). See his Good Morning Britain interview about the lawsuit.

He's often called for meetings with ministers and shadow ministers, and to give select committee evidence on a wide range of topics.

Martin Lewis's life lecture on BBC One's The One Show, which aired on 3 January 2017...

Video player requires JavaScript enabled. You can watch this video here: https://youtu.be/C2G9wkNKZ9c

 

Accolades, awards & positions of responsibility

Martin was appointed OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours list in June 2014 for services to consumer rights and charity.

Before the EU referendum, many polls named Martin as the UK's most trusted voice, and by the end of the campaign he was the only person still trusted by supporters of both sides. His How to vote in the EU referendum guide was read over one million times.

He has been awarded the Beacon Philanthropy Fellowship and is in what may be a unique position of having hit the triple whammy of the Sunday Times Rich List, appearing in the charity giving list, the alternative rich list and the main rich list.

Martin is a member of the Financial Inclusion Policy Forum, an emeritus governor of his former university, the London School of Economics (LSE), has an honorary fellowship in journalism from the Cardiff University School of Journalism (where he studied his journalism postgraduate) and has honorary doctorates from the Open University, Chester University and Leeds Beckett.

He appeared in the new media section of the UK's 500 most influential people 2015 and the charity section of the 500 most influential people 2014.

In 2020, his ITV Martin Lewis Money Show won the TV Choice public vote for Best Lifestyle Show. He's also been Consumer Journalist of the Year, Trading Standards National Consumer Hero, Business Journalist of the Year and Citizens Advice Consumer Champion.

Author

Martin's main book, written earlier in his career, The Money Diet, twice topped the Amazon bestsellers list. He is also editor of Thrifty Ways, a book written of the wisdom of the MSE forums, and Three Lessons.

Outside the world of money

Martin is an athletics stats nerd, and always wanted to be a commentator as a teenager. In 2016, he fulfilled a lifelong ambition and started in-field presenting at major athletics events, including the Olympic trials and the London Anniversary Games, culminating in the London World Athletics Championships 2017 – where he got to run the 100m in front of 60,000 fans just before Usain Bolt (though in a slightly slower time).

He has appeared on BBC One's Question Time, BBC Radio 4's Any Questions, BBC Two's Daily Politics and he regularly features in Dictionary Corner on Channel 4's Countdown.

He was a Celebrity Mastermind champion in 2012, won £150,000 on Celebrity Millionaire (which was donated to Citizens Advice) and captained the LSE team (which tragically lost on a tie-break) in Celebrity University Challenge 2015.

Back in 2009 he even had his own one-man West End show, MoneySaving Live, and a featuring credit in a Top 40 chart hit, I Fought The Lloyds.

A fan of spreadsheets, he averages more than 407 points a game at Scrabble although, sadly, he scores similarly at golf.

He runs regularly to "manage the stress", yet is obsessed by targets when doing so. He hit his 2,000km target in 2017, and his record 10km time is 48.27 (in 2016).

Martin counts his steps too, and in 2020 averaged 24,300 a day.

In his spare time he used to do a bit of rock 'n' roll-esque dancing (before the knees struggled). He supports Manchester City, and loves The Big Bang Theory (Bazinga!).

What did Martin Lewis do before MoneySaving?

He first moved to London from Cheshire, aged 19, to study Government and Law at the LSE, where he spent time dabbling in student politics, then a year as general secretary (president) of the students' union – where he also was chosen as a UK representative at the UN World Youth Leaders' conference in Seoul, South Korea.

After graduating, he went to work 'for the other side' as a City spin doctor in financial public relations, while dabbling in stand-up comedy in his spare time to "relieve the tedium".

He later returned to university – this time to study a practical postgraduate diploma in broadcast journalism at Cardiff University.

This led to a staff job in the BBC's Business Unit, where he worked on personal finance and business programmes. He spent time as a business editor at Radio 4's Today programme, and later reported for BBC One, BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio 5 Live.

Martin left the BBC on 31 December 1999, to go to a small, now-defunct digital television channel called Simply Money, where he first became the 'Money Saving Expert'.

Profiles – recent and over the years

Many profiles have been written about Martin in the papers. Those still available online, good or bad, have been included here – though as always with these things, some are riddled with inaccuracies, but we've included 'em anyway.

Spotted out of date info/broken links? Email: brokenlink@moneysavingexpert.com