Helen Saxon, Dept Ed, Money Saving Expert.com

Fortnightly financial five minutes #3 Helen Saxon

Nigel Yeates, Communications & Stakeholder Business Partner asks Helen Saxon, Deputy Editor at MoneySavingExpert (MSE) some financial questions.

FSCS are perhaps best known for protecting money held in bank, credit union and building society accounts (up to £85k) should they fail, but we also accept claims around pensions advice, investments and more.  The range of topics that MSE covers is much wider – tell us about a few of these.

MSE aims to cover anything and everything that could make a difference to the amount of cash you get to keep in your pocket. This could be as big as telling you how to go about finding the cheapest mortgage, or as small as telling you about a coupon to get you a free chocolate bar, and everything else in between.

Within that we cover energy, broadband, mobile phones, savings, loans, credit cards, mortgages, tax, benefits, pensions, student finance, travel, banking and insurance, as well as bringing our users the latest money off deals and vouchers.

You encourage people to do a money makeover - what kind of actions does this entail?

The money makeover encourages people to look at all aspects of their financial life and see if they can make things cheaper. For example, it could mean searching for a new broadband deal, seeing if you are eligible for a council tax discount or reviewing your bank account to see if you’re paying out for subscriptions or memberships you no longer use. It’s a long list, and you pick the ones that apply to you. We’ve heard from users who’ve sat down to do this and saved £1,000s in a day!

What are some of the most topical money tips you have shared recently?

The most topical tips have been around the cost of living crisis. MSE, and our founder Martin Lewis, have been at the forefront of helping people cope with devastating rises in energy bills. We’ve put together a comprehensive guide to what help’s available if you’re struggling to pay bills, and more recently have shown people how to decide whether fixing energy in advance of October’s likely 50%ish rise is likely to save them money over the long term. More sadly, though, we’ve also put a guide together on how to heat the human, not the home, for those who face the stark choice between freezing or starving.

FSCS exists to protect customers of financial services firms that have failed. With the current cost of living crisis do you see people taking more risks financially?

To take risks with money, you need to have money in the first place, and many people are struggling just to pay for the basics – they’re usually not in a position to take any risks.

But, for those who do have spare cash (often built up as accidental savings during the pandemic), some decided over the last couple of years – in the face of low interest rates on savings – to invest their cash.

MSE’s aim is not to tell people what to do with their cash, but to give people everything they need to know to make decisions about where to put their money… so we’d hope our users made informed decisions if they decided to take on more financial risk in response to changing circumstances over the past couple of years.  

We also have a cost of living survival kit that may be useful for your readers.

What guidance would you give people about the financial firms/individuals they are talking to?

Fundamentally, the most important thing with any financial product or service is to know what you’re signing up to. Do your research, ask questions, read documentation and check the company’s signed up to all relevant regulators so you’ve some protection from FSCS or the Financial Ombudsman Service if things go wrong. Make sure it’s right for you, and always remember – if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. 

Thanks very much Helen for those insights.

For more information on what FSCS protects, see our What we cover page.

The content of any discussions shouldn't be taken as an indication of future FSCS policy positions. The views expressed by guests are their own and don't reflect the views of FSCS.

We would also love everyone to dedicate a regular extra five minutes to check their financial products and services are FSCS protected.