MARK STAMMERS: “The times they are a-changin’”

Mark reflects on nearly 20 years at Moneywise

Mark Stammers
Wed, 07/29/2020 – 09:00


We all live through history.

My time working at Moneywise has been bookended by two seismic world events. I arrived at the magazine’s swanky offices in Canary Wharf in London a week after the fall of the twin towers in New York in 2001 — an event that changed the world as surely as the current pandemic will continue to affect our lives in the coming years.

I was starting a job as assistant art editor, the person who puts the journalists’ words together with some nice-looking pictures or illustrations in a way that hopefully makes the whole package an entertaining and informative read.

But I shouldn’t really have been there because… well… I didn’t actually get the job when I applied.

The guy who had beaten me to the role had supplied a CV that was, shall we say, a work of fiction. The truth was discovered, and he was met at the office door by HR on his first day and escorted back out. This was probably the first lesson Moneywise taught me: everyone embellishes their resumes, but a work of fantasy will be found out.

The magazine was in need of a replacement. Lucky me!

Moneywise back in 2001 was owned by the mighty Reader’s Digest group. The magazine was an island of personal finance surrounded by a sea of gardening books, atlases, DIY guides and the eponymous Reader’s Digest magazine itself.

The magazine was selling well. In the 1990s, people in Britain had started to wake up to the fact that they were getting a pretty poor deal from the dinosaur high street banks. Lack of flexibility and ridiculous levels of red tape when moving accounts meant you most likely stayed with your first bank for life. The same was true for credit cards, mortgages and pensions. Few Brits ventured into the confusing world of direct investing, or knew what funds their hard-earned pensions were invested in.

Moneywise had somehow managed to survive for the first 11 years without me, growing to become one of the best-selling money magazines in the UK. I knew this as I had worked for a smaller rival title for a few years prior to joining. We often studied Moneywise’s sales figures with undisguised envy.

The Government’s decade-long sell-off of huge swathes of previously nationalised industries had turned millions of ordinary people into share owners. These newly-privatised businesses profited and then crashed as the economy went through its boom and bust cycles. Shocked by the rise and fall of the value of their shares, many new investors realised they needed to understand investing better to avoid the pitfalls that could drain their profits away.

Moneywise has always been committed to presenting invaluable knowledge in an understandable and clear way. Dodging the banking and investment jargon and passing on the experts’ recommendations in regular unadulterated English – the kind of easy-to-understand terms that even someone as numerically challenged as I could “get” and then use to make informed decisions.

There is a reason I chose art and design as a career: maths and I just don’t get along. It’s why my wife handles 90% of our finances. At least I could point out a way to boost our pension or cut the mortgage from the latest issue.

So, my nearly 19 years at Moneywise are at an end.

I’m sad to see the title close, but enormously proud to have been part of the magazine and witness how it has benefited its readership over the years.

As the longest-serving member of staff I have seen many fresh out of university journalists start their careers with the magazine and website. The majority have gone on to do great things in financial publishing and other fields. The bylines of most of the UK’s papers feature names of former colleagues and our regular freelancers spreading good advice to their readers. Moneywise leaves a legacy of quality financial journalism in the UK.

I’ve worked with eight editors. Each and every one of them has been dedicated to the magazine’s ethos of helping you, the reader. I’ve learnt a great deal from them and I’m glad to say I’m still in touch with a good number of them.

So, what will I take with me as I move onwards to the next part of my career? Moneywise has taught me that you need to take control of your money. You worked hard to get it so spend a bit of your time to learn how to keep as much of it for you and your loved ones.

Save in the good times, prepare for the bad, because as Bob Dylan sang back in the 1960s, “the times they are a-changin’”.  

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