When you are weighed down by money worries – or juggling complicated household budgeting – getting independent and impartial advice can be very helpful. This is basically why The Money Advice Service (MAS) was created.
The Money Advice Service is a vital source of help for people in the UK. So, it’s important to know exactly what this organisation does and the steps involved in seeking help with debts and other issues. More specifically, this guide will answer the question “Can the Money Advice Service help me?”.
Firstly, we will explore the aims of the Money Advice Service and some of its activities. Then we will look at the best ways you can benefit from its support.
What Is the Money Advice Service?
The Money Advice Service is a government-funded organisation, first established in 2011. The help it provides is free of charge. It is also independent and impartial, meaning it doesn’t ‘sell’ anything, and its advice is fair and balanced.
The main reason MAS was created was to provide British people with a place to discuss their financial issues and get help with managing their personal finances. This could be anything from addressing serious debt problems to simply understanding things to consider when buying financial products.
The way it is organised has changed over the years. From January 2019, the Money Advice Service became part of the Money and Pensions Service. This new body was also formed from The Pensions Advisory Service and Pension Wise too. All three were grouped together because planning for retirement is now considered an important part of personal financial management.
It’s also important to note that MAS works in conjunction with other financial bodies designed to help the British public in times of need. So, its partners are:
• Citizens Advice (formerly called The Citizens Advice Bureau)
• Business Debtline
• National Debtline
• Step Change (the national debt charity)
• PayPlan (a debt management company)
• Turn2Us (a charity to tackle UK poverty)
• Shelter for Cymru
• Shelter for Scotland
Working in partnership with these organisations helps The Money Advice Service direct people to help when their problems are particularly severe or complicated.
What Sort of Topics Does MAS Cover?
The Money Advice Service (provided under the Money and Pensions Service umbrella) can provide information and guidance on many finance matters. You can access this help either online or by contacting the service direct (more on this later).
The MAS website is an excellent source of information about personal finance. It is split into the main topic areas that most people need help with:
• Debt and Borrowing
• Homes & Mortgages
• Work & Benefits
• Pensions & Retirement
• Family & Care
• Cars & Travel
By clicking on the main tabs on the website, you get a drop-down menu to explore each topic. From there, you can click on the sort of information that is relevant to you.
There are many details and insights within each topic area, so many of the money questions you have will likely be answered by navigating your way through these drop-down menus. Keep in mind that some of the information you will find is country-specific in Britain. For example, you may want insights on how to buy a house in Scotland.
When you visit The Money Advice Service website, you can also find a wealth of useful information on the organisation’s blog. This explores lots of topical and common money issues in an easy to read, conversational way.
Coronavirus and Money Issues
A new section of information has recently been added to The Money Advice Website. It relates to the specific issues and concerns people have about COVID-19 and money management. The ripple effects of the pandemic are substantial, so clearly, MAS was keen to bring together lots of coronavirus support information.
This makes The Money Advice Service a great source of help if you have money worries related to COVID-19, such as a fall in income, the effects of payment holidays, the long term impact of being furloughed, redundancy, lockdown self-employment worries, or maximising savings as restrictions ease.
When you explore the topic of coronavirus financial help on the website, you are given the option to use a Money Navigator Tool. This is a handy way to map out how the pandemic has affected your household finances. It can also help you plan ahead, looking at ways to stay on top of bills, debts, and housing costs.
Like all the other help The Money Advice Service provides, assistance with the financial impact of COVID-19 is free of charge. It is also private and unbiased. There is no judgement!
Other Online Resources to Help With Money Matters
Insights and explanations about different areas of finance are not the only things that The Money Advice Service provides on its website. It also offers you various online tools to help you keep track of your money and plan for the future.
For example, you can use a tool on The Money Advice Service website to calculate how big a mortgage you can afford. Or to estimate the cost of a divorce or separation, having a baby or buying a car! Other tools on the site can help you make financial plans for Christmas or work out the impact of redundancy.
You can see from this that The Money Advice Service is keen to help you self-manage your financial affairs and budgeting. This makes you better able to react to events and issues that impact British people every day.
What Other Resources Does the Service Provide?
The Money Advice Service website also offers downloads that can help you with your personal financial planning. For instance, it is a great source of letter templates to ask for information, cancel things, complain or make changes to your financial affairs. These can be used to help you communicate with your bank, building society, insurance company, loan provider, pension company or employer.
Also, The Money Advice Service website contains links to leaflets you can download and a way to order hard copies of this literature. Free printed guides on personal finances include ones related to all the big things that impact managing household budgets, such as redundancy, buying a home and having a baby.
There are many free financial guides on offer, and you can even find ones that cover different money management experiences in different parts of Britain.
The third type of resource provided by The Money Advice Service is videos on personal finance. These are easy to watch segments on key money issues. Watching these videos can help you with such things as:
• How to apply for Universal Credit
• How to teach children about handling money
• Understanding retirement options
• Where to get help with pensions and retirement planning
• Why use a financial advisor
• How to afford a car
• Managing savings and debts
These are just a few of the areas covered by videos on The Money Advice Service website. Naturally, you will find them informative, but they can also guide you on the best way to use the MAS tools and calculators mentioned above.
Another useful resource on the website is an ‘interactive timeline’. This provides help with calculating the financial impact of pregnancy, taking into account your actual due date!
The Money Advisory Service and Professionals
It’s worth adding that this service and its website are not only an excellent place to go for information and advice if you are a member of the British public. The Money Advice Service also provides resources to help a wide range of professionals.
This includes, for example, anyone who works with young people and children, professionals who support parents and lots of other people who advise others on money matters, such as finance staff who need to communicate topics like Universal Credit.
Having access to the latest information can help you do your job better.
Help for Parents to Explain Finances to Their Children
The Money Advisory Service and its website also include resources to help parents. It offers you tools and advice that you can use to better support your children. It is a great way of helping the next generation form ‘good habits’ when managing money.
The website also offers toolkits to help young people to manage their money well. For example, perhaps you know a teenager who would welcome a dynamic and age-appropriate video to explain money issues and planning.
Is the Website the Only Way the Money Advisory Service Helps?
The information and digital tools contained on The Money Advice Service website are wide-ranging and cover a lot of different commonplace questions and concerns about finances. So it is highly likely you can use these resources to get the insights and solutions you need.
However, there will be occasions when you want a more personal approach. In other words, how can you talk to someone about your own money situation?
The Money Advice Service has a team of people ready to chat with you about your specific concerns. They can point you to things on the website that can help, send you free guides on money management and recommend ways to tackle money worries.
How to Contact the Money Advice Service
You have the option of ringing to speak to a MAS advisor for free advice. This will be private, confidential and impartial. The number to use is 0800 138 7777.
You can call The Money Advice Service from Monday to Friday, between 8 am and 6 pm. Unfortunately, the service is not available outside those hours, at weekends or on Bank Holidays. Remember, though, the information, advice and money tools on the website can be used 24 hours a day, year-round!
Not everyone feels comfortable talking about their money worries and plans on the telephone. This is why The Money Advice Service also offers you alternative ways to make contact.
For instance, you could discuss your questions via Web Chat. Simply visit the website and click on the Launch Chat button. However, as this option also puts you in contact with a MAS advisor, it can still only be used during the same opening hours as the telephone advice service.
Do you use WhatsApp? This is another way of contacting The Money Advice Service for help when you have concerns about debts or credit questions or get information on pensions. First, you add +44 7701 342744 to your WhatsApp contacts. Then, you send a message to that number, and when an advisor is available, they will answer you. Please note that the WhatsApp option is limited to those topics only. If your questions are about other things, you need to use Webchat or ring them during office hours.
Social Media and Financial Help
There is another way you can benefit from the information and advice that The Money Advice Service provides: you can follow them on social media! Thousands of people have chosen this way of getting regular updates and insights from MAS.
They have a Facebook profile (@MoneyAdviceService) and a Twitter account (@YourMoneyAdvice).
Alternatively, you can visit their YouTube channel. It is possible to subscribe to this and get regular notifications when new videos are uploaded.
The Money and Pensions Service
At the start of this guide, we mentioned that The Money Advice Service is now part of a much bigger organisation. So, what does the Money and Pension Service do?
It is sponsored by the Government’s Department of Work and Pensions, and it aims to support “Everyone making the most of their money and pensions.“
This involves being the source of up-to-date advice and information on money matters, debt, pensions and consumer protection. The Money and Pensions Service also develops national strategies on this important subject area.
How does it keep its services free of charge, like the help available through The Money Advice Service? It receives its funding by obtaining a fee from organisations in the financial services industry and pension schemes. This does not mean that it has to endorse its products. It is just like a ‘tax’ on them, which is then used to help people access what they sell.
Why Should You Use the Money Advice Service?
This guide has explained what The Money Advice Service is. It has also outlined how they help people and the different ways to contact them.
However, what is the benefit of getting help from The Money Advice Service?
Firstly, it’s important to stress that you can contact them about any financial concern, big or small. They don’t judge you or try to sell you anything! They certainly don’t make you feel worse. In fact, their advice can be a huge source of relief.
With the resources they have thanks to their parent organisation – The Money and Pensions Service – MAS can cover a lot of the personal finance topics that affect British people every day. They research solutions and ideas using their expert knowledge and network of contacts.
This means you can tap into up-to-date information 24-hours a day on their website or speak to well-trained advisors during office hours.
The alternative is often struggling and feeling confused or overwhelmed, with all the stress, anxiety and depression that can entail! Also, if you don’t seek help – including one to one advice – your money situation could become much worse. You could slip into debt or lose your home, for example.
The benefits of asking for help extend beyond tackling serious issues, though. Keep in mind that The Money Advice Service is also about better money management for positive things in your life too. For example, it can help you to plan for the future, including buying your first home, having a baby or even saving to get a new car!
The Importance of Debt Management Support
However, the largest group of people likely to be supported by The Money Advice Service is anyone already managing some form of debt. According to its website, “The Money Advice Service is the largest single funder of debt advice in the UK.”
This is important. Discussing existing debts and credit options with an independent advisor can be the best way to get some clarity. You can be honest, knowing that everything you say is confidential. The advisor can then help you find the support you need. Or, they can provide advice on how to manage your money better, reduce your debt and develop greater financial resilience.
It all comes down to this: you have nothing to lose if you contact The Money Advice Service. The help is free, and you could gain a great deal of information to create a better financial future for yourself and your family.