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The Money Advice Service (MAS) launched in 2011 to provide free advice on financial matters. It’s an independent organisation with the objective of helping British citizens better understand personal finances. The MAS has also been designed to give people tools to manage personal finances, to help with serious debt problems or issues that arise from misunderstanding finances and financial systems. However, last year the Treasury announced that the MAS would be closed and replaced by a much smaller entity. So what does that mean for those who need free financial advice in the UK?
If you’ve ever searched online for financial advice then no doubt you’ve come across the MAS. Its ethos of providing advice that is both free and impartial has given thousands of people the chance to sort their finances out. The idea has always been to provide advice with no agenda. So, advice on buying insurance, for example, that doesn’t have the underlying objective of getting the reader to buy insurance from the owner of the content. The MAS covers a lot of ground – it’s various information sections include:
The MAS website also features a blog with regular updates on money advice and has developed a range of useful tools. The site’s tools include a budget planner, savings calculator and mortgage calculator. There’s also a web chat feature and plenty of links to sources of help for anyone who feels that they might be getting into financial trouble. It’s a huge resource for the UK population and one that will be sorely missed when it is shut down.
In 2016, the Treasury announced that the MAS would be phased out and closed down, something that Solution Loans bemoans. The reasons behind the decision were that two separate reports found that many people had never heard of the MAS and that it was not delivering value for money. Although the MAS spending sits at around £80m a year, a large proportion of the income came from an industry-based levy. Of course, many suggested that the solutions might be to publicise it more widely and perhaps reevaluate what ‘value for money’ means in the context of a service giving free advice. However, the Treasury has gone ahead with shutting the service down, to the consternation of many in the financial industry, and beyond.
As well as the MAS, the Pensions Advisory Service (TPAS) and Pension Wise are also to be restructured. The result will be two new, smaller government bodies that separately provide advice on pensions and other financial matters. The two new bodies will focus on being more efficient and adding more value for the consumers who use them. So, is that all there is in terms of resources?
While the MAS might be winding up, there are still other options for those seeking independent financial advice:
Citizens Advice. The former Citizens Advice Bureau has a fairly comprehensive website that covers a range of financial topics. The website has lots of online guides that cover a number of the same topics as the MAS. So, if you’re looking for advice on issues such as banking, budgeting and debt solutions Citizen’s Advice is a great option.
Commercial websites, such as Money Saving Expert. It’s important to note that MSE isn’t an independent website and specifically states that it doesn’t give financial advice. Nevertheless, if you have questions about topics such as debt and savings, it’s a goldmine of information. It’s also one of the more reliable websites in terms of not pushing products and services of private companies alongside information.
Charities, such as The Money Charity and The Debt Advice Foundation. Although these charities may have fewer resources than the MAS they still have a lot of fantastic information. Plus, you can get free and genuinely impartial advice from them based on the issues that you have – often over the phone.
Consumer websites such as Which? Which ? campaigns for consumer rights and also provides a number of free guides that cover financial advice across a wide range of issues, from savings to debt. A large amount of the financial information content on the website is free but some requires you to join as a subscriber for a small fee.
Alex Hartley is a keen advocate of improving personal finance skills. She's worked at Solution Loans since 2014 and written hundreds of articles about how people can manage their money better. Her interest in personal finance goes way back to...Read about Alex Hartley
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