Nowadays when people have a burning question about their finances, be it how to manage their pension or where to find the best discounts in the shops, where is the first place they turn? The internet, of course.
Yet finding the answer to your specific query isn’t always easy. That is where the growing number of online forums can help. These extend the old-fashioned notion of pooling the knowledge of friends and family to a vast audience. Your sister might not be able to explain tax relief on pensions but there is a good chance that someone else will, even if they are on the other side of the country. Here are the top online communities that can help you financially.
The UK’s biggest online forum for parents, Mumsnet.com first appeared in 2000. Justine Roberts, its founder, says: “The idea was to create a website where parents could swap advice.”
Fifteen years on, it attracts 14 million visitors and generates more than 70 million page views a month.
Financial advice offered on the site ranges from how to choose the right credit card to understanding shared parental leave. There is also an offers and deals section with details of freebies and bargains — including some that are only for Mumsnet members.
Launched in April, just as the new pension freedoms took effect, Retiresavvy.co.uk is an online community for retirement savers from Skipton building society.
The society decided to set up the site after its research revealed that two in five people were unprepared financially for later life. The aim is to help people arrange the retirement they want by offering information, real-life case studies and peer-to-peer support and discussion via a live forum.
David Cutter, Skipton’s chief executive, says: “With Retiresavvy, we aim to help plug the huge gap in retirement information that exists today.”
Other websites aimed at both retirement savers and pensioners include 50 Connect (50connect.co.uk) and Pensioners Forum (pensionersforum.co.uk).
Ros Altmann, the pensions minister, believes that such forums can be a great source of information. “Retirement is not just about money, and learning from the experiences of others can be invaluable,” she says.
■ What Consumer
Whatconsumer.co.uk is the place to go for “expert consumer advice and money saving tips”. It is split into sections such as consumer law and goods and services, which covers complaints. There is also a section on scams, as well as a selection of consumer guides offering tips on topics such as buying a car. Alternative forums to try include Legal Beagles (legalbeagles.info), which focuses on consumer law.
Founded in 2003 by Martin Lewis, a self-confessed “money geek”, and now owned by the comparison website MoneySuperMarket, its advice attracts some 15 million users every month.
The Moneysavingexpert.com forum is one of its most popular features, with hundreds of thousands of people posting “the equivalent of 30-plus paperback books on it every day”. Regular topics include getting out of debt and where to find discount vouchers for everything from clothes to days out.
Another financial forum worth a visit is The Money Shed (themoneyshed.co.uk), which focuses on money-making opportunities.
■ The Student Room
With more than 1.1 million members, this is the UK’s largest online student community. Founded in 2001, Thestudentroom.co.uk is a useful source of advice on student finance, health, relationships and applying to university.
Charlotte Wilson, a spokeswoman for the website, says: “Money can be a daunting topic for students. The Student Room provides an open and honest platform for young people to ask questions and get advice from peers, advisers and student representatives.”
Recent discussion topics include student loan repayments and financial aid for students from elsewhere in the European Union.
Individual universities tend to run their own online communities. Students living in London can also join the discussion forum on London Student (londonstudent.co.uk).