John Stepek: the value of being an outsider

John Stepek
John Stepek

Today we have the third interview in our Christmas series: John Stepek, editor of MoneyWeek and Money Morning.

John gives us his take on MoneyWeek’s ‘mission’, explains what he learned from growing up with a family business, and shares the dark secret he keeps in his bottom drawer.

Q: Explain in your own words what MoneyWeek magazine does.

A: The goal is to help people make the most of their money. It’s to explain what’s going on in the financial world in the way that normal people can understand — help them get around the City, which often tries to sell them things they don’t need, at too high a price, with high management fees. And also to help them feel as if they’re more in control. When things happen, like China crashes or the Dow drops by a thousand points, the headlines are all, ‘Whoa!’ What you want is something that helps you make sense of that and puts it in some sort of context.

Q: Other papers and magazines are not doing that?

A: I don’t think they do it consistently. Also, the day-to-day news is more about reporting stories and what’s happening, rather than trying to analyse it and taking a step back to say what’s important and what’s not important. So it’s trying to cut through some of the fog of the daily news cycle.

MoneyWeek was set up as a companion title to The Week. The Week is very much a digest magazine. It summarises what happened last week. The difference with MoneyWeek is that MoneyWeek started out like that, but then quickly realised that you had to give a view as well. You couldn’t just say, ‘This guy likes Japan, this guy doesn’t like Japan, make up your mind’. That’s just no help when it comes to the financial world. You had to give people an actual view: ‘This guy likes Japan, this guy hates Japan, we think the guy that likes Japan is correct, and here’s why.’

That’s the point of MoneyWeek: to help normal people understand the financial world and not get ripped off.

Q: I’m intrigued by your surname. It has an East European ring to it.

A: Yes, it’s Polish. My grandfather from my Dad’s side came over to Scotland from Poland after the Second World War. The part of Poland he was from originally, in the southeast, is now part of Ukraine. The Russians came in from one side, the Germans from another. The Russians took hundreds of thousands of Poles including my grandfather, put them in cattle trucks and sent them to Siberia.

Q: Why?

A: Because Stalin feared potential resistance. Then in 1941, when Russia changed sides, they basically said to everyone in the labour camps and the gulags, ‘Go away’. That was it. So my grandfather and his two sisters and his mother ended up walking, effectively, from Siberia, or near enough, to Persia, modern-day Iran.

The journey took months. Unfortunately, his mother died of starvation on the way. My great-grandmother is buried in Tehran. Apparently there’s a cemetery there where she’s buried. I’d like to visit it one day.

My grandfather met up with the Polish forces eventually – I think it was the Polish navy – and fought in Italy for a while as part of the British fleet. Then when the war was over, he came to Scotland. There was quite a big expat Polish community in Scotland.

Apparently he was one of the only people to get some kind of medal of honour from both the Communist and the post-Perestroika governments of Poland. He was quite respected by the Polish community in general.

Q: Because of his services during the war?

A: No, I believe it was for his efforts to promote relations with the west, via Scotland. But I’m not an expert, and I don’t speak Polish at all. I’ve only ever been to Poland once, and that was quite recent.

Q: Did you like it?

A: Yes, it was nice enough. It’s like most East European countries. It’s got a lot of evidence of fantastic heritage, and at the same time, there is the slightly grim Soviet element that’s been around as well. The Poles are very proud people. They have quite a firm sense of identity, which is interesting given that Poland as a country has, quite often, not existed for long periods of time.

Q: What did your grandfather do professionally once he got to Scotland?

A: He started out mending radios. He then opened his first shop in a place called Cambuslang, near Glasgow, just as television was starting to take off. The business grew and he opened up in other towns around Glasgow, and eventually in parts of Glasgow itself. By the time he retired, the business was handed down to my dad and his brothers and sisters. There were about 20 shops across that fairly small area, and they mainly serviced poorer areas of Glasgow.

One of the things that we offered was credit. As well as being an electrical goods and furniture business, we were a sort of subprime credit provider as well, which I can only recognise with hindsight. That was probably the most interesting aspect of the business, because it’s a lot more complicated than it looks. You can get worked up about people with low credit ratings being charged a lot of money for credit. I don’t take a strong view on that. But it’s always important to understand the business model, because your bad debt ratio is absolutely massive. If you’re going to lend money to people with poor credit records, the return on that has to be higher in order to make it possible, let alone worth your while. And you had to have your own credit control department with local knowledge, because back then, people couldn’t otherwise get credit: entire postcodes were blacklisted.

Q: So your grandfather turned out to be a great businessman and entrepreneur, with 20 shops in the area, and passed all of that onto your father and his siblings?

A: Yes. My granddad was very much an entrepreneur, and he was arguably quite showy. He liked his status symbols. He had a Rolls Royce, and he was the chairman of the local football team. He was a millionaire. And he came up from literally nothing. He had 10 kids. My Dad’s the oldest.

Q: Your family are Polish Catholics, I presume…

A: Yes, absolutely! Catholicism was quite a big thing on both sides of the family, actually.

But family businesses are a really tricky thing. I didn’t want to go into the business because it felt like the soft option. It felt like it was eroding your drive, like there was a job for you there – it was there as a birth right but also as a burden. There is quite a lot of literature about family businesses and how you structure them. A lot of the ones that survive put in quite sensible rules — you have to have X number of years outside of the business before you join — and lots of hurdles, to make sure the family members are there not because of their name but because of their actual abilities.

Q: How did the succession happen?

A: My granddad was a typical entrepreneur. He didn’t really want to go. He passed over the business to my Dad and retired, except he didn’t really. He’d still come in all the time and talk to my Dad and say, ‘Why aren’t you doing this?’ and ‘Why aren’t you doing that?’

My granddad did a lot of daft things as well, the way that entrepreneurs do – mainly because he got bored and wanted a new challenge. And of course there were a lot of ups and downs. The business was there during the Winter of Discontent. It was there when Britain was kicked out of the Exchange Rate Mechanism. All of these things that were headlines at the time, everyday people and everyday businesses had to cope with. As a journalist, you often think that it’s a great story or it’s world-shattering in some way. Most ordinary people have to get on with the day-to-day stuff and just cope.

Q: It sounds to me like your family business gave you good insights. If you’d just gone to university and then edited a paper, you would not have understood what it means to run a day-to-day business.

A: I think so. Coming from outside the City in terms of background definitely helps. An awful lot of people in this industry are the same. They have the same background, they all went to the same universities, came up through the same routes. They went to the same banks and the same institutions. I think it’s useful to have an outsider’s view.

Q: Your mother was a teacher at first, and stopped to raise you and your two sisters, correct? 

A: Yes. My Mum became a fulltime housewife.

Q: Did her being a teacher lead you to become a writer?

A: No, I always wanted to be a writer, from when I can remember. I’m talking about when I was three. I was always interested in books and in stories.

Q: How could you even know what writing was when you were three?

A: I remember trying to write stories before I could even write. I’d be scrawling in a book.

For some reason it’s quite a clear memory. I wanted to copy a book.

Q: And you had a vivid imagination?

A: Yes, definitely.

Q: What were you otherwise like as a boy? Were you studious, did you get good marks?

A: Yes. I was studious probably right up until the middle of secondary school, when I started to get distracted.

Q: By what?

A: Wanting to be popular, going to parties, and maybe drinking more than you should when you’re 15! But I got good results. I was a swot, definitely! (Laughter). Nerdy, definitely.

Q: Were you good in all subjects, or especially good at English?

A: I was especially good at English, but I did well in maths as well. I was geeky. I read comics, and I liked computer games. When I was growing up, that marked me out as being a weirdo. Now it’s completely normal.

I was bad at sports. I found football tedious, and still do. I played the piano, the guitar. I played the flute for a while. I still play the piano and the guitar. I keep doing it for fun, as in, it’s pleasurable. But I’m not good.

Q: Why did you go on to study business and psychology at Strathclyde?

A: I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I left school. I would’ve liked to be a bestselling author, but I thought that wasn’t terribly practical. I didn’t want to go into the family business, and there was no vocational thing that I wanted to do either. So I thought, why don’t I do business studies, to get a better idea of how businesses work, how accounts work? That way I can do my own thing at some point.

Growing up in small-town Scotland, even though I went on holiday etc., I was still quite a homebody. I didn’t think to actually leave home and go and live in another part of Britain and study. I used to take the train and arrive from my house to my university. A lot of Scottish kids do that. I don’t know if it’s because we tend to go to university earlier than English children, and Scottish schooling tends to stop a year before the English system. Or maybe it’s just a culture thing.

Q: Wasn’t studying business boring in some respects?

A: There were elements of it that were boring. Industrial relations class was tedious beyond belief. Human resources as well — HR was such a faddy thing at that point. This was 20 years ago. On the other hand, we had a really good accountancy lecturer who was quite entertaining, so he made that quite interesting, believe it or not. And I thought marketing was a pseudo-science, but the people who taught it were quite interesting.

Q: Why did you twin business with psychology?

A: I took psychology in my first year as an elective, because you could do lots of different subjects. And it was the thing I found most interesting. I ended up specialising in it by the end of the course. I did business studies for quite a while, but psychology ended up being my degree, my B.A.

Q: What appealed to you in psychology, and what did you take from it?

A: It’s interesting thinking about what makes people tick.

The thing I would take away from it in terms of my later career was, markets aren’t driven by machines. They are driven by human beings who have conflicting desires and aren’t strictly looking just to make money — or not in the way that economics talks about them wanting to do it.

What’s often missing from economics, studying money, and looking at markets and trading is an understanding of how people are, how they behave, what they care about and what they don’t. Economics has always been based on this idea of a human being as a rational actor, and I really take issue with it. People are rational: It’s just that they care about more than money. So they act in rational ways as long as you take account of the fact that their goal may not be profit maximisation at that moment in time.

Directors sell shares because they’re getting a divorce, not necessarily because it’s the most sensible financial to do at that point.  Some people value intangible emotional things over and above money: spending time with their family, for instance. It’s not complicated. It’s just absent from economics. And it’s only recently with the field of behavioural economics that they’ve started to apply psychology and the way people are to economics and markets.

Q: But we have no way of knowing people’s motivations. How can we draw sweeping analytical conclusions based on them?

A: I don’t think you can. But you do have to take account of them if you want to have any hope of actually understanding what’s going on.

Q: How do you do that?

A: Bill Bonner quite often talks about this: economics as a narrative rather than a mathematical science. We have this false precision. Economics and analysis spurt a lot of numbers out. But you have to look at the stories.

Stories are really important. They’re the things we tell ourselves to make sense of the world. We each have our own set of stories. And before you can understand someone and their behaviour, you need to understand how they’re looking at the world, their mind-set, what they think is true, the stories they’re telling themselves. Stories are a much better way to understand, if not quantify, human beings and why they do stuff. You’ve got to come from a starting point of, ‘What’s the story here?’ And then you might be able to add some numbers to that.

Q: What do you mean by stories? Can you illustrate by using the example of, say, China?

A: China’s not a bad example. The people that run China are just normal human beings like everyone else. We may sit here and think, ‘Wow, they’re cracking how to centrally plan an economy, because they’re so clever,’ like they’re aliens or something. Well, they’re not. They’re only human beings, and that means they’re basically like me and you. Could we sit in this office and centrally plan a country of 1.3 billion people between us? Well, probably not! I’m going to bet no!

Given that responsibility, what is their reaction when they start to fail? Is their reaction going to be a rational one? No, it’s not, because the guy above them, if there is a guy above them, is probably threatening to shoot them in the head. So they’ll start threatening the guy underneath them, and then you get a bunch of lies and excuses and people digging ditches even further than they should be. Cover-ups and mistakes compound. And that’s not a rational way to behave in terms of the overall country.

Economists would say, ‘Why would you behave like that? The sensible thing you’d do is XYZ.’ But that’s not how people operate. People are affected by lots of different things, depending on what their circumstances are and the hierarchy they operate within. So it’s about understanding their motivations.

That’s why political systems and economic systems that work against the grain of nature, or require human nature to change, do not work. Socialism and communism don’t work, because they require people to be different to what they area. Capitalism works better. It’s not perfect, but it allows for the individual to make choices on their own behalf, rather than expecting them to behave in a very specific way. That’s why it’s important to understand people, because ultimately all these systems are about people.

Q: Let’s get back to the subject of you. Your first job was working for Scottish Auto Trader, a classified ads magazine. What were you doing there?

A: I was a graduate trainee doing a bunch of projects: trying to help them set up a database, trying to help them get an HR award and improve their human relations. I set up an in-house magazine, weirdly enough. That was one of my first editing jobs. It was a staff magazine for them, at Scottish Auto Trader.

Q: So you were making your first steps into journalism.

A: Yes, I was. And at the time I was pretty young, still. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I wanted a proper job. I’d done lots of temp jobs, like everyone does.

Then I got a bit fed up after being there for about a year or so. I decided to look for another job, and one of them happened to be working as a production coordinator for a film company in a really small town in Wales called Tenby, in Pembrokeshire. It’s a very pretty part of Wales, on the coast. And that’s where I met my wife, Teresa, who’d applied for a role there too at the same time.

The job was really interesting. I worked with a lot of different people. I was doing educational animation for Channel S4C – the Welsh Channel Four. We did various co-productions across the world: the animated version of the Canterbury Tales, for example, and animated folk tales. We did a lot of work with Russian animators. Because the internet was only just starting to be used, the rushes couldn’t come over digitally. They had to be shipped in and out, and at that point, getting stuff through customs in Russia was a pain in the neck. An awful lot of my time was dealing with logistics.

I also wrote a couple of scripts with my wife. One was a Singaporean folk tale. Another was a Mongolian folk tale, and we ended up going on a research trip to Mongolia, which was quite incredible.

We left there after a couple of years, got married and did some traveling around the world.

Q: Where did you go?

A: We went to the Cook Islands, then to New Zealand, then Australia, Bali and Thailand.

It was backpacking, basically, for nine months. But we stopped in Australia for about six months.  I worked for a geo-engineering company there.

Q: I guess that was your honeymoon.

A: It was.

We took a camper-van around New Zealand for six weeks, and that was lovely. I really liked New Zealand. It was very pretty, and very quiet. It was the middle of winter there. It was like you’d imagine England in the 1950s. They even spoke with the sorts of slightly old-fashioned phrases that you wouldn’t hear now in Britain, but that they seemed to have preserved. It was also incredibly cheap, because the kiwi dollar had collapsed at that point. Now it’s much more expensive. That’s one of the interesting things: you look at these places you visited 10 or 15 years ago, and suddenly Lord of the Rings comes out and it’s boomtown.

While in Australia, I wrote a script, a mad science fiction script. I’d always kept this desire to be a writer. I’d started writing a screenplay and had some feedback from a producer in Glasgow, so I thought I’d stick with that. It turned into this sprawling project that took me a good couple of years to write.

Q: What was the storyline?

A: I’ll give you the elevator pitch: it’s basically Gladiator on the moon with robots. The gladiators are in a futuristic prison, and one of the things they have to do is fight for their freedom against these robots for the entertainment of the masses! (Laughter.) Obviously it’s the future, so it’s a dystopia.

It’s something that I put away in a drawer.

Q: Why didn’t it get made?

A: Because I guess I didn’t have any contacts in Hollywood! (Laughter.) It would have cost millions. You could probably do it now for tuppence ha’penny. It was just something I was writing in my spare time. I have always written for my own enjoyment.

When I got back, I did use it as a kind of calling card, and we did try to get back into film production. We were living in Glasgow at the time, and I was writing some scripts for a professional producer. But it got to a point where I thought, ‘I’ve got to get a proper job and a career.’ At the end of the day, you want to raise a family, buy a house, the grown-up things.

Q: That’s when you went to journalism school at City University in London.

A: Yes. I had a conversation with my sister-in-law, who was the features editor at Glamour UK at the time. She started explaining to me about getting into journalism.

I’d always been put off being a journalist essentially by having had a dislike of the newspapers, or at least my perception of the tabloids specifically, I guess. Lots of people don’t like journalists. I was one of those people, for definite. I thought it was essentially a dishonest profession. I’ve got a more nuanced view now having been on the other side for a while.

In any case, I realised that tabloid work was not the only journalism you could do. If you wanted to make a living as a writer, journalism was not a bad option. So I went to City, because I’d heard it was one of the best journalism courses.

You could specialise in a certain type of journalism. I looked at finance or health – I didn’t want to be a news journalist. I hated the idea of knocking on someone’s door and saying, ‘How do you feel about your husband being shot?’ I preferred the idea of doing something on a subject I found interesting, and that I could unpack. It would help me get a better understanding of the subject, and could help other people understand it as well.

I ended up going for finance, because that was what I was most interested in.  We were taught by the share tipster for The Times¸ Robert Cole. He was very good. I came out of there and felt as if I had quite a solid grounding in the sorts of concepts that you needed to know. At the same time, I remember spending a lot of time marvelling at how expensive everything was in London, certainly property-wise. I wanted to get to the bottom of that, purely from a personal point of view. It rapidly became clear that money does make the world go round in a lot of ways.

Q: You then went on to work for Teletext. What was that like?

A: Teletext was good. It was useful. It was difficult – a good place for a young journalist to learn what they were doing, because Teletext was the ITV equivalent of Ceefax. It was on the TV. People used to use it for booking holidays, and that was where most of its money came from. It was owned by The Daily Mail and General Trust but was editorially separate from them, and 80% of revenue came from holidays. It was a very well-resourced company. Then the internet came along and just wiped it out.

You’d have to get in at 7 o’clock in the morning. All the RNS’s would come off your news feed, like maybe BP’s 4th-quarter results, and you’d have to turn that into a 65-word story that actually said something in about 20 minutes. That is quite a challenge. Financial reports are fairly chunky, especially something like BP’s. You think, what is the story here? So it was very good at getting you to focus on the right numbers, and to read the balance sheet: find what they tried to bury at the bottom of the release.

The market didn’t open till 8 a.m., so you got an instant judgment on whether you’d actually got the story right or not. When Shell restated their reserves, it was one of the few things that we reported wrong. They said, ‘See these reserves we said we had? We don’t have them.’ The RNS release didn’t sound that dramatic. I remember we looked at each other and said, ‘I’m sure it’s just some technical thing.’ Of course, when the market opened, Shell was down 7%. This was in the middle of a bull market, and 7% down was a major story.

Q: How did you end up at MoneyWeek in 2005? Did they come and find you?

A: After being at Teletext for a couple of years, I thought it was time to move on, partly because I could see that the place couldn’t survive. A couple of months later, everyone got made redundant, or most of my team did. At the time, I was glad to be out. With hindsight, I realised I should’ve waited to be made redundant – I’d have had a paycheque!

I approached a recruitment consultant, and MoneyWeek came along. At the time I hadn’t heard of MoneyWeek. Their office was scruffy-looking: a brown carpet, and a reception on that floor that looked as if it was half-finished. I’d started reading some of the Daily Reckonings and thought they were really interesting and completely different to what I’d ever read before. It was before financial blogs had taken off. Bill Bonner already owned the company by this point.

I found The Daily Reckoning quite fascinating, and a very different style of writing.

I was interviewed by a couple of people including Merryn [Somerset Webb]. I recognised her because she wrote a column in The Sunday Times which was one of the few things that I made sure I didn’t miss. She always said something really interesting, and had a fairly different view from most of the mainstream. It almost felt like something you shouldn’t be reading in a paper, because it was actually interesting! (Laughter) I hadn’t realised she was the editor of MoneyWeek. When I met her, I thought, ‘This must be a serious publication.’

I read a few issues. In the early days, it was quite a scruffy-looking magazine. Some of the cartoons looked quite simplistic. But I was seeing stories that no one covered elsewhere — about things like uranium and how to invest in it. I thought, ‘This is an interesting little magazine.’

They were looking for a web editor, because the web site had launched, but it was very basic and was getting relaunched, and it was taking forever. They also wanted to relaunch Money Morning. It was very much ‘This happened in the markets today,’ and they wanted to make it a bit more like The Daily Reckoning: more opinionated.

Q: You didn’t have tons of experience to take something like that on, so it was a bit of a gamble for them. You must have persuaded them you could do the job.

A: It was in the interview. Merryn asked me what I thought would happen with the economy. I’m fairly sure I gave a pretty bearish response. I said, ‘This is just loopy. This stuff cannot go on. The property market is insane. We need to see some kind of correction there. Inflation’s going to take off if interest rates stay too low.’ I think she could see that I was on her wavelength as far as that went.

I had read quite a few Daily Reckonings, had a feel for the views and basically agreed with them. I thought, ‘This guy [Bill Bonner] is saying the sort of thing that I think but never had a chance to articulate.’

I also did a whole load of dummy stuff for them. I went home and wrote three Money Mornings. The first one I wrote, they came back and said it was a bit dull.  From speaking to me, they thought I could come up with something more exciting. They said, ‘Just go out there and write something fairly nutty.’ So I did: I wrote very opinionated, mouthy, slightly surreal stuff. They came back and said, ‘That’s a lot better.’

It was a steep learning curve when I got there, because I was having to write a big opinionated piece every day. You don’t always have an opinion on what’s going on, and you don’t always feel that you can contribute a lot to what’s already been put out there – although thinking about it, most of the time I do have a view! (Laughter). That took quite a bit of getting used to, and was quite high pressure. I worked even longer hours in those days than I do now. But it was very stimulating. I learned a lot.

Q: Have you enjoyed your time here?

A: I have, yes. From a personal point of view, getting to express opinions about important stuff that’s going on, and trying to help people understand what’s going on in the world: I enjoy that. I feel as if we do provide a worthwhile service to our readers. In our own small way, we’ve made a big contribution to some of the most important debates.

We were one of the first magazines to write regularly about exchange-traded funds, and continuously make the point about keeping your costs low, and about passive investing versus active investing. We were highlighting the problems of commissions being paid to independent financial advisors for years and years. We helped to put that more into the public eye.

Q: So you think you’ve had an impact?

A: Yes, I think we have. I like to think that we helped our readers with the credit crunch: we helped them through the worst of that. The Queen asked, ‘How come nobody saw it coming?’ We did see it coming, and we did tell people that it was coming. It was useful to be able to point out to people, ‘Look, this isn’t sustainable. This isn’t going to end well. You’re rumbling along in your little life thinking everything is going fine, but there’s this massive tectonic plate that you’re standing on. You don’t realise, but it’s about to burst, and a volcano is about to erupt.’

We helped readers to hopefully avoid, but certainly understand, where the worst crash in living memory came from, and why it happened.

Q: Did readers acknowledge that?

A: We had a few testimonials that said things like, ‘I’ve got to hand it to you. You’ve seen this thing happening, and I’m really glad that I’m reading your magazine.’ There is an awful lot of drivel out there, and way too much information. There are people who are going to try to rip people off as well, whether legally or illegally. Being in a position to try to challenge that or warn people about that is a good thing. At the end of the day, I’m doing what I care about.

Q: Do you still do some of your own writing? 

A: Yes, I still write in my spare time. It’s science fiction – short stories and novel-sized stuff. But I haven’t written anything significant for quite a while. I haven’t got anything finished at the moment. I’d like to get a book written just for the sheer hell of it.

Q: Would you look to publish it?

A: I probably would, especially now, because you can just stick it on Amazon!

Q: Any other activities?

A: I like reading — a mix of non-fiction and fiction. The fiction does tend towards the sci-fi, which feels terribly juvenile, but you’ve got to relax somehow.

I’m reading The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan, a history of the world but seen from a more Eastern-centric perspective. It’s more centred around the Middle East/China region rather than Greece, Rome, Dark Ages, medieval England. I’m not a history buff, and I wasn’t that interested in history when I was at school, so I’ve come to history quite late. It’s really interesting to see it from a different perspective.

Q: Which book was a game-changer for you in the last few years?

A:  There’s a book I read during the financial crisis that I wished I’d read beforehand: Fiasco by Frank Partnoy. It’s a really good book about how derivatives blew up Orange County, and the banking culture that led to the creation of those derivatives — the very sales-y culture of investment banks designing products with various things that would blow up, and then selling them for high commissions to naïve people. If I’d read it before the financial crisis kicked off, a lot of the minutiae of that would have been a lot clearer.

Q: I hear that whisky is another one of your passions.

A: Passion is a strong word, but I like it.

Q: Do you have the palate to distinguish different kinds of whisky?
A: Anyone does. As long as you like whiskey, it’s not hard to distinguish between the different kinds

— you can tell they taste different if they’re side by side. I’m not an expert. I don’t necessarily know anything about it. But I do like whisky and I’m getting more and more interested in it.

Q: What’s your favourite brand?

A: It’s Bruichladdich. It’s not especially expensive, just not as cheap as a blend.

Q: To get back to the subject of MoneyWeek, how do you see the magazine’s future, and what role do you think it can play in the years ahead?

A: MoneyWeek will carry on expanding. I’m hoping that we can make the magazine even bigger and better than it is now.

A lot of things have changed in the time that the magazine has been around. The financial crisis brought the world of money onto the front pages, and I don’t think it’s ever quite left.

Q: You don’t think financial markets were already on the front page after the Nasdaq bubble bursting, or the 1987 crash?

A: They bubbled up, but then went back to be on the business pages. People assumed that things worked in a certain way. And then when the financial crisis came along and the mortgages blew up, they suddenly went, ‘The world doesn’t work in the way that I think it works.’

There have been other changes in the UK. Financial advisers’ commission has been scrapped, which is a good thing. Now we’ve got the pension freedom rules coming in, which are massive.  They’re going to have an impact for decades to come.

If anything, something like MoneyWeek is more necessary now, because more people are going to have to understand what’s going on in the market – right up until they die, for want of a better word! They’re going to have to make certain judgments and certain financial calls that their grandparents and, to an extent, their parents wouldn’t have had to. That is going to be a very big area. And hopefully we can give people good guidance as to what to do.

  • John Beauclerk

    What an amazingly inspiring life story from the (let’s face it) all too often tedious world of investment… Thanks a lot

  • Paul Brimstone

    Well done for predicting 2008. Shame about 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015. Gold, Japan. Oil, as of a year ago. You say you make your mark on making statements, not just reporting others. Hmmm, not many statements. When you do make a statement, you cherry pick the time to report their success.

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