For the kind of content she creates, YouTube vlogger Nicole Alba’s rise to online stardom may be considered fast. In less than two years, she has amassed 356K subscribers. She doesn’t put out prank or mukbang or thirst-trap videos. The girl talks personal finance and investments, dispenses advice on how best to spend your money and how best not to.
And yet she’s not even done with college. Her field of study at UP Diliman is neither Accounting nor Business, but Political Science. So how did this 21-year-old become one of the most followed Filipino finance vloggers today?
“Nicole Alba reminds me so much of my high school buddies. She doesn’t come off as flashy. She wears ordinary shirts, not a stitch of make up and she doesn’t even brush her hair but she has this amazing way of explaining complex topics like the smartest girl in the barkada,” says Tammy David, a social media strategist and a Nicole follower. “As a YT subscriber, I could tell that she's coming from a place of care and wants to inform people about finance and self development unlike other personal finance dudes selling books, speaking all jargonny or contrived street language, wearing suits with that annual report crossed arms pose.”
Who is Nicole Alba?
Nicole is the oldest among three children. She was raised by Filipino-Chinese entrepreneur parents who taught her the value of money very early on. The lines “Ang pera pinaghihirapan siya. Kailangang magtipid. Hindi basta-basta ang paggastos,” have been drilled into her head since she was young.
She grew up seeing her parents work hard in order to give her and her siblings a comfortable life. This must be the reason why despite coming from a privileged background, she grew up wanting to be financially independent at a young age. “Yung lahat ng ginawa nila, nakatulong sa akin. Pinag-aral ako ng mabuti. I have the resources. Gusto kong hindi masayang ang pinaghirapan nila for me. I want to create my own wealth,” she says.
Nicole started getting seriously interested in money and finance during the months leading up to her high school graduation. There was a six-month break before finally transitioning to college and this gave her a lot of time to think about her future.
She admits to the usual anxieties that people her age experience. “At that time, I didn’t know talaga ano ang course na gusto kong kunin, or what job I want in the future,” she recalls. But she didn’t want to stress over it. “Gusto ko lang na whatever [course or career] I choose to take, I should be okay. I don’t know yet what I want to do in the future pero ayokong mamrublema sa pera.”
Her goal was to find ways to earn her own money so that she’s future-ready. “Why wait pa after college graduation when I can start now? I want to know how to adult now,” she says, echoing her thoughts then.
Nicole’s thirst for information led her to different resources on personal finance and investing. She voraciously consumed books and YouTube videos about the topic. “I’m the type na when I’m interested in something, I’d really devote time researching about it,” she tells ANCX.
One of the books that may have influenced her mindset about money is Robert Kiyosaki’s “Rich Dad, Poor Dad.” The young finance vlogger says a key point that struck her from the bestseller is to overcome self-limiting beliefs. Don’t rest on the idea that you simply can’t afford something, because you can find ways to work and earn for it.
She did apply what she learned from all that research. During the summer of 2018, Nicole took the first step to becoming an entrepreneur by selling books, windbreakers, and jackets online. She did freelance jobs, too (e.g. creating posters, transcription work) allowing her to explore her skill sets. The best part was that she had fun.
Nicole has always enjoyed the process of creating videos. She has dabbled in it since grade school, editing reels for school clubs. Suffice it to say, starting a YouTube Channel has always been on her bucket list. But she never had the time to do it because of school work.
When the pandemic hit, she had the chance to explore this other interest. “Isang buwan wala akong ginagawa,” she recalls. “Sabi ko maybe it’s time na mag-try akong gumawa ng a few videos.”
But it was never her intention to become a finance vlogger “to help educate Filipinos about personal finance,” she says, laughing at the seriousness of the phrase. “It’s more of what I like to talk about. At that time sobrang hilig ko to talk about personal finance. Pero siyempre ang mga kaibigan ko nabo-bored na silang makinig sa akin. Sabi ko, gawa na lang ako ng video.”
Realizing that nothing will come out of the endeavor if she will only post a couple of videos, she decided to make a commitment to produce one video every week. She made the intimidating discussion about money and investments fun and engaging with graphics, jokes, memes and sound effects. She would share things she has learned in her personal finance journey, allowing her content to resonate with people her age.
Little did she know that there are also older people—many of them in their 20s and early 30s—watching her content. She even found a 62-year-old woman in the comments section telling her she’s just starting to learn about personal finance thru her vlog. “I was like, ‘May lola’ng nanonood!’” she says, recalling her surprise.
How she makes money
Nicole is now on her senior year in college. The money she earns comes from her YouTube channel and a few other side hustles—buy and sell, freelance projects, internship allowance. “For now, my main source of income is YouTube. It was a hobby at the start. Pero nung lumaki sya, naging business na siya kasi kailangan ko isipin ang tax, contracts with clients. Hindi ko sya pinlano. It’s just something that happened,” she says.
Nicole says she keeps a simple lifestyle. She’s not into clothes, bags or jewelry. But doesn’t consider herself kuripot. “I don’t mind spending if it makes sense for me why I’m spending,” she shares. For instance, she makes videos, which makes sense to update her desktop computer, and she was able to do so last year. She’s also into running, so she got herself a smart watch and comfy running shoes. “I would also rather spend on experiences, gifts for other people and the things that I will use talaga,” she says.
The young vlogger says she didn’t expect her YouTube channel to grow this big. The number of followers naturally adds a certain level of expectation on her and the quality of content that she brings out. “Medyo nape-pressure din ako,” she admits, smiling. “Twenty-one pa lang ako e. Ang mga sinasabi ko ay ang ginawa ko pa lang so far at ano ang natutunan ko from that experience. Hindi naman ako finance professional.”
But she’s clear about what she wants to achieve thru her vlog for now. “I just want to share my excitement about it. Kailangan lang maipa-realize mo sa tao kung bakit importante ang knowledge about personal finance. Then present possible action steps that they can apply in their life.”
[Photos courtesy of Nicole Alba]