The coronavirus pandemic has dramatically changed how we usually do things. Case in point: apartment hunting!

On top of finding an apartment that you can afford, you also need to follow health protocols that the authorities and the building management set when inspecting the apartment. It can be challenging to navigate because you need to be extra cautious, more so if this is your first time looking for an apartment and in a city you’ve never lived in before at that!

Don’t fret, though. Below are some of the things to expect when apartment hunting post-COVID.

Things to expect when looking for an apartment

1) Online is a plethora of sources

Like most big-ticket purchases, you can start your apartment search online before you should come and check it out personally. This is a highly recommended approach to apartment hunting nowadays. For instance, if you are apartment hunting in Los Angeles, you may browse available rentals within your preferred neighborhood.

What’s good about these rental websites is they are highly intuitive, requiring a minimal level of experience. In addition, rental websites usually have tools and filters you can use to narrow down your searches. Some websites even allow you to bookmark or save and download the information quickly.

2) A reliable real estate agent is more than necessary

Even when you live in San Francisco Bay Area, you can have someone represent you in person when doing the hunt. The agent can stand in your place while providing relevant information, particularly the required documents such as proofs of identification, income, and insurance; credit report; and recommendation letters. The list can be exhaustive because the apartment building may have additional requirements.

An agent can also give you tips and hacks. For instance, he can tell you you cannot blow up your credit score by piling up on new furniture because it will show up on the report. In some instances, credit reports are checked and rechecked between submitting the letter of intent and moving in.

3) Up to three options are highly recommended

It is expected that people who lost their jobs when the pandemic started would relocate to cities with higher employment rates. For example, in Los Angeles, these places are Ventura, San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange, and Los Angeles counties.

The uptake of apartments in these areas is faster than usual. So it is best to prepare a shortlist of neighborhoods that you want to be a part of. Well, of course, this will depend on whether you already have a job (which is more advisable) or is yet to look for one. While at it, list down your non-negotiables. In this way, your agent will find the apartment that suits your taste.

4) An inspection must never be skipped

Your agent can do a virtual inspection via FaceTime, for instance. Nonetheless, it is essential to check the apartment physically before you move in. You should check the door and window, bathroom, kitchen, bedroom, and living room. Don’t skip the safety checks as well, including the fire safety equipment, smoke detectors, and fire escape plan.

Don’t forget to check the neighborhood as well. As such, consider the commute, determining the travel time from your apartment to the workplace, transit options, and traffic dynamics, especially during rush hours. Your expectations regarding this matter will surely affect your comfort levels in a new city.

All in all, be as informed as possible when apartment hunting. Several resources can help you make the process as smooth sailing as possible. However, don’t forget your due diligence, specifically in areas where your presence is needed.

“Every financial decision should be driven by what you value.” ~David Bach

Truth be told, the coronavirus pandemic has put the world at a standstill. As a result, people are forced to stay at home—some reluctantly transformed their place into a remote office, while others just stayed at home without a job.

Some of us have been diligently saving for the unexpected. But, unfortunately, those emergency funds have already dried up several months into the lockdown without a steady source of income.

A survey conducted by the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) showed that up to 75% of households have adjusted their finances to accommodate the impact of the pandemic. Some of these are:

  • 7% borrowed from their retirement fund or policy,
  • 11% deferred their bill or debt payment,
  • 11% incurred more credit card debt, and
  • 18% used their emergency savings.

While the future still looks bleak at this point, the financial strain the pandemic caused also brought new realizations. The same surveys revealed the people’s financial learnings such as the need to save or invest (23%), cut back on non-essential expenses (14%), and prepare or start saving for an emergency (11%).

These are good news—a critical path towards solving the looming financial troubles the pandemic created. Nonetheless, these are just three of the ways to minimize the issues you face with your finances.

More tips on how to take control of your finances

Here are more tips for you. I tried to make this list as a no-nonsense, practical guide as possible. But let me tell you this.

Remember that you’ll do all these for savings and debt relief. If you want to save, you pay yourself first. You know how this works: save before you spend, not spend and save what’s left.

Some would say that it is rather difficult to save while paying off some debts. This is also true. So, if it makes sense to your circumstance, pay your debts first.

I know some people who fear the debt collectors, and rightfully so. But they shouldn’t—you shouldn’t. Instead, you should talk to them and work out a reasonable payment plan. Learn more about your rights as a consumer and how to deal with collectors properly because, well, you need to.

Moving forward, take heed of my advice.

1) Cut down on food deliveries

Usage of food delivery apps skyrocketed in 2020 to 111 million from 95 and 88 million in 2019 and 2018, respectively (yes, it must be because of the pandemic). So that’s 16 million additional users. This is understandable because an average American family only cooks nine meals per week. The rest of the meals are to-go food.

According to a study, eating out or ordering food online is 5x more expensive than cooking meals at home. So preparing at least two more meals at home can save up to $936 per year. That much money you can use to settle your bills.

2) Ditch the cable or downgrade the plan

Cable TV packages in the United States start from $50 per month, which means an additional $50 savings if you decide to cut the cord. If this is not possible, you can always choose a cheaper plan than what you have right now.

Another plausible option is to subscribe to a streaming service instead. It’s cheaper even with a downgraded cable plan.

3) Find a side hustle to generate additional income

Moonlighting is commonplace, and people do this all the time to fill the earnings gap. If you suddenly become a single-income (or a zero-income) household, this is all the more important.

Online is a plethora of side hustles or gigs that you may want to consider. If your current skills set does not match and upskilling is not an option for you, then tap on what you already know or have. For example, sell stuff online, create marketing collaterals for fashion brands, or do freelance writing. These are just some of the jobs that trended upward when the pandemic hit.

4) Don’t shop around online and impulse buy

This is by far the biggest budget breaker. We stay at home and scroll our feed and visit websites all the time and usually encounter things we think we need, but we don’t. So what to do?

Practice the personal cooling-off period. A cooling-off period is a consumer right wherein you, as the consumer, may cancel and return the purchased item and obtain a refund. Making it personal means giving yourself time to think if you really need the item or not. Give it three days, and if you forget about it, you probably don’t need it.

5) Don’t charge anything on future income

Don’t burn money that you have yet to earn. This can be very dangerous because that income has yet to materialize. What would happen if it didn’t materialize at all?

If you cannot pay for an important item in cash, don’t buy it. Instead, save up some more before making a purchase. Also, the interest rates could wipe out all the money you’ve saved so far when you choose to swipe your card instead of paying for it in cash.

“We must start saving and investing while we are young because the real currency in insurance is our age and our health.” ~Jovs Villano, Financial Advisor

If there is one word that is nowhere near a millennial’s vocabulary, that would be investing. Of course, this is not true for everyone. Some millennials might be aware of the importance of saving and investing, but they aren’t necessarily keen on doing it. For some others who want to manage their money actively, the problem is that they don’t know where to start.

Perhaps, a good starting point for all of these is understanding why young people are too hesitant to jump on the investing bandwagon and why they shouldn’t hesitate. Below are some points to ponder, including these statistics.

  • About 39% of the Filipinos invest in preparing for financial uncertainties, up by 29% since 2014 [Business Mirror]
  • In 2018, 21.5% and 43.1% of stock market investors were aged 19 to 29 years old and 30 to 44 years old, respectively [Business Mirror]
  • Filipinos aged between 24 and 34 years old are most likely to have debt [Manila Times]
  • Millennials are avid savers, saving for home purchase (33%) and vacation (30%) [Manila Times]
  • Only 25% of millennials invest in stocks or equity [Manila Times]
  • Millennials invest irregularly: 28% invest “when they feel like it” [CNN Philippines]

Why young people are afraid of investing

There are at least two reasons for this.

1) They are busy

Their minds are lenient to here-and -now decisions. Investing is challenging, and it requires discipline and dedication. The young generation is spending too much energy on other things, so learning about investing is not in their current scheme of things.

The same goes with spending their money on what they think they need, such as expensive gadgets, branded clothes, etc. They put off investing because they are not yet financially stable. 

2) They are risk-averse

Investing can be an extremely uncertain undertaking for any youngster. This explains their risk aversion or simply their fear of failing. This is an unknown territory that they are not likely to dive into. Instead, they’d rather keep their money in the bank—a conservative vision regarding saving money. Also, they are burdened by the necessities; thus, ideas about future-oriented strategy are not entertained.

There are obstacles to investing, well, at least for young adults. These are their too-focused-on-the-now mindset at the expense of their future, conservative vision regarding savings, spendthrift lifestyle, and overall lack of urgency to save and invest. Not to mention the possibility of their being ill-informed about proper budgeting.

Again, no generalizing here.

Did you know Pru Life UK is awarded the prestigious International Life Insurer of the Year in the Philippines in 2021?

Source: 2021 Insurance Asia Awards

Furthermore, a friend of mine, Sir Jovs, a financial advisor at Pru Life UK, has this to say about this matter: “Considering the behavior and how millennials work or decide, I can say that some of them are hesitant because they’re not using it.” I couldnt agree more—well at least not yet.

He continues, “Like most of us, we tend to seek immediate gratification. But, unfortunately, some of these millennials, if not most, tend not to appreciate delayed gratification.

When we save investment, we do not expect that we’ll have its return immediately. We should understand that it will take a while before it grows or maybe not. It’s a risk to take.

Maybe some millennials don’t appreciate it very much since they have not experienced the need for an insurance yet. They have not seen the value of it yet. They have to see it before they believe on it. They have to experience it before they can appreciate it.

Sir Jovs also pointed out why the Filipinos in general are not keen on investing. Investing is not taught in schools, not even by our parents.

He is also right that the youngest generation of millennials is around 25 years old this year—still a risk-averse age. If in the US, the average age of Americans to start saving and investing is 31 years old, what could be the average age for the Filipinos? I dont have the answer.

But one thing is clear: millennials delay saving and investing.

Now, the question is…

What should be done to encourage them to invest

Now, let’s talk about why young people must overcome these barriers. Yes, it is possible. And, as a youngster, there are two main things to remember.

  • Knowledge is foundational
  • Age is not a factor in learning

True, they say that knowledge is power, and this is one thing that we can subject ourselves to regardless of our age. You are afraid to invest, thinking you might ‘lose it all’ because you are unprepared. You might make some mistakes in the process.

However, with learning, you would be able to develop your skills in discerning criteria and making sound judgments. Through this, you can minimize the risk and maximize the gains.

You may reason out that even when you learn everything about investing (which is also impossible), you are still inexperienced.

While this may be true, there are many ways to overcome this challenge. There are several investment tools online, like investment forums, wealth management websites, and simulation investment platforms. These could compensate for the lack of knowledge. But of course, you need to jump in to gain the experience.

Let the below discussion on advantages of investments convince you some more.

What are the advantages of starting investing while young

Twenty-somethings may realize more early investment advantages compared to forty-somethings. The young may not have realized it yet, but they have the most important resource: time. That’s why you—the youngsters—must not waste your precious time by investing now. Early investment is more beneficial because:

ROI is not very important, saving rate is

For novice investors, the amount of money you can save is much more important than the returns. This is not to say that return on investment (ROI) is not essential—it is. It’s just that you have more free funds now than you would 10 to 20 years from now when you have your own family, house, car, business, etc.

Compounding works favorably

When you put your money to work for you the earliest possible time, chances are, you’ll generate more wealth from it. More wealth is created, and yet the cost of investment is kept at low rates. The longer the time that this money is working for you, the better your financial status will be in the future. This is because money invested grows substantially hereafter, including share values, dividends, and interest.

Losses are minimal

Depending on how you proceed and which investment products you choose, know that losses are a part of investing dynamics. That’s why experts always advise budding capitalists to start small by picking a product with lesser associated risks unless you are highly risk-tolerant. Anyhow, since you are starting small, your losses are also small. So with that, build your investment portfolio slowly.

Investing might be an absurd idea for the youngsters. However, the mere fact that you are delaying investing is a grave mistake impacting your future. Put simply, investing early in your life means a better future for you, much better than what you can imagine. Again, learning is the key here.

With that, Id like you end this with some insightful words from Sir Jovs.

We must start saving and investing while we are young because the real currency in insurance is our age and our health. If we start younger, we’re much healthier and don’t have any issues or concerns about our health. If we start younger, there is more time for our money that we’re saving to grow and to be compounded. Insurance policies are much cheaper when we start at a young age.

If we have just started our job while we’re still young and started the discipline of savings for insurance and investment, we’ll be more responsible for our cash flow. We’ll be more cautious about where our money goes. We’ll be more aware of the value of each penny or our hard-earned money.

We’ll then get used to this attitude and behavior, and we’ll be able to transfer and teach it to the next generation. That picture of our world where all people are knowledgeable in handling the money and expenses would also give us a brighter future.
Better economy not just wide range but even the smallest range in the family/household level. People are secured and have peace of mind that whatever happens in the future, they’re prepared.


If you want to learn more about financial management, financial literacy and financial products like life and health insurance and educational plan, among others, please contact Sir Jovs.

Jovenal “Jovs” Villano
Financial Advisor, Pru Life UK
+63 977 8128045
plukjovenalvillano@gmail.com
facebook.com/jovenal.villano

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links—I’ll earn a percentage for each purchase made through the said links.

By 2022, we won’t be renting anymore. Well, hopefully.

We’ve been renting a humble home for more than a decade now, so I guess it’s about time we have a place of our own.

Right now, we are checking lots of home design inspiration. I’ve been showing pictures to hubby, Sasha, and Adele.

I’ve always been saving photos of home inspo every time I came across truly gorgeous ones. These are the pictures that move me or pictures that I can visualize our family living there while looking at them.

Nordic /adj/
Relates to Scandinavia as in Nordic countries; literally means “the North”

Nordic /n/
A native of Scandinavia

I’ve seen lots of Nordic home decors on Shopee and Lazada. I got intrigued with what Nordic is. All I know is that a Nordic home looks so visually appealing.

So…

What is Nordic home design exactly?

The Nordic home design blends functionality, minimalism, and craftsmanship. Combined, they allude to simplistic living.

A renewed interest in the aesthetic happened post-World War II, particularly in the 1950s. Although, it has already been widely used in Northern Europe by then. The design actually emerged in the early 20th century among the Nordic countries, including Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, and Norway.

Evidently, the phrase Nordic home design appeared because of its origin.

Nordic design versus Scandinavian design

Nordic and Scandinavian are words commonly interchanged, but should they be?

According to Gessato, Scandinavian design is one of the most popular design movements today, if not the most popular. This design originates from the kingdoms of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden that make up Scandinavia, a subregion in Northern Europe. This is also known as the Scandinavian Peninsula.

That means if the particular design is from any of these three countries, the appropriate term is Scandinavian design.

It gets more confusing due to the overlap, though these countries belong to Nordic countries as well.

Personally, Nordic design is more appropriate. It’s more all-encompassing than Scandinavian design.

To answer the question, yes, they can be used interchangeably but only when referring to Danish, Norwegian, or Swedish design elements. Other than that, we should use the term Nordic design.

What are the main characteristics of the Nordic home style?

Nordic home design is currently enjoying its renewed popularity. There are several Scandinavian interior design characteristics such as below:

  • Clean lines
  • Lack of clutter
  • Chic minimalism
  • Light and neutral colors
  • Muted and dark hues
  • Bright color accents
  • Airy feel yet light-filled
  • Negative space
  • Wooden furniture
  • Wooden accents
  • Decorative lighting
  • Plush sofa
  • Tactile fabric
  • Natural textile
  • Brass or copper accents
  • Artworks as a focal point
  • Lush greenery
  • Traditional patterns
  • Large windows

These are the defining factors of Nordic design (and a pretty exhaustive list, if I may say so).

No wonder people favor this decorating style for their interior design that is so understated yet follows function.

You may mistake Nordic with boho. But when you see stylish pendant lights or hanging plants in macramé planters, you just know. It’s like everything has a place, and by everything, I mean very few but standout pieces.

Huge windows that allow natural light are fundamental to the design as well.

When it comes to colors, the muted and dark hues pay homage to the picturesque Nordic landscapes. That’s why the design invites in as much natural sunlight and greens.

What are the main materials of Nordic design?

Nordic designs use very few but distinct natural materials such as:

  • Pale woods (beech, pine, and ash)
  • Soft fabrics (linen and wool)
  • Leather
  • Glass

While the Nordic style has a unique minimalist appearance, you’d know that it’s Nordic once you see it.

Together, the elements create hygge, which is also fundamental to Nordic interior design.

hygge /n/

quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality

What are the key Nordic design colors?

Nordic interiors have an equally unmistakable color palette. Here they are:

  • White
  • Off-white
  • Gray
  • Beige
  • Cream
  • Muted blue
  • Muted green
  • Muted brown

Pale colors abound due to the wooden furniture and accents. The wood materials primarily used in the furniture pieces are abundant in the Nordic countries. They are lighter in color and have subtle grain and minimal to no dark markings.

Anything that complements wood material is fine, particularly nature-inspired colors such as sage green that is reminiscent of the Aurora Borealis or the Northern Lights.

Think of the space as monochromatic. Nonetheless, darker accents can be used for creating bold contrasts of colors. So this interior design is not entirely void of colors. Blush colors (millennial pink, anyone?) and grayish-blue or bluish-gray are also used.

How to recreate the Nordic design at home?

Some may find it challenging to incorporate Nordic design into their own home. Photos are a great way to draw inspiration from, but of course, you still need to start somewhere. I compiled that ‘somewhere’ through a Facebook page that I recently created called Nordic Home Inspo PH.

Personally, I think Nordic interior design is so versatile that it perfectly complements modern living. But, it also favors self-expression.

One can make a room stand out with Nordic furniture and lighting alone. A simple wall can be dressed up with vividly colored accents in traditional Scandinavian patterns, for instance.

Perhaps, the key here is the creation of the ‘focal point.’ You create one, whether it’s a series of morandi wall art or a terrarium on the wooden center table.

Anything that complements wooden surfaces is welcome, including leather and linen.

What is morandi?

If you’ve been searching a lot about Nordic design lately, you’ve encountered the term ‘morandi’ for sure.

It’s not a question of what, though but, who—who is Morandi?

The known figures of the Scandinavian design movement are Olav Haug, Alvar Aalto, Kaare Klint, Timo Tapani Sarpaneva, Arne Jacobsen, and Bruno Mathsson. No mention of Morandi whatsoever.

I found out it’s because Giorgio Morandi is an Italian painter. He is known for the simplicity of execution and compositional balance in his still-life paintings. His style thrives in the economical use of color that is apparent in minimalism.

This is known as the morandi colors in a muted and pale palette. It’s like the colors have a gray tone upper layer. There’s no intention to show off, creating a soothing elegance in the process. Morandi colors are considered some of the most comfortable colors.

I guess that is his connection to Nordic design.

So there.

If there’s one thing that I really like is the sense of calm that Nordic design invokes. I live a cluttered life that’s why this home style appeals to me.

Is influencer marketing dead?

This is one quintessential question that confronts influencers. There are many reasons why people think of influencer marketing this way. And Fyre Festival, which is considered the most prominent social media influencer marketing gaffe today, contributed to circumspection.

influencer /n/

A person who can influence potential buyers of a good or service through social media promotion or recommendation

While I don’t consider myself an influencer but rather a blogger, I know that influencer marketing is a workable marketing strategy that allows the brand to connect with its target market. So, no, influencer marketing is not really dead.

For me, the right question would be: Is influencer marketing reaching (or has already reached) its saturation point?

Influencer marketing statistics in 2021

If we look at the current social media influencer marketing data, we can easily determine that influencer marketing is yet to reach its maturity nor meet its death. The market is, in fact growing steadily. Let’s look at the numbers.

  • The influencer marketing industry is worth $13.8 billion in 2021 (up from $4.1 billion in 2020)
  • Google Trends searches with the keyword “influencer marketing” grows by 5,000% every month
  • In the US, about 68% of marketers working in companies with 100 or more employees are more likely to use influencer marketing
  • In 2020, there were 1,360 influencer marketing agencies with an average of 20 agencies entering the market every month

There is an ongoing demand for influencers, and these agencies are the middlemen that connect them with brands. Agencies like Intellifluence vets from their own pool of influencers and ensures that they generate the right levels of engagement.

Furthermore, social media influencer marketing is increasing as well. Instagram is the most popular platform with about one billion monthly active users. About 130 million of these users click on a shoppable post to learn more about the featured products.

shoppable post /n/

An unpaid social post that features purchasable tagged products

In 2020, about 90% of influencer campaigns included Instagram in their marketing mix. Additionally, almost 68% of marketers said Instagram is critical in their campaigns, whereas 43% think the same way about Facebook.

Expect to see more social influencers doing what they do best.

Social media influencer marketing trends in 2022

It’s safe to say that social media influencer marketing will be an essential strategy for brands and companies. These are the trends worth looking into.

1) Micro-influencers will be more important than mega influencers

Micro-influencers have less than 25,000 to 100,000 laser-targeted followers on their social media platforms. Other categories are regular and rising influencers with 15,000 to 50,000 and 50,000 to 100,000 followers, respectively.

These numbers allow them to focus on interactions and engagements, which explains why their engagement levels are the highest at 7%. Compared with mega influencers, they seem to bank on their names as having more influence than their interactions.

2) Influencers will be more specialized

Brands will favor influencers working on a particular niche. Such specialization extends to content creation. Content may be branded but still targets a niche that brings more value to the brands.

Let’s take the case of Diana Rose Rosqueta, an influencer from the Philippines, as an example. First, she started blogging about her experiences as a marathoner. Then, she expanded to a specific niche like general fitness.

As such, brands want to connect with their target audience as organically as possible despite using influencers.

3) Brands will be after ongoing relationships

That is, instead of one-off projects. In influencer marketing, the mindset should be long-term. After all, making a sale, which is the single most contribution to the influencer marketing campaign, takes time.

Also, influencer marketing becomes more of a brand ambassadorship. Thus, the goal is to make the influencer synonymous with the brand identity. This also takes time to accomplish.

A pivot

One more thing, asking whether something’s dead is common in digital marketing. Marketing tactics, particularly those that game the system or proved to be effective initially and then lost their effectiveness in the interim, are usually considered dead.

I should know. Working in a digital marketing agency in the Philippines, I’ve seen search engine optimization (SEO) declared dead far too many times before.

But guess what? SEO is still the most relevant digital marketing strategy in 2021, and it won’t die anytime soon—definitely not in 2022.

Social media influencer marketing is no different. For as long as there is a brand tapping the services of an influencer (or blogger), influencer marketing will continue to thrive. It’s here, still here, and here to stay.

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