Jonathan Yabut The Apprentice Asia Season 1
Many know him as winner of the first season of The Apprentice Asia.

It’s been two years but Jonathan Yabut is still at the top of his game. Through diskarte, grit, marketing, and leadership, Jonathan was able to overcome numerous challenges both onscreen and offscreen to get to where he is today.

It was not an easy road for Jonathan to reach this success. He has strived to be a scholar since elementary up to college so that he can study. He always spends his baon to the last peso because he did not come from a well-off family. He also had simple joys in his life such as shopping at Divisoria, eating at fast food joints for celebrations, and scrimping his way to watch a movie at the theaters during the early years of his life. His experiences have driven him to strive for success and learn about personal finance, so  he can leverage on multiple income streams and make his money work for him.

What most people do not know is that Jonathan is much more than the winner of The Apprentice Asia Season 1. Right now, he is the chief of staff at Air Asia, a motivational speaker for top international companies, an advocate of entrepreneurship, a contributor to various publications to share his insights on career advancement and goal setting, and a book author of “From Grit to Great” which chronicles his learning from The Apprentice Asia Season 1 which has just been recently distributed here in the Philippines.

In this exclusive interview with, Jonathan talks about his insights on personal finance and how he has used his experiences  to reach where he is today, and what his  plans  are moving forward.

MM: Thank you for granting us this interview, Jonathan. It’s our privilege to hear your learnings about personal finance.

You have taken up your college degree at one of the most prestigious universities in the Philippines through a scholarship. How did you handle your finances as a college scholar?

JY: I did a lot of sidelines such as being a researcher and debate coach since I was part of the UP Debate Society. I made sure they were all in the realms of my strengths and university-related activities to manage my time and energy. I loved doing the jobs so they didn’t feel like I was “working for the money”.

MM: Right after graduation, we know that you have worked for some of the biggest companies in the country. Did you avoid lifestyle creep when you transitioned from being a college student to a young working professional? 

JY: I think lifestyle creep is inevitable in the marketing industry which I belong to because we travel a lot and must make sure that we meet new people. We get exposed to more lifestyle choices and consider them as important factors to enjoy life to compensate for our hard work. I can think of buying a 13-hr flight ticket, or experiencing a 3-star Michelin restaurant as some examples of this. My life expectations were definitely raised, but I never got hooked to designer brands for clothes. As a marketer, I always knew the real cost of “luxuries” and their prices are mostly inflated thanks to branding.

MM: Basing your answers from the two previous questions, it seemed like you were very financially literate at a young age which makes us wonder… What were the hardest financial challenges that you had to overcome during execution of tasks at The Apprentice Asia?

JY: Trading stocks. No one in the pool knew how to do it from the grassroots. We had an idea, but using a trading board and manually trading stocks was such a headache! My team still won because we stuck to a general rule: understand what the risks are before jumping into execution, and base your decisions from there.

MM: Did you study about trading stocks after that instance? And did you find other ways on how you can diversify your income streams? 

JY: Yes, actually. It was a great learning experience for me which made me interested to learn more about stock investing. Right now, I have infused a significant amount of savings into the stock market. I have also invested in 2 condominium properties and as I am in “build mode”, a lot of my financial assets are now invested into the businesses I’ve recently set up.

MM: Of course, we know that you are one of the go-to experts on career development and marketing. How do you continuously learn and get updated with the latest trends in your career or in terms of diversifying your investments?

JY: I keep my mentors close to me. These are the folks who nourished me in my past companies both in terms of career and personal finance advice.

I keep a lot of smartphone apps that update me automatically about career and leadership topics like Flipboard and Pocket since it has become a habit to read them before I sleep or when I’m trapped in a flight. My favorite references are Harvard Business Review, Inc. magazine, The Economist, and podcasts like Freakonomics and Radio Lab.

My Twitter account is utilized mostly for grabbing useful links tagged to career, leadership, and management.

I also love books by Dan Ariely, too. He is a behavioral economist who puts into layman terms the psychology behind employees’ motivation at work.

MM: Being as successful as you are now, what are your financial goals for the next 5 years?

JY: Be cash-positive in one of the 3 businesses I’ve set up recently. I own a marketing consultancy firm, a mobile app that’s about to get launched soon, and a career services placement agency.

I keep an annual target of savings and investments, so that’s a standard key performance indicator (KPI) in the financial aspect of my life, too. Having a target laid out and written makes it more concrete and makes you more motivated to achieve your goals versus just having a vague generalization in your head of your financial goals.

With these valuable insights from Jonathan, it is evident that grit and passion, alongside being smart with your financial choices, can help you go towards achieving your personal success goals!

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