Financial Inclusion: Betty Lee of Principal Empowers Herself, Others

Aug 30, 2021 9:00 AM ET
Article

After decades helping others meet their own financial goals, you’d never guess that Betty Lee’s early adult finances were, according to her, “a hot mess.”

Frustrated and broke in her 20s even with a $70,000 yearly salary, Lee turned to a college friend who worked in finance for help. By her 30s, not only was she out of debt, but she had given up her secure job to look for a new career. Lee eventually became a Principal® financial professional, dedicated to helping others build their own secure financial futures.

Pivoting to the new

Lee, along with three siblings and her immigrant Chinese parents, grew up in both Sacramento and San Francisco. Progress, hard work, and stability were all central to her family.

Armed with a UC Berkeley degree, Lee discovered a missing link in her adult education, one that was filled by that finance-savvy college friend. “I learned that finances aren’t about being smart,” Lee says. “It’s about somebody showing you the way.”

It took three years of budgeting and planning, but Lee finally worked her way out of debt. Then she decided to quit her job and set her sights on finding a career that would challenge and reward her.

Her parents had long been active in the community, and she inherited that spirit of wanting to help others. “Community service was important to me, especially for underserved markets, to use my voice to help those who don’t have representation or can’t speak up,” Lee said.

Financial advising was the answer.

Moving forward, for everyone

Lee served a variety of positions with several companies before joining Principal. She is now managing director of the Principal Bay Area office in Walnut Creek, where she recruits and coaches a sales-driven team.

Throughout her decades in financial services, Lee has emphasized teaching the “why” of money decisions—particularly to people with limited means and access. She helps people see the end goal of financial freedom comes with budgeting and trimming expenses and debt.

“I'm driven to do more to help underserved people understand how money works. If you give them a sense of financial security, the more they have to give back to their communities,” Lee says.

“I'm driven to do more to help underserved people understand how money works. If you give them a sense of financial security, the more they have to give back to their communities.”—Betty Lee

Standing up for what’s right

Lee mixes remote work with in-office times, shaving three hours of daily commute time off her schedule. It allows space for a rich, full life: work, family (including an 11-year-old daughter she’s raising as a single parent), relationships, and community.

She formed a group for women managers in Principal Financial Network and launched a new chapter of Women in Insurance and Financial Services (WIFS), a national organization dedicated to advancing women in those fields. “When I joined Principal, I liked where the company was headed in the industry and what they wanted to do,” Lee says. “To add diversity in the company and industry, you have to have the commitment to do it.”

Recent racist incidents directed at Asian American and Pacific Islanders have cemented for Lee that staying quiet and working hard—values that guided her immigrant parents—aren’t enough. “I believe in speaking up, but I wasn’t brought up to,” Lee says. “I’m excited to work for a company that supports and encourages me to be myself, to be bold and respectful. Diversity and inclusion are not just words on a piece of paper. There’s action, money, and resources put behind those words.”

Diversity and inclusion are not just words on a piece of paper. There’s action, money, and resources put behind those words. —Betty Lee

More information about how Principal is advancing financial inclusion is available at principal.com/sustainability

The University of California, Berkeley, is not an affiliate of any company of the Principal Financial Group®.

Insurance products issued by Principal National Life Insurance Co. (except in NY) and Principal Life Insurance Co. Securities and advisory products offered through Principal Securities, Inc., 1-888-774-6267, Member SIPC. Principal National, Principal Life and Principal Securities are members of the Principal Financial Group®, Des Moines, IA 50392. Betty Lee, Principal National and Principal Life Financial Representative, Principal Securities Registered Representative, Financial Advisor.

Principal, Principal and symbol design and Principal Financial Group are trademarks and service marks of Principal Financial Services, Inc., a member of the Principal Financial Group.​

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