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.”
After decades of 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 says.
Moving forward, for everyone
Lee served a variety of positions with several companies before joining Principal. She is now managing director of the 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.
Standing up for what’s right
Lee mixes remote work with in-office time, shaving three hours of daily commute time off her schedule. It allows space for a rich, full life: work, family (including a 13-year-old daughter she’s raising as a single parent), relationships, and community.
She formed a group for women managers in the Principal Advisor Network and launched a new chapter of Women in Insurance and Financial Services (WIFS), the only 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.”