By Principal Financial Group

Every time Betty Lee does something fearless, she gets a knot in her throat. She knows there’s risk. But she also knows life isn’t forever — that it’s better to do something you love, being somewhere you can make a difference.

There’s no doubt Lee felt that knot in her throat in 1997, when she suddenly quit her stable career without a backup plan. Her parents were upset. As Chinese immigrants, they worked hard for everything they earned, to give their four children a better life. Lee’s resignation was incomprehensible. Why would she give up a $70,000 salary — more than $125,000 in today’s dollars — for an uncertain future?

But Lee didn’t see it that way. Just years earlier, she had made it through financial hardship, getting out of mountains of debt and creating a small savings reserve. She knew the importance of financial basics such as budgeting and long-term plans when it came to building a strong future. She had an itch to help others build that same foundation that saved her. So when Lee started looking for jobs that excited and challenged her,financial advising was the answer.

“If you don’t know why you’re doing something with your money, you’re not going to stick with it. Your decisions also won’t give you any peace of mind,” Lee said. “I’m driven to do more to help underserved people.”

Lee, now the managing director of Walnut Creek, California, office for Principal, emphasizes the “why” of money decisions, particularly to people with limited means and access, helping them understand the importance of monthly budgeting, cutting down on
unnecessary expenses and paying off debt.

Lee is also a staunch advocate for others beyond her work, which Principal has supported by allowing her to work remotely, saving Lee three hours of commuting. That frees time for family, relationships and community. The extra time allowed Lee to form a group for women managers in the Principal Financial Network and launch a new chapter of Women in Insurance and Financial

She also dedicates time to fighting racism of all kinds. With violence against Asian American and Pacific Island individuals on the rise, Lee believes it’s important to speak up, which goes against typical Chinese values of working hard and putting your head down. Lee’s parents taught her that if she’s quiet and flies under the radar, she could be successful and people wouldn’t bother her. But Lee believes it’s her job to do more.

“My parents would rather I don’t speak up,” Lee said. “But it’s hard for me. I can’t help myself. I’ve learned to speak up. I’ve learned I need to take an active participation in my life, in the lives of the people I care about, and in the world in general, to make it a better place.”