My grandfather came to the United States from China in the year 1906 at the age of 14. He came because the emperor of China taxed his people so much that they remained in perpetual poverty no matter how hard they labored. He borrowed $300 from his uncle to pay for his passage and papers to get into the United States. He went to work on a farm as a cook, earning $15 a month. He only went to school once, and that was to bring lunch to his boss’s son because the son had forgotten to take it with him one morning. But he knew one day that he would marry and that they would have a son, and that son would go to school. He wanted to be out of debt and own his own piece of farmland before he would marry. It took him 26 years to accomplish this goal. At the age of 40, he married my grandmother who was 20 years his junior. They had 3 children. My father was their only son.
My father was born in San Francisco’s Chinatown in 1936. He and his sisters grew up in a small flat in one of Chinatown’s many apartment buildings. By that time, my grandparents had saved enough money to open a small hofbrau in San Francisco’s financial district. My father worked there after school and on weekends. When he was not working, my father spent his free time at youth program run by Cameron House and attended the affiliated Presbyterian Church in Chinatown. My parents met at Cameron House and a few years later they were married at the Presbyterian Church and held their wedding reception at Cameron House. As a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley in the field of Chemistry, my father was first member of our family to graduate with a college degree. Soon after their marriage my parents moved to Richmond, California where my mother stayed at home with my sister and I, and my father commuted to Berkeley where he worked as a Chemist for the State Health Department. Even though we lived in the East Bay, our family remained active in Chinatown community through Cameron House and the Presbyterian Church.
I was born on March 18, 1961. I turned out to be the only son of an only son. As tradition had it, on my first birthday I got to choose my own destiny. My relatives placed a plate with three items on it in front of me. Those items were a piece of chicken, a red envelope with money inside and a book. I had to choose one of those items. If I chose the chicken, I would become a slob. If I chose the red envelope, I would grow up to be wealthy. If I chose the book, I would be a scholar. I chose the book and from that day forward I was pegged to be a scholar. I went to school every weekday, spent my Saturdays with my family and relatives in San Francisco and attended church every Sunday. The church had a motto: “Work, Worship, Study, Play. Keep your life in balance”. I was also taught to live my life by the golden rule.
I followed my father’s footsteps and attended UC Berkeley where I graduated with a degree in Environment Science. As the eldest male grandchild, my grandfather gave me shares of stock that he had saved up for me to go to college. I did not choose to use that money, rather I worked as a dishwasher, a stagehand, a bicycle lot attendant, and an Asian American studies tutor. Throughout college I also got to spend my Saturdays and summers working with the youth program at Cameron House. The work taught me how to appreciate all the gifts I had been blessed with. After graduation from UC Berkeley, I went to work at the Bank of California. I went to work at 5:00 am so that I could finish work by 3:00 pm and then take the bus to the University of San Francisco campus where I took MBA classes until 8:00 pm. Two years later, I graduated with MBA in Finance and through the recruitment center at USF, I met my current employer Lincoln Financial Advisors.
For the last 37 years I have worked with Lincoln; first building a Financial Planning practice and then running our regional office where I recruited and trained financial planners to follow our company creed, to “Serve first, last and always”. I have stayed with Lincoln for my entire career because the majority of our clients are employees and managers of not-for-profit organizations. I chose not to work with a firm that focuses on making rich people richer, instead opting to work with people like the ones at Cameron House and the Presbyterian Church that made such an impact on my life and the lives of my family. After 37 years I have never regretted that decision. CRN-4873408-072622