As I reflect upon my own financial journey, I see many mistakes I made along the way. I am a first generation immigrant and I grew up in South Tacoma. Like many immigrant families, my parents worked long hours to provide the basics. They spoke very little English and had difficulty navigating their world around them. Therefore, my siblings and I learned how to do things on our own. We did not have much in many ways, but I grew up in a very supportive environment and we were taught the value of a college education.
I went to University of Washington in Seattle and graduated with a business degree in finance.
When I look back at my early career days, I did not give any thought to money management. Many, if not all, of my money decisions were unguided. I did not have a budget or a spending plan to save for important events in my life. From time to time, I was late paying bills incurring late fees and interest, carrying balances on my credit cards, and had difficulty when I was faced with an unexpected bill. I lived paycheck to paycheck. In addition, I did not plan for my future, retirement. I just assumed that as I made more money, those things will take care of itself. Well, it does not.
What I learned along the way is that we need to be intentional about how we manage our money and save for things that are important to us. I learned about the importance of paying bills on time to keep my credit score healthy, aggressively paying down debt, not carrying a credit card balance, and having a college savings fund and retirement planning.
My interest in financial literacy began when my children were young. I read as much as I can on the internet about financial literacy so that I can learn and teach my children to manage money wisely. This led me to volunteer in a non-profit organization teaching financial literacy to young adults in high schools and community colleges. In addition, I had an opportunity to teach budgeting and managing credit courses to formerly incarcerated persons re-entering the workforce, which was an incredible learning experience for me. I learned about the challenges and barriers they have to overcome just to establish credit and open a bank account.
I am an Assistant Teaching Professor of Finance at the Milgard School of Business, University of Washington Tacoma since 2020. I am also the Director of the Financial Literacy Initiative. I earned my MAcc from the University of Washington Tacoma in 2018. Here at the center we aim to equip our students with the financial knowledge and skills to make better money decisions, early in their career, so that they can achieve financial security and freedom to pursue things that are important to them and to give back to the society with their time, talent, and treasures.
Dr. Fei Leng
Director - Wealth Creation
I joined the University of Washington at Tacoma in 2006 as finance faculty. Over my career, I have taught a number of undergraduate- and graduate-level finance courses, including Business Finance, Intermediate Business Finance, Financial Markets and Institutions, Finance and Investment, Portfolio Management, Derivatives, and Entrepreneurial Finance. Students asked me various interesting questions, such as, should I take the CFA or CFP exam, does a master’s degree help my finance career, how do I find a job in the investment industry? I realize that some students want to invest not just for themselves but also for clients.
They are really serious about wealth creation and hope to become investment professionals. They need more than the theories and models that standard finance courses teach. They also want to learn about the practical side to start an investment career, such as credentials, familiarity with real-time financial data, coding skills, relevant experience, networking opportunities, career advising, etc. This is exactly what the Center for Financial Wellness is for. One purpose of the center is to take the students from financial literacy to the next level, which we call the wealth creation level. I am excited to lead this initiative.
I am an Associate Professor of Finance at the Milgard School of Business, University of Washington Tacoma. I am also the Principal of the Wealth Creation Initiative. I earned my Ph.D. in Finance from the University of Tennessee in 2006. I was an assistant professor of Finance at UW Tacoma from 2006 to 2013, and have been an associate professor of Finance since 2013. Besides teaching, I also do academic research in finance. My research has focused on the areas of corporate finance and investments. I have published articles in the Financial Management, Financial Analysts Journal, Journal of Business Finance and Accounting, Financial Review,among others. I have been a charterholder of Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) since 2005 and a certified Financial Risk Manager (FRM) since 2007.
I bring a deep dedication to student welfare, event skills, and passion for financial wellness. My mother and father were the children of depression era parents and they learned how to be frugal and make due. My dad was a terrific saver and invested in retirement plans and saved throughout his lifetime. They talked about money often-but always in regards to saving, and living a frugal lifestyle. They didn’t see money as something to be enjoyed. I don’t remember them buying anything new or not on sale. My dad drove various used station wagons his whole life, we found entertainment at the public library, taking long walks, and going out on Sunday drives.
Despite my stellar financial role models, as a college student and new graduate I found myself making many classic financial mistakes that could have been avoided with a stronger foundation in financial literacy with a focus on managing student loans, budgeting, contracts, understanding credit and utilizing better banking tools.
After marrying my financial adviser husband, buying a home and having our child I’ve come a long way in implementing financial strategies to build a strong financial future.
My professional background includes working for several unique colleges and universities across the nation in various academic advising, recruiting and in student program development roles. I joined Milgard in 2012 and worked as a founding staff member of the Milgard Success Center where I provided career coaching and professional services to students. Previously, I played a seminal role in recruiting for and advising student in the Milgard Master of Accounting program.
I hold a Master of Science in Higher Education Administration from Saint Cloud State University and a Bachelor of Arts in History from the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire. In my free time I enjoy exploring the mountains by ski, foot, and mountain bike!