Meet Yoon Lee, PhD – a professor at Utah State University in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies. Since 2000, she has taught various courses on consumer and family economic issues, including bankruptcy, protection laws and surviving debt. Dr. Lee is also an active member in the AFCPE community, having  published research in the Journal of Financial Counseling and Planning (JFCP) and presenting a poster at our annual Symposium. Yoon’s journey as a professor and researcher is an inspiration, plus she’s full of tips and lessons to help us all be wiser consumers.

AFCPE: What inspired you to pursue this career path?

Yoon: When I was a Master’s student at the University of Utah, I ran into the topic of household economic well-being.  My Master’s degree was not enough for me, and I wanted a deeper knowledge of consumer and family economic issues.  My interest is helping individuals and families in their money matters, because money management knowledge and skills will have an impact on their lives across the lifespan.  I have done research on household financial behaviors and debt issues for young people, financial management issues for the middle aged, and financial well-being for those later in life.

AFCPE: You recently published an article in the JFCP entitled, “Financial Status and Body Mass Index (BMI) of Middle-Aged and Older Men and Women.” Has the connection between health and finances always been of particular interest to you?

Yoon: I like researching the connection between health and wealth, but this is only a part of my research agenda. Overall, I am interested in how we can enhance economic well-being of individuals across the lifespan.  I do some research on financial issues such as emergency savings of young millennials, retirement preparedness of middle-aged households, and wealth management during retirement.

AFCPE: From this particular research, what take-a-way did you find most surprising?

Yoon: Typical older men in the U.S. are overweight, but there is a higher percentage of obese women than men in the U.S.  This is somewhat surprising to me because women generally live longer than men; however, if more older women have high levels of obesity, it will lead to increased heath care costs for individuals and society as a whole.

AFCPE: That is surprising! So, what’s next up for you?  What’s got you excited?

Yoon: I am interested in the mortgage debt issue among those nearing retirement.  I am wondering if paying off the mortgage debt before retirement is important or not.  Some people choose not to pay off the mortgage debt before retirement and put their money in an investment that pays a higher interest rate.  I want to continue doing this line of research so that I can develop and provide education materials with people about the role of mortgage debt in pursuing the ultimate goal of their financial well-being.

AFCPE: Beside research, what else do you enjoy doing?

Yoon: I like cooking, walking, and watching movies. I am happy when I invite people in my house and they enjoy my food.  I also like to dance, but I did not have the opportunity to do it a lot living in a college town. However, I recently found Zumba is a good one that helps me exercise and enjoy music and dance at the same time.  I also like to watch action movies, especially the Marvel series.

Yoon Answers the Friday 5

  1. My Why: I always think it is important to invest in human capital.  Family finance is related to financial investment and return, but investing in human capital is the most valuable thing a human can do.  College has become very expensive today, but this human capital investment idea can expand to more than just a college degree.  It can relate to knowledge, health, and relationships with your spouse and others.
  2. My Favorite Quote: “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” –Benjamin Franklin
  3. My Hero: When I was a MS student in the Department of Family and Consumer Studies at the University of Utah, Dr. Cathleen Zick inspired me and I decided to go a direction toward consumer economics field. She helped me to develop analytical thinking skills and apply economic principles to a wide range of consumer and family economic questions.
  4. My Favorite Personal Finance Resource: The Economic Organization of the Household by W. Keith Bryant is my favorite resource. This book is not a personal finance book, but it has provided me with a theoretical foundation to help me analyze the economic behavior of households.
  5. My best advice:
  • For someone starting the journey to financial wellness: Particularly young people, I would say three things.  The first step in this journey is having an emergency savings account: This emergency fund provides a buffer in your urgent financial needs.  The second thing is to build credit: Your credit history will help you in many aspects of your financial life, including lower insurance premiums, better interest rates for purchasing a car or home, as well as better employment and renting opportunities.  The third thing I want to emphasize is to plan for your future: Saving becomes more difficult as time goes on, and because of compound interest, it is critical to start investing now.
  • For a new professional entering this field: I would say: 1) Develop a professional network in a university society; 2) Join a multi-stat project; 3) Update knowledge and work on investing in human capital in the form of knowledge, health, and relationships with your spouse and others.

Read more of Yoon’s work in:

October 05, 2018

Yoon Lee, AFCPE® Member, JFCP contributor

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