William Poy Lee grew up in San Francisco, studied urban planning at the University of California, Berkeley, and then attended the University of California Hastings College of Law in San Francisco. He worked for Bank of America as an attorney and international banker, then went into private practice, later shifting to advertising. William says he “got tired of working 24-7-365.” Today, a HomeSafe reverse mortgage from Finance of America Reverse (FAR), enhanced by the Bay Area real estate boom, has given him “the options to do what I want.”
William also is a published author. His first book, The Eighth Promise: An American Son’s Tribute to His Toisanese Mother, was published in 2007 and received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, the trade journal’s highest rating.
The book is a coming-of-age story that spans from his mother’s war-torn Chinese village to San Francisco’s Chinatown during the civil rights marches, Vietnam War protests and countercultural exuberance of the 1960s. More information is available at TheEighthPromise.com.
“My mom was born and raised in China and grew up in the epicenter of the revolution,” William says. She left after the revolution and came to California but instilled in her children the culture and traditional values of her heritage.
William also is a political activist who organized San Francisco’s first Chinese-American civil rights march. He is third generation Chinese-American on his father’s side.
In keeping with his family heritage, in 2008, William decided he wanted to spend a year in China, living in Shanghai and teaching advanced public speaking and debate and an introduction to the Western Bible and Christianity to Chinese students. While there, he also studied the politics and culture in Tibet and spent 2010 teaching English in the Tibetan city of Lhasa. That year abroad stretched out to more than a decade, with William only returning to the Bay Area in 2019.
“At that point,” he explains, “I needed some start-up capital while I figured out what I wanted to do next. One of the options was to go back to law practice. I contacted the Bank of America, but I didn’t qualify for their loan.”
When William realized how tremendously the value of his Berkeley home had appreciated during his decade-plus in China, he says, “I started looking around at reverse mortgages and looking into several companies. I needed about $500,000—$400,000 to pay off the first mortgage and about $100,000 in a line of credit. FAR was the most prominent game in town, and they made it very easy for me.”
William concluded FAR’s HomeSafe proprietary product offered significantly higher proceeds than a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) and gave him the customization and financial flexibility he sought. The closing was accomplished within five weeks.
Now fully resettled in his Berkeley home, William is still reviewing his options and mulling over possibilities for the next adventure in his varied life path. “I still may go back to law,” he says. “But I’m also a world traveler type. I’d like to go back to Italy in the fall and study Italian.” He is also considering a safari to the Victoria Falls region of southern Africa.
Despite travel plans, William isn’t giving up his activism or his literary career. He just completed a novel, tentatively titled The Trisong Café of Lhasa: Born in the PRC – Tibetan Millennials, and he has been developing a website called The Tibet China Accuracy Project. “What having this money [from the HomeSafe reverse mortgage] does is gives me the freedom to more carefully find and evaluate a good book agent and redo my website. There is a lot of human benefit there.”