Jong Lee: Altruistic Accountant
By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter
OAKLAND — At the outset of his college education, Jong Lee had hopes of entering a distinguished profession like psychology, but when he identified an industry that was in need of good stewards, he made a practical decision. “In college, I started off as an Industrial Engineering major and later thought about becoming a psychologist,” he remembers. “Ultimately, however, I decided to transfer into accounting. I saw there was a large need for accounting professionals, especially CPAs who could help people file their income taxes, so I decided it was a good professional opportunity.” After graduating, Jong went to work for a local accounting firm, during which time he became certified as a CPA. Two years later, he opened his own accounting firm in San Francisco, which he later relocated to its current location in Oakland.
Today, after more than 40 years as a professional accountant, Jong says his favorite part of his job is helping people. “Being an accountant is more than just crunching numbers—it’s really serving the community. Whether I’m helping individuals fill out their tax forms correctly, assisting small businesses in making proper financial statements or defending clients under prosecution by the IRS, it’s very rewarding to know I’m helping people and filling a need in the community.”
Originally from Korea, Jong has been living in the Bay Area for more than 50 years. Today, as a resident of Walnut Creek (where he lives with his wife, Esther), he expresses his appreciation for the diverse character of his longtime locale. “Of course, I like the weather, but most of all I enjoy the cultural diversity of our community.”
Outside of work, Jong stays active with pastimes like reading and walking. “I’m an avid reader of books in all types of genres—basically, I’ll read anything I can put my hands on,” he says. “On weekends, I enjoy taking walks and having breakfast with my wife.” In addition to his recreational pursuits, Jong is an active participant in his local community. “Up until last year, I was in charge of organizing Oakland’s annual Thanksgiving Dinner, which serves thousands of homeless and low-income citizens. I did that for 24 years, and it was a very rewarding experience.”
In his life and career, Jong espouses the virtue of sharing what you have. “I believe that whatever we earn isn’t all meant to be kept to ourselves; rather, it’s meant to be shared with others,” he explains. “Whether it’s with your friends, family or community, I think this kind of sharing is a very important aspect of life. Personally, I’ve received so many things, so it always feels good to give back.”
When asked the first thing he’d do if he were to retire tomorrow, Jong says he’d catch up on his reading. “I’d probably become a hermit for a while and have about 100 books next to me,” he laughs. “After that, I would write. I’ve done some writing for magazines and my own blog, so I’d like to do more of that. Maybe I’d write my autobiography.”
Ask Me Anything!
Q: What’s your favorite season?
A: Spring—the plants are in bloom, everything is coming back to life and it feels like a chance for a fresh start.
Q: Is there a particular book that’s had an impact on you?
A: General Douglas MacArthur’s biography. I’m an admirer of his, particularly his will to advance and survive in a very dire situation.
Q: Music or talk radio?
A: Music, especially country-western and classical.
Q: What’s your favorite local restaurant?
A: Buttercup Grill & Bar in Oakland. It’s my regular spot.
Q: Are you an early bird or a night owl?
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A: An early bird. Sometimes I’m up at 4am. I like to start my day by doing some reading and writing.