Sathya Chey ’08 has come a long way in her personal journey since her birth in a refugee camp to parents fleeing the Cambodian genocide of the late 1970s. After earning her MBA at USC, the Cal State Fullerton finance grad is a financial advisor with The Elliot Carlsen Wealth Management Group of Wells Fargo Advisors. She is also an incoming member of the Executive Council at CSUF’s Mihaylo College of Business and Economics.
Today, Sathya Chey ’08 is a financial advisor with an office in the Palos Verdes area, one of the most exclusive oceanfront suburbs in Los Angeles County. Her current life is worlds apart from her birth in a refugee camp as her parents, four siblings, aunt and uncle were fleeing the Cambodian genocide in the late 1970s.
Chey moved with her family to California, where they found safety and a better life, yet still experienced economic hardship. “We would go to Vons dumpsters and take the dented cans and expired produce to make dinners with. We really learned to live on very little,” she recalls.
The resourcefulness of her parents would ultimately set the stage for a better life for Chey – and they were role models for her own success. Her mother saved up enough to buy a sewing machine, enabling her to sew clothing for manufacturers from home. Loans from friends and savings led them to found a Cambodian supermarket in the heart of what is now Cambodia Town in Long Beach.
“My parents, through time, saved up enough to become entrepreneurs and opened consecutive businesses, and then retired in their mid-50s, which is the absolute American dream,” she says. “I saw what hard work, conservative spending, proper planning and wise investments can do – taking you from having nothing to retiring well.”
From Cal State Fullerton to Wells Fargo, a Single Immigrant Mom Forges a Path to a Better Life
In 2003, Chey enrolled at Cal State Fullerton’s business college, but withdrew after her first year due to personal hardships and then attended Cypress College before coming back to the Titan family, where she balanced a pregnancy, part-time employment and a full-time class schedule. Three months after the birth of her daughter, Chey again returned to Cal State Fullerton to finish her finance degree in 2008.
“While I was in school, I loved my education and my teachers taught the curriculum well, but I had few friends and wasn’t in a sorority,” she says. “I became a mother in my sophomore year. I didn’t have the ability to have a ‘normal’ college life.”
With the assistance of the Cal State Fullerton Career Center, Chey landed her first career job, starting as an assistant to an assistant at a Long Beach investment management firm. “I slowly got to the place where I was incorporated into the strategic decisions for the company,” she says. “I took from this that even if something doesn’t start off exactly the way you want it to, if you show leadership and tenacity, you can move up in an organization.”
After earning her MBA from the USC Marshall School of Business, Chey was approached to join as a partner and financial advisor on a successful three advisor wealth management group at Wells Fargo Advisors in August 2018. In her position, she helps clients manage their money and meet personal financial objectives for the present and future.
“I strive to help my clients with a wide array of issues that may affect their finances, from helping them sell a business to creating socially responsible investment strategies,” she says.
Chey recognizes that many aspects of a person’s life can have an impact on their financial security, which is why she desires to be a part of every financial decision her clients make – what she calls being their “personal CFO.”
“I want my clients to feel comfortable asking me questions and talking them through the decisions they’re making, so I can help them analyze the different options and what the potential outcomes would be,” she says.
While Chey sees a major aspect of her role as imparting the knowledge of good planning, she also strives to help clients who may have made wise strategic decisions but still face the challenges of increasing longevity, inflation and the changing retirement landscape.
“We continue to live longer and longer. People have planned to retire at a reasonable age so hopefully they are young and healthy enough to still enjoy life, but their money has had to live much longer,” she says. “And that can be very stressful, especially because there are not many pensions out there. So people have had to know how to invest and spend from their savings to account for the longer lifespan and rising cost of goods and services.”
Enabling clients to live a stress-free life is the ideal outcome for Chey. “I want to take the stress out of people’s lives, and having them entrust me with the financial aspects of their lives can help them get back to focusing on their passions, family and enjoying this beautiful life.”
Bringing a New Perspective to the Executive Council While Building the Cal State Fullerton Network
After serving as president of Cal State Fullerton’s alumni club for business graduates, the Business Titans, Chey sought to make an impact through the Mihaylo College Executive Council – a cohort of business professionals who provide thought leadership, financial support, mentoring and strategic guidance for Mihaylo College.
“I want to bring the point of view of a single mom, professional woman and an immigrant whose experiences might be relatable to things our students are going through,” she says. “Seeing that the vast majority of Fullerton graduates stay within the county and surrounding areas, I also want the college to make a strength out of networking and help people look at the school as a community that they want to join.”
From her personal experience, Chey recognizes the importance of mentoring for the next generation, which she enthusiastically looks forward to providing through the Executive Council’s Mentor/Mentee Program. Chey says her story can help people who may be able to relate to the obstacles she overcame.
With changing cultural attitudes that view diversity as a strength, Chey feels a renewed sense of empowerment to share her journey. “I feel so much more accepted and proud of my background, uniqueness and difference,” she says. “People look at my story as a sign of strength and not in a demeaning way or something to be ashamed of.”
Still, Chey has a strong belief in the importance of the individual’s responsibility to forge a path to success. “A lot of what holds us back from reaching our highest potential is our own fears and doubts about ourselves, not necessarily imposed by society or where you were born or the family you came from,” she says.
Chey encourages today’s university students and young professionals to proactively find a job opportunity – even if it does not meet all of their ideal objectives – to get started on the path to a rewarding career. She also highly recommends finding mentors.
“You can gain a lot from one-on-one conversations about potential career options, opening your eyes to things you never would have considered.”
For More on the Executive Council
The Executive Council connects Mihaylo College with the industry expertise of alumni and other professionals in the Southern California community. The council increases the college’s visibility across related industries, provides funding for academic excellence and facilitates mentoring opportunities for students. For more information or to join the program as a business professional, contact Trish Reed, associate director of corporate and foundation relations, at firstname.lastname@example.org.