Finance & Economy


Business of well-being: Principal Financial CEO Dan Houston on retirement and his career journey

November 3, 2021

Business of well-being: Principal Financial CEO Dan Houston on retirement and his career journey

Dan Houston

Chairman, President & CEO of Principal Financial Group

Principal Financial CEO Dan Houston is in the business of changing lives by setting people up for financial success.

Principal Financial CEO Dan Houston is in the business of changing lives. For almost four decades, Dan has dedicated himself to setting people up for financial success, and on the latest Walker Webcast, he details his career journey, his advice for retirement planning, and so much more.


Today’s Walker Webcast features Dan Houston, Chairman, President, and CEO of Principal Financial Group. He joined Principal in 1984 right out of Iowa State University, was named Senior Vice President in 2000, Executive VP in 2006, and President/CEO in 2014. He is a member of the Business Roundtable, past Chair of the American Council of Life Insurers, and Chairmen of the Greater Des Moines Water Trails Initiative.

To begin, Dan shares his philosophy and gratefulness to be able to wake up every day and make personal and professional contributions. Born in a small town in Iowa, he spent many childhood summers there with his grandparents after his family relocated to Houston. These summers helped him understand people who were less fortunate and how hard it can be to make a living in farming. Self-sufficiency and putting in a hard day’s work were a few lessons instilled in him to this day.

Dan is a huge proponent of servant leadership. He shares a tradition he observed in his family during the holiday season, in which they purchased and personally delivered turkeys to community members who had lent them a hand in the past. Dan himself does a fair amount of volunteerism and operates in such a way that ensures everyone, regardless of financial positions, is treated equally. 

In his line of work, Dan says you have to always keep revenue increase in mind, but there will always be certain products that don’t quite catch. Principal has a long history of thinking strategically towards the future in regard to market trends and demands. This ensures their market strategy will allow the company to capitalize in the future. Mistakes arise when one spends too much time analyzing the past instead of considering the inevitable changes to come. Dan shares a misstep made in the past as an example of this.

Then, Dan shares what we should all consider to save for retirement and afford the ability to live comfortably in the future. Regardless of who he is speaking with about this topic, Dan breaks it down simply. If you work a 40-year career and set aside 15% of your income via employer match, investments, savings, etc., it will match 85% of your pre-retirement income alongside social security benefits. Principal works to create services to allow the lowest income earners in every industry to save for retirement. Although they’ve had the fortune of a healthy job market, Dan shares that baby boomers are actually the worst example of a demographic’s regular savings practice.

Next, Dan discusses the prospect of bringing Principal employees back to the office. His largest concern is not around keeping employees safe but the community-centric DNA of the company. The company’s current success is thanks to the tenure already held by many employees. Employers who have been onboarded in the last two years will not have the same sense of comradery. Finally, he touches on the complexity of Principal’s global reach but local community-oriented mentality. Principal does business with over 200,000 small businesses and the fortune 50. Every facet of their corporation revolves around helping people achieve financial security.

In closing, Dan reflects on the things we should all be feeling grateful for right now. He urges everyone listening to consider the ways you are bringing joy into other people’s lives daily.


Learn more about Dan Houston
Learn more about Principal Financial Group.  
Check out Walter & Dunlop’s website

Read Transcript

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