Correction to This Article
An earlier version of this article incorrectly said that Taryn L. Cyrus owns three rental properties. She owns one.

Saving Early and as Much as Possible

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Taryn L. Cyrus has been saving for retirement since she stepped into the workplace as a fixed-income security analyst with a degree in finance from Howard University.

Her university education had not touched on personal finance, but her first boss made sure that new employees understood the importance of putting money into the company's 401(k). "He explained it real simply," she said, telling new workers to at least save enough to qualify for the company's matching funds. According to Cyrus, he told new employees that "you're young now and think you need all your money, but you don't."

"He was like a drill sergeant. 'Don't even think about what I'm telling you. Just do it.' "

He had a receptive audience in Cyrus, who is 32 and has been saving since then in workplace savings plans and individual retirement accounts.

On top of her retirement savings, she has invested in real estate, buying a home at age 25 and acquiring three rental properties. She likes to eat out and travel, but she plans ahead and saves for special trips or takes them when she knows she will have enough extra income to afford them. She pays her bills on time to avoid late fees and interest. And, after working for a variety of consulting and other firms, she is building her own business, Priority Money Management. She helps individual clients manage their day-to-day finances.

But even with all she has saved and all she has done, she worries: "That might not be enough."

Knowing how much is enough can be tough, especially when retirement is more than 30 years away. But starting early and saving as much as possible is a surer way to get there than putting it off.

Cyrus is more financially tuned in than many young workers, but I often hear on my online chats from young workers who are starting to save for retirement in their 20s. At least they know, in a way many people of their parents' generation did not realize, that they will probably be responsible for a large share of their own retirement security.

Cyrus, who grew up in Washington, the daughter of immigrants from Trinidad, said she got her fascination with saving from her dad. "When he came home, he put all of his change in a leather case and basically said to us, whoever comes in and counts the change and puts it in rolls could put it in their own bank accounts and could keep it." Cyrus took him up on it, while her brothers and sisters did not. She thinks she began around age 5.

She remembers "taking the change and spreading it out on Mom and Dad's bed. After I learned the two-times and five-times tables, it became easy." She opened a passbook savings account at Chevy Chase Bank. "The lady would give me the new balance on my checkbook, and I just loved to see it grow."

-- Martha M. Hamilton

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