Content provided by Robyn Murray, Freelance Writer
When Ryan Byrne was 21 years old, he met his future wife. They were on a camping trip with friends, and Byrne was two years into college, studying management at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. His wife, Angie, was working full time, getting her degree, and raising a child. Dating would mean taking on a family, but there was no turning back; Byrne knew she was the one. Besides, he says, two years was enough bachelor life for him. So he concentrated on school full-time and worked three jobs to pay bills and help support his new family. He held an internship at ConAgra, waited tables at Outback, and delivered for Nebraska Furniture Mart. For Byrne, it was a pretty simple equation. “I did what I had to do,” he said.
That simple phrase is the motto Byrne lives by. He learned the importance of taking responsibility from his father, who learned it from his own. So when it came time to step up for his new family, he was ready. “I’d had plenty of time to goof around,” he said. “When I met my wife, I was ready to settle down.”
Byrne grew up in Millard, a sprawling suburb of Omaha, Neb. The youngest of four children, he was never coddled like a typical baby of the family. His father was conservative, tight with his money, and expected his children to distinguish between wants and needs. “I started working when I was 14, sacking groceries at Baker’s,” Byrne said, “and there hasn’t been a time that I didn’t have a job.”
It was a lesson his father had learned from his own father, who owned a moving company while he was growing up. Money wasn’t always plentiful, but he had worked hard to instill the importance of taking responsibility, while ensuring his children received top educations to set them up for success.
After high school, Byrne enrolled at UNO thinking he’d get into business with a background in technology. But after graduation, a friend got him an interview at Qa3 Financial Corp., and his career in the financial industry began. Byrne started there as a cashier, working on checks, wires, and other incoming funds. A few years later, he took a job in commission research at Securities America. But after working in the back office at two firms, he knew he wanted to be out in the field selling.
When a friend told him about a job opening in sales at CLS Investments, Byrne decided to go for it. That was 10 years ago. Today, Byrne is Vice President of Qualified Plans, working primarily in the defined-contribution space.
It’s a good fit; Byrne enjoys meeting advisors and presenting to clients, and the company encourages people with ambition. Byrne says he gravitated towards sales because that meant an opportunity for higher compensation and a path upwards in the company. But what really motivates him is what the money represents: the ability to support his family.
Today, Byrne’s step-daughter is in her first year of college. She’s studying pre-health at the University of Nebraska—Lincoln, and she’s got her future pretty well figured out. On a recent trip home, she told Byrne she felt sorry for her friends who were spoiled growing up because they are totally unprepared for the real world. “I told her that’s why I make you do what you do,” Byrne said. “I don’t try to make it hard on you, but I don’t try to make it easy on you either.”
Byrne has had two more children with his wife, an eight-year-old daughter and a three-year old son. They both already have savings accounts, and while they’re too young to start earning their own money, he encourages them to split their birthday or special occasion cash into spending and savings.
It’s never too early to start passing down those lessons Byrne has lived by: work hard, take responsibility, and do what needs to be done. “My dad was a hard worker, his dad was a hard worker,” Byrne said. “It’s something ingrained in our family blood.”