Your career has been defined by stepping up when everyone else is running away. Your priority is preserving the safety and security of your community. For you, the proverbial “line of fire” is a very real thing, and you’ve embraced it on a daily basis.
If you’re a police officer and it sounds like we’re describing your life, that’s because we are! You’ve made it your personal mission to “protect and serve”, and while you may not be in it for the glory, you certainly deserve your fair share of kudos. More importantly though, you deserve a comfortable life for yourself and your family when you set your sights on life outside of the force.
If the concept of retirement has been weighing heavily on your mind, it’s not without reason—it’s suggested that 20 years on the job make for a suitable early retirement in your line of work, making it attainable far earlier than it would be in other careers. Not to mention, the long hours, intense stress, and physical toll that police work often requires can leave you looking for a more peaceful chapter in your life.
Still, you might be wondering: does the fact that you can mean that you should? What if the money just doesn’t add up to what you need to protect your financial future? Don’t lose sleep over it. We’ve got some ideas that could help you make your most informed decision.
Blue Stats for Your Life
On average, police officers make a little over the standard in national household incomes, clocking in at just shy of $63,000 per year. That said, law enforcement workers generally get a bonus perk that is hard to come by in today’s job market: a pension. This payout typically makes up at least half of their income upon retirement, but that amount could swing depending upon the area they’ve served in.
Pensions vary from other retirement plans commonly found in the workforce, such as the 401(k) and the IRA. The main differences are twofold—to begin with, a 401(k) relies solely on investments made partially (and in some cases entirely) by the employee. They also don’t promise any set amount of payout upon retirement, as your investment strategy is largely influenced by market patterns. Conversely, a pension affords you a set payment, and the money for it comes exclusively from the employer.
Still, it’s not uncommon for police officers to enter retirement completely unprepared for what the future holds. With the promise of a pension intact, it’s likely that you may think there’s nothing else to plan for, but that’s not entirely true. What if you became ill and half of your income wasn’t enough to sustain your family’s lifestyle? What if there are things you want to do with your retirement that a pension check simply won’t cover? It’s wise to make the necessary considerations to be sure you’re fully prepped.
A Pre-Retirement Checklist:
- Decide your own term of service – While you have the opportunity to retire at the 20-year mark, don’t think that that’s your only option. Say you love your job and you don’t feel ready to leave it just yet—a longer timeframe in the force could include a few raises, which may raise your pension payments in turn. This may especially be true for those looking to move up the ranks and take promotions within their department, so don’t feel pressured to hang it up before you know it’s time.
- Save, save, save – As obvious as it seems, saving up a nest egg could mean the difference between financial confidence and a lot of avoidable hand-wringing. Imagine that you suddenly had to live on half of the money you were used to earning—how comfortable a life would that be? Start putting away a little bit now into an interest-bearing savings account and know that you have those funds set aside for any surprise expenses.
- Consider investing – While relying on the wax and wane of the stock market isn’t a sure thing, there are strategies in place to help you multiply your money via wise investments. Don’t have a lump sum to start out with? Don’t worry about it! There are mutual funds, low cost brokerage accounts, and even phone apps that can turn your spare change into real assets.
- Assess your retirement budget – Proper planning is the cornerstone of financial success, and if you’ve got big plans for retirement, putting it down in dollars and cents could help you better understand your future needs. Perhaps you’d like to travel, buy a second home, or purchase that hot tub you’ve had your eye on for years. Combine a common-sense plan with your savings to ensure you hit each retirement milestone.
- Contemplate a career change – Should you feel like you’re nearing the end of your season in law enforcement, that doesn’t mean that you should rule out other areas of the workforce that could be an amazing fit. You might try your hand at being a security guard or choose a completely different line of work that teaches you a whole new skill set. The benefit to this? It keeps your mind sharp and active, and keeps the cash flowing in.
- Trust the pros – Navigating murky financial waters can be tough for even the best and bravest among us, particularly when you’re talking about a future that you can’t even see yet. One great way to help ensure you haven’t left out any important details is to have them fact-checked with a financial professional. They’re there to clear up any uncertainty you have, and to help you make the most of your money present and future. Give them a call, and don’t sail into the future without a fiscal lighthouse.