In fact, I stand on the shoulders of the treasurers who came before me who believed in sustained, conservative strategies for the funds that will support our members in retirement. Early in my role as state treasurer, I declared my commitment to reducing fees and creating a culture of transparency. DST staff has worked diligently to negotiate fees and costs, support strategic investments and maintain a high level of value for our members. This led to being nationally recognized in studies and research by the Pew Charitable Trusts as a state that is “doing things right” and a surge in the pension fund balance which reached record highs this past quarter.
As a firefighter or rescue squad worker in the state of North Carolina, you may be a member of the Local Governmental Employees Retirement System (LGERS). As a member, you contribute six percent monthly towards the LGERS pension fund and this is supported by your employer’s contributions (on average 13 percent) and investment returns. All firefighters and rescue squad workers in the state of North Carolina are eligible to become a member of the Firefighters’ and Rescue Squad Workers’ Pension Fund (FRSWPF) if they meet certain criteria.
To be an “eligible firefighter,” you must be 18 or older and belong to a fire department that:
- is rated by the Fire Insurance Rating Bureau and is certified by the Department of Insurance as not less than a Class “9S” department;
- files a roster annually with the North Carolina State Firemen’s Association, which is forwarded to the Pension Fund by January 31 each year; and
- holds training sessions at least four hours monthly for which members are required to attend at least 36 hours per year
To be an “eligible rescue squad worker,” you must be 18 or older and belong to a rescue squad that:
- is eligible for membership in the North Carolina Association of Rescue and Emergency Medical Services Inc.;
- files a roster annually with the North Carolina Association of Rescue and Emergency Medical Services Inc., which is forwarded to the Pension Fund by January 31 each year; and
- attend a minimum of 36 hours of training sessions each year.
To become a member of the FRSWPF, you must:
- complete an enrollment application (Form 350, Enrolling in the Firefighters’ and Rescue Squad Workers’ Pension Fund) through your department or squad, and;
- mail it with your first payment (contributions are $10 per month) to:
Firefighters’ and Rescue Squad Workers’ Pension Fund
Department of State Treasurer
3200 Atlantic Avenue
Raleigh, NC 27604
Your enrollment date will be effective in the month in which the pension fund receives both your application and first contribution.
Your pension is a foundational part of your retirement savings, but you may need to do more. It is often recommended that you have at least 80 percent of your current salary as income in retirement. You should consider your potential pension benefit, and social security benefit and outside accounts.
Saving for retirement is unique and personal for everyone and not necessarily an automatic or intuitive process. We start saving at different times, we save different amounts and we have different comfort levels with risk versus reward.
The easiest way to save for retirement is to start early and save automatically. Nothing beats the power of time when you are saving for retirement. If you are a member of LGERS, or one of the other retirement systems, you may be eligible to participate in the North Carolina Supplemental Retirement Plans (NC 401(k) Plan, NC 457 Plan and/or NC 403(b) Program). Like the North Carolina pension, these plans are one of the largest of their kind in the United States and offer outstanding value with meaningful board oversight and low fees and costs. If you are a currently a volunteer, take time to look into what your employer may offer for a retirement savings plan. Making an automatic contribution from your paycheck means you can sit back and watch your savings grow.
There may be some headwinds as you move to mid-career. Certain life events that can cause a “pause” in retirement planning like raising a family, wage adjustments and making a career change. While these events are personal successes, we don’t often recognize that these choices may be suppressing the full potential of our retirement savings. Statistically, women face more challenges in being prepared for retirement due to wage gaps, caregiver choices and responsibilities, as well as the fact that women live longer than men. Women may participate in retirement plans more than men, but the contributions and subsequent balances may not be as great.
As you move closer to retirement, there are opportunities to save more by increasing your paycheck contributions and taking advantage of expanded annual contribution limits. If you are a member of LGERS, FRSWPF, or one of the other North Carolina retirement systems, you have the option to attend a retirement education webinar or make a one-on-one appointment with a retirement education counselor. Here, you will be able to learn about your benefits and see if you have what you need to experience the retirement you envision. We have many tools and resources at www.myNCRetirement.com and in ORBIT.
Much like a garden, you need to tend to your retirement. It takes time, patience and dedication. I encourage you to look at where you are now and where you want to be in your future and take advantage of the savings opportunities available to you. We all may not save the same, but the important thing is to save.
Thank you for your hard work and dedication to our North Carolina communities and citizens.