By Dale R. Folwell, CPA | State Treasurer of North Carolina
Thank you for choosing to serve and protect our communities. As a firefighter or EMS worker, you represent and provide a vital sense of confidence through social support, education, and community leaders and role models. YOU help prepare and secure our communities for the future.
At the North Carolina Retirement Systems (NCRS), a division of the Department of State Treasurer (DST), we help our members prepare for a secure future in retirement. This includes managing one of the largest pools of public money in the world and making sure we are paying low fees for high-value and quality investments. In addition, we are dedicated to educating members about their benefits, how supplemental retirement savings can increase financial security, and what steps can be taken to ease an unnecessary burden later; because, as we know – LIFE HAPPENS!
Assessing the future and financial security of yourself and your loved ones is one of the most important things you can do, and designating a beneficiary is the first step. It is a quick, easy task to complete and creates the opportunity to continue your legacy.
Name Your Beneficiary
A beneficiary is a person who receives your benefit(s) if something happens to you. In most cases, a benefit payment is made based on beneficiary designations (the person named in your account by you), not family relationships or wills.
Naming a beneficiary means you know exactly who will receive your benefit(s). It allows for efficiency and timeliness in processing and provides clarity for others, avoiding potential conflicts over assets.
NCRS makes it easy to designate a beneficiary. As a member of the Firefighters’ and Rescue Squad Workers’ Pension Fund (FRSWPF) and/or a member of the Local Governmental Employees’ Retirement System (LGERS), you have access to ORBIT, the online self-service portal for your retirement account, where you can view your service credit and contributions, maintain personal information and designate beneficiaries.
Log in to your account, click Maintain Beneficiaries in the left navigation, and name or update your current designation. This is real-time action, meaning as soon as you provide information and press submit, your beneficiary is confirmed. Upon your reported death, DST will issue benefits to your designated beneficiary.
Do a Beneficiary Checkup
Major life events require a review of your benefits. This includes a new marriage or partnership, divorce or break-up, birth or adoption, and the death of named beneficiaries. It is an unfortunate truth, but we have seen members who have not named or updated their beneficiaries. If something happens to you tomorrow and you have not updated your beneficiary, your benefit may be paid to a former spouse or partner, delayed and paid to your estate, or your beneficiary may be determined for you by state or federal law.
Naming a beneficiary for benefits is not exclusive to NCRS. I encourage you to review all your accounts, such as life insurance, savings and checking, and supplemental retirement accounts (like the NC 401(k) and NC 457 Plans) – to name a few.
As an FRSWPF member, you may list one or multiple principal beneficiaries, but be aware of how your choice will affect benefits payable if you are killed in the line of duty.
Effective July 1, 2018, if you are killed in the line of duty as determined by the North Carolina Industrial Commission, and you have one and only one principal beneficiary that is eligible and has not accepted a return of undistributed contributions, your living beneficiary may choose to receive a monthly lifetime benefit (known as the Survivorship Benefit), rather than a one-time payment (known as a Return of Undistributed Contributions) if the requirements of the law are met.
Recent legislative updates modified the statute for the Line of Duty Death Benefit program determined by the Industrial Commission and paid by NCRS (G.S. 143-166.2) to expand the definition of “killed in the line of duty” to include firefighters who die from oral cavity cancer or a pharynx cancer. (S105v8.pdf (ncleg.gov))
- If you have not already done so, please take time to log in to ORBIT to name your beneficiary. You may also fill out Form 2FR (Designating Beneficiary(ies) for the Firefighters’ and Rescue Squad Workers’ Pension Fund) and email the completed document to Specialty.Plans@nctreasurer.com.
- Make a date and check your beneficiaries at least once a year. Think about all the tasks you do annually.
You get your car inspected. Inspect your beneficiaries.
You check the batteries in your smoke detectors. Why not check your beneficiaries?
You have an annual physical checkup. Do a beneficiary checkup.
You have dedicated your life and time to helping our communities feel safe and secure. It is time for you to act by naming a beneficiary so you can breathe easier knowing your loved ones will be receiving support and benefits when they need it most.
We are here to help you navigate the benefits and tools available. Participate in one of our many webinars to learn more about planning for retirement and using ORBIT. We have dedicated staff available to answer questions or point you in the right direction.
I applaud your dedication, your service, and your legacy.
Thank you for all you do for the citizens of North Carolina.
Membership in the North Carolina Firefighters’ and Rescue Squad Workers’ Pension Fund
Enrollment, contributions, and applying for retirement are not automatic.
To become a member of this pension fund, 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 when the pension fund receives both your application and first contribution.
You may apply for monthly pension fund benefits after you:
- Have 20 years of creditable service as a firefighter or rescue squad worker, and
- Reach age 55
Creditable Service is defined as service for any period during which you paid and maintained contributions in the fund or for which you purchased service credit in the fund.
Creditable service as either a firefighter or rescue squad worker counts toward membership in the fund. However, if you work and/or volunteer both as a firefighter and as a rescue squad worker during the same month, you can only receive one month of pension fund credit for that month. The current pension fund benefit is $170 per month.
To begin receiving benefits, you must complete and submit to the Pension Fund:
- Form 6FR, “Retiring from the Firefighters’ and Rescue Squad Workers’ Pension Fund.”
- Form 170, “Authorizing Direct Deposit.”
You must apply for benefits. They are not paid automatically. Your application and direct deposit form should be returned to the Pension Fund 30 days before your scheduled retirement date.
More information about the Firefighters’ and Rescue Squad Workers’ Pension Fund, Local Governmental Employees’ Retirement System, and the Department of State Treasurer can be found on myNCRetirement.com.
Dale R. Folwell, CPA was sworn in for his first term as State Treasurer of North Carolina in January 2017. He was reelected in 2020 and is currently serving his second term. As the keeper of the public purse, Treasurer Folwell is responsible for the more than $117 billion state pension fund that provides retirement benefits for more than 950,000 teachers, law enforcement officers, and other public workers. Treasurer Folwell also oversees the State Health Plan, which provides medical and pharmaceutical benefits to more than 750,000 current and retired public employees and is the largest purchaser of health care in North Carolina.