Gear Up for Retirement

Throughout the day, firefighters and rescue workers are busy planning, responding to various calls for service and helping others in the community, with nearly 75 percent of North Carolina’s fire protection by land mass provided by volunteers. As a member of this group, you are a person who has chosen a life of service and are to be celebrated for the work you do. I know how hard it is to find the time or have the inclination to think about yourself and your future. Taking the time is an important step in making sure you, your family and loved ones are prepared for the future. I encourage you to take the time to gear up for retirement.

When I raised my hand to be the 28th Treasurer for the State of North Carolina, I made a promise to cut Wall Street fees for the North Carolina Pension Fund by $100 million during my first term. To date we have cut $175 million with a projected savings of approximately $344 million over four years. I am committed to serving the people of North Carolina as the keeper of the public’s purse, cutting fees, building value and sustaining the pension plan for future generations of public workers.

As a firefighter and rescue worker in the state of North Carolina, you are eligible to participate in the Firefighters and Rescue Workers Pension Fund (FRWPF). This fund is exclusively for your benefit and is independent of other retirement benefits available from your employer, whether a local municipality or another company. Having creditable service of 20 years on or after the age of 55 as a participating member in the FRWPF means you will receive a lifetime benefit.

Gearing up for retirement means being prepared. As a firefighter and rescue worker, you have a solid foundation and a clear definition of what it means to be prepared. There are preliminary checks, balances, planning, equipment readiness and team readiness. Tackle your retirement with the same dedication and enthusiasm.

Our role, as the Department of State Treasurer, is to maintain the integrity and sustainability of the North Carolina Total Retirement Plans, including the Firefighters and Rescue Workers Pension Fund. Your role is to make sure you are doing all you can to secure your financial future, which includes your savings and retirement plans outside of the FRWPF. To help you with this, we have a vast series of educational materials online (, including online estimators, FAQs, webinars, fact sheets, as well as your Fire and Rescue Handbook. In addition, as a participating member, you have access to education counselors who can guide you through preparations for a healthy financial retirement either in person, by phone or in a virtual setting.

ORBIT is the secure web portal where you will find many of the tools and resources you need to make informed decisions about your retirement. As a participating member, you can register and safely and securely manage your account, service credit history and stay informed. We have a full team that serves your community situated in the Office of the State Treasurer. This team works with all volunteer and career fire and rescue worker groups to make sure the tools and resources are available as we continue to partner in giving back to you in retirement.

We are committed to educating all our members about the importance of and understanding retirement planning. The Firefighters and Rescue Worker’s Pension Fund is a part of your retirement plan but is not the only financial benefit you need to consider. As you look to your external resources, either through your employer’s retirement programs or personal savings, you must sometimes turn up the heat, be a little uncomfortable and put a little more in than you expected. Then, you begin to see progress and your money will grow. When planning for a secure retirement, I encourage you to determine how much retirement income you will need to feel secure after you stop working. Ask anyone twice your age, most would say they wish they would have saved more. As you make that determination, I would urge you to consider personal savings and other retirement funds, alongside your FRSWPF.

How does the North Carolina Firefighters and Rescue Worker’s Pension fund work? Each month a contribution is made on your behalf, either by yourself or someone else. Currently, the contribution is $10 and making this payment into the pension means you become a member. As an active member, there are certain milestone markers that set the stage for your future pension benefit, currently set at $170 per month. You may apply for the monthly pension fund benefit in advance, as you are nearing (1) 20 years of creditable service as a firefighter or rescue squad worker, and (2) the age of 55. Once you meet these two requirements, you can begin receiving your pension fund benefit even while you continue to work as a paid or volunteer firefighter or rescue squad worker.

If you leave your department or squad before retirement, you can still apply for your benefits, provided you have not withdrawn your contributions and you meet the two criteria above. There are additional considerations after 10 years where eligibility kicks in for retirement pension fund benefits and those are detailed on our website and in the Handbook.

Let’s put the Firefighters and Rescue Workers Pension benefit into perspective. We will assume the average life expectancy is 80 years old. Over the course of your service, as a participating member, the maximum contribution of $2,400 has been paid into your account. If you have met the requirements and retire at the age of 55, you will receive a lifetime benefit of over $51,000 in retirement.

Benjamin Franklin once said, “You may delay, but time will not.” Being involved in your future, planning for your retirement, and building a healthy financial future are well worth the time you put in. We are here to support your efforts with the resources and information to help guide you as you gear up for retirement.

Thank you for all you do for your community and our greater North Carolina.

Key facts

A monthly contribution to the Firefighters and Rescue Workers Pension Fund makes you a contributing member and eligible to work towards service and contribution goals for a retirement pension benefit paid to you and, if applicable, your beneficiaries.

It’s time to turn up the heat on your retirement, make a plan and use the educational resource tools offered to FRWPF members;

While there are some criteria that adjust the options available, the standard retirement benefit qualifiers are (1) 55 years of age and (2) 20 years of qualified service.

The Firefighter and Rescue Squad Worker’s Pension Fund benefit, currently set at $170 per month, is a lifetime benefit to the contributing member.

Dale R. Folwell is the State Treasurer of North Carolina. He was a four-term member of the N.C. House of Representatives, including two years as Speaker Pro Tempore. More recently he was Assistant Secretary of Commerce with the Division of Employment Security.

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