By Dale R. Folwell, CPA | State Treasurer of North Carolina
The North Carolina Department of State Treasurer (DST) works hard to sustain pensions and funds for those who have dedicated themselves to a career of service in North Carolina. We also are committed to protecting these retirement benefits and payments for current and future public servants, as well as their beneficiaries and survivors. This is not an easy task, and takes commitment, dedication and requires a member-first mentality by DST, staff, and our Boards of Trustees.
Each year, an annual report is prepared by an outside actuarial firm and serves to demonstrate the health, sustainability, and trends for each of the North Carolina Retirement Systems and Funds. This informs decisions and actions taken by DST, staff, and the Boards. Recently, DST was presented with December 31, 2020, Actuarial Valuation reports for the Local Governmental Employees’ Retirement System (LGERS) and the Firefighters’ and Rescue Squad Workers’ Pension Fund (FRSWPF).
As a firefighter or rescue squad worker, you may be a member of LGERS, contributing 6% of your monthly pay towards the pension. LGERS has consistently been well-funded, and this is because of the steady participation by members, employers, and investment performance. Being well-funded means that the system is able to pay current and future benefits to eligible members. As of December 31, 2020, LGERS has a funded ratio of 87.8%.
The FRSWPF is available to eligible firefighters and rescue squad workers who meet certain criteria and enroll in the fund. As of December 31, 2020, the FRSWPF has a funded ratio of 95.8%.
Enrollment in the FRSWPF is not automatic, but this additional pension provides valuable benefits for you, your beneficiaries, and survivors. Contributions ($10 per month) are made by you or on your behalf through your department or squad and go towards your lifetime monthly benefit of $170 once you have 20 years of creditable service as a firefighter or rescue squad worker and reached the age of 55.
Retirement is inevitable for most of us. If you are a vested member of LGERS, this potential monthly benefit may provide a solid foundation in retirement. The FRSWPF is an opportunity for additional support. But it is important to think about your future early and save often. Saving now means your assets may grow enough, and you will not be required to make further contributions in retirement, either by continuing to work or cutting back on your lifestyle. Starting early and saving often can help you achieve the retirement you envision.
Planning for your future is more than financial savings and funding. It is also important to make sure you have designated beneficiaries. If you are a member of LGERS, this is easy to do in your secure ORBIT account. Simply log in and click on the Maintain Beneficiaries tab. You can review your current designations for Return of Contributions and Death Benefits, if applicable. You may select as many principal and contingent beneficiaries as you like, but you must have at least one principal beneficiary. Updates made in ORBIT are effective immediately.
As a member of the FRSWPF, there are also benefits for beneficiaries and survivors. This is a separate and important process. We recommend you complete Form 2FR (Designating Beneficiary(ies) for the Firefighters’ and Rescue Squad Workers’ Pension Fund) as soon as possible. This will help to ensure a potential line-of-duty death benefit is maximized. If a line-of-duty death occurs, and a single primary beneficiary is designated, they may be entitled to receive your monthly pension benefit.
Beneficiaries for this fund can also be updated through ORBIT if you have an FRSWPF account that has not been refunded and you are not currently receiving a benefit payment.
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 Firefighters’ Association, which is forwarded to the Pension Fund by January 31 each year; and
• holds training sessions at least 4 hours monthly for which members are required to attend at least 36 hours per year.
Training sessions for firefighters are defined as sessions or drills that prepare firefighters for or increase their knowledge in, fire prevention, fire suppression, or protection of life and property.
Eligible Rescue Squad Workers
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.; and
• 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.
• Eligible rescue squad workers must attend a minimum of 36 hours of training sessions each year.
Training sessions for rescue squad workers are defined as any sessions or drills that prepare rescue squad workers for, or increase their knowledge in, rescue, emergency medical services, injury prevention, or protection of life and property.
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 in which the pension fund receives both your application and first contribution.
As with enrollment, benefits are not automatically paid. To begin receiving benefits you must meet the retirement eligibility and complete and submit two documents:
• Form 6FR, “Retiring from the Firefighters’ and Rescue Squad Workers’ Pension Fund”
• Form 170, “Authorizing Direct Deposit”
Planning for your retirement and taking action to make sure your future is secure are very important steps. We have a team on hand to assist with enrollment, discovering your available benefits, and planning for retirement. I encourage you to take advantage of the tools and resources available.
Thank you for your dedication and service to the communities of North Carolina.
All monthly contributions for 2021 ($10/month, $120/year) are due to the FRSWPF by March 31, 2022.
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.