Timing is Everything

Dale R. Folwell, CPA | State Treasurer of North Carolina

Having chosen to serve and protect our communities, you have a natural understanding of how to assess a situation, develop on-the-spot efficiencies and manage time for the desired result. You know all too well that timing is everything, and it can mean the difference in outcomes in a variety of situations.

Timing also plays an important part in retirement. If you start saving early, compounding interest makes your retirement fund grow faster by earning interest on your contributions and reinvested earnings. Workers who start saving later may need to do more to develop efficiencies so they can meet their retirement goals. No matter where you are in your retirement journey, planning and saving for retirement means managing time so you can reach the desired result. 

Ready or Not

Retirement is in your future; at some point, we all will leave a chosen career or take a step back from a volunteer position. Ready or not, retirement is coming, and I encourage you to do what you can now to make sure you have a secure financial future for yourself and your loved ones.

If you are a career firefighter or rescue squad worker employed by a local government, you contribute 6% each month to the Local Governmental Employees’ Retirement Systems’ (LGERS’) pension. This, combined with your employer contributions and investment earnings, creates a solid foundation for your income in retirement. 

As an eligible firefighter or rescue squad worker in a career or volunteer capacity, you have the opportunity to participate in the Firefighters’ and Rescue Squad Pension Fund (FRSWPF). Contributions are $10 per month/$120 per year and are due by March 31, after the year ending December 31.

In order to be an eligible firefighter, you must be 18 years 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.

In order to be an eligible rescue squad worker, you must be 18 years 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

provides training sessions each year for which members are required to attend a minimum of 36 hours.

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.

Being a member of LGERS and/or enrolling in the FRSWPF brings other important benefits for your loved ones. As a participating member in these pensions, one of the most important things you can do today is to name a beneficiary. This is a simple process and eliminates confusion, saves time, and makes sure that your loved ones receive a benefit of financial security should you pass away. I recommend that everyone perform a beneficiary check-up at least once a year for all accounts and benefits. 

Stay Involved — Because it Matters

The LGERS pension may be an automated contribution process, but the FRSWPF is manually submitted by you or your department, and certain requirements must be met each year. It is important to take ownership of those contributions and years of service. The more informed you are, the better you can prepare and make the right choices for your situation. ORBIT is an online system for members to manage their North Carolina pension, track years of service, and contributions, view and maintain beneficiaries, and offers important tools that will help you determine if you are ready and prepared for retirement. 

While a pension may lay the groundwork for a solid retirement, the general rule is that you need to replace 80% of your pre-retirement income. If you are an LGERS member, we offer supplemental retirement savings plans (NC 401(k) and NC 457 Plans) that are administered by the Department of State Treasurer and Supplemental Board of Trustees. These plans are outstanding choices for members offering exceptional value, lower fees, and diverse investments.

If you are a volunteer firefighter or rescue squad worker, speak with your employer about the retirement savings options available to you and make sure you are taking advantage of all benefits. 

Stay involved in your contributions, know your years of service and use all the tools available. The more informed you are, the more prepared you will be for retirement.

Planning for the Future

The Retirement Systems Division has ongoing webinars and education opportunities for all members. These webinars provide an overview of your benefits and pre-retirement planning information. We also have counselors available to answer specific questions about your situation. With these details in hand, you can begin to answer some questions: 

When will you retire? 

How long will you be in retirement?

Where will you be, and whom will you be with? 

What is your budget? 

Who is your beneficiary?

The answers to these will help you tackle retirement more efficiently and with purpose.

Remember, no matter where you are in your career, it is never too early to start saving for retirement. It is always the right time to assess your plans and make adjustments. It is never too late to manage your time so you can plan to reach your retirement goals.

Thank you for your service and dedication to the communities across North Carolina.

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.

North Carolina Retirement Systems: https://www.myncretirement.com/

Fire & Rescue Online Resources: https://www.myncretirement.com/non-retirees/fire-and-rescue-personnel

ORBIT: https://orbit.myncretirement.com/

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