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Planning for retirement in public safety

In this video, risk management expert Gordon Graham outlines best practices for first responders looking to plan for their financial future

Gordon Graham here with Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Today’s Tip is for everyone in public safety. Today I’d like to offer some suggestions to help you plan for retirement.

Ideally, you should start your financial retirement planning when your career begins. Realistically, few people start quite that early. The important thing to remember: Whether you have 10 years until retirement or 1 year, there are important steps you can take to figure out where you are now, and where you need to be.

No matter what stage of your career, there are some financial best practices to consider. First, know what savings options are available through your employer. If you have a 401k or defined benefit plan, get to know all about it. If your employer matches contributions, make sure you’re taking maximum advantage.

Second, look for alternative savings options, such as Roth IRAs, traditional IRAs or “529” plans for educational savings. These accounts are good places to sock away cash while still providing more flexibility than your employer-based retirement account. There are other savings and investment options out there, so talk with a financial planner to help you choose what’s right for you.

Third, even if you enjoy your current job, think about your “Plan B.” Burnout is common in public safety professions. You might decide to leave public safety before reaching full retirement. And that’s OK! But you’ll want to be financially prepared to make that kind of transition.

When you’re within five years of retirement, write out your retirement budget so you know what your spending capacity is each month. Take the time to “stress test” your budget by living on it for a few weeks to see if it’s realistic.

About 12 months out, finalize your retirement budget. Commit the numbers to pen and paper, but keep in mind that retirement means a change to your financial lifestyle.

Remember, these are your “golden years.” Maximizing your financial future should be a priority long before your retirement date hits.

And that’s Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Gordon Graham signing off.

Gordon Graham has been actively involved in law enforcement since 1973. He spent nearly 10 years as a very active motorcycle officer while also attending Cal State Long Beach to achieve his teaching credential, USC to do his graduate work in Safety and Systems Management with an emphasis on Risk Management, and Western State University to obtain his law degree. In 1982 he was promoted to sergeant and also admitted to the California State Bar and immediately opened his law offices in Los Angeles.

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