By James McLaughlin
American Military University
When I joined the fire service at the age of 21, I had two goals. My first goal was to provide at least 30 years of quality service. My second goal was to pursue training and education opportunities and seek to rise in the ranks within the department. Both these goals matched my responsibilities as a husband and father, as they would allow me to provide for my family into retirement.
Today, as a 46-year-old husband, father and second-generation firefighter who has completed 25 years in the fire service, I want to share the realities of how these tough economic times are impacting the pensions of those who have given their lives to service. Changes in pension formulas or medical benefits in retirement have caused those in the fire service to consider early retirement or face dramatic reductions in pensions and benefits. This is, sadly, becoming very common in the fire service today.
Now the question is: Are you ready for Plan B? What are you doing to prepare for your next career? Four years ago during my department’s last contract negotiations, at the last minute the city and department reached an agreement to avoid arbitration. At the time, it was feared that arbitration would have resulted in a change to or even elimination of medical benefits at retirement. Shortly after that scare, I had a conversation with a classmate named Dave who is the same age and has young kids the same age as my son.
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