When choosing a career, you, like many others, decided that making the commitment to protect and serve your community was more important than your own bottom line. You had a higher calling than just working for a paycheck. Finances are an important part of all of our lives, though, which is why today I want to share some money tips that specifically apply to LEOs and other first responders.
There are many ways out there for police officers to make their money go further. You just have to know where to look. Whether you find ways to make money at home or constantly take advantage of savings opportunities, the onus of improving your finances falls squarely on you.
1. Save Extra For Retirement- Your Pension is NOT Enough
Do you know how much your pension will be by the time you hit retirement?
While it’s great to have a guaranteed income stream coming to you when you finally hang up the uniform, in many cases your pension won’t be enough to provide for a comfortable living.
The average police officer earns $51,560 per year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Pension formulas vary by state, but a general formula is 2% of your maximum salary multiplied by the number of years you serve.
So, if you maxed out at the average salary and served 30 years, you could expect to earn around $30,936 from your pension. Not exactly a ton of money.
Even with Social Security, you will still likely come up short of your peak salary, which is exactly why you should be looking for ways to boost your income and think about investing a little bit more money each month towards your retirement.
It can be hard to find extra money in your monthly budget to set aside for retirement, but check out the impact that saving $200 per month can have over the course of 30 years (assuming a modest growth rate of just 5% per year):
Think about how that extra cash set aside today will improve your standard of living at retirement. After decades of service, you deserve to live comfortably. You need to learn how to start investing!
2. Take Advantage of Discounts Available to LEOs
Despite what the news may tell you, there is actually overwhelming support for law enforcement in this country, especially from major brands.
Have you heard of GovX?
GovX is a free membership website that acts as a central location for benefits and savings exclusively to those that serve our country—both past and present.
They offer discounts of up to 65% on over 400+ brands (including 5.11, Under Armour, Ray Ban, North Face, & more).
Here’s how it works:
Any current and former military, local, state, and federal government employees (including police) can sign up on their website.
GovX gives you 3 options to validate your eligibility for savings:
- Email confirmation sent to a .gov, .us, .org email address. (This is just 1 confirmation email; you can use your personal email for your actual account), or
- Upload a picture of your government ID, or
- They can call you to confirm your status
Once you are confirmed (takes less than 5 minutes), you have access to hundreds of amazing deals on gear, tickets, and travel items that are not available to the public.
Online registration is free, fast and secure. Here is the link to sign up.
3. Invest in Your Own Education
Instead of working yourself to death with overtime, consider using your time outside of work to further your own education. Having a college degree is a factor in many promotions- you will make up your lost overtime earnings easily over the course of your law enforcement career if you can steadily move up in seniority. College education is sometimes what separates candidates in determining who gets promoted.
Many departments even offer tuition assistance for officers. There are many online degree programs available specifically for criminal justice fields of study.
If you don’t have any previous college education, completing general education courses at a local community college can be much cheaper than enrolling at a 4 year university. You can get your Associates Degree from community college, then decide where you want to enroll for your Bachelors (and what specific degree you want).
Look at it this way: by working overtime for your department, you are simply exchanging your time for money (with no long term benefit to you). If you decide to get your degree, you become a more valuable officer and leader to your department, and you will be paid higher for the rest of your career.
4. Don’t Forget About Scholarships for LEO Family Members
There are many scholarship opportunities available to your kids (and you) because of your service.
Even winning one or two scholarships per year could end up being thousands of dollars in savings. College isn’t getting cheaper any time soon, so locking in “free” money whenever you can is a must!
Here are a few different scholarships that are offered to LEO and other first responder dependents:
- 2017 ESA Youth Scholarship Program awards a $7,500 scholarship to the first-place winner, and $2,500 to the second-place winner. This scholarship is eligible to children of active duty police offers.
- The Wives Behind the Badge Law Enforcement Children’s Scholarship. Given every year to the dependent children of law enforcement officers. Scholarships are awarded based on the scholastic achievement, character, and community service of the applicant.
- America’s 911 Foundation Scholarship for children of first responders.
ScholarshipMentor.com has a fairly comprehensive list of scholarships offered all across the US for dependents of LEOs and first responders. Be sure to share these links with your kid(s)!
Please Share these Money Tips with Our Brothers and Sisters in Uniform!