It is always a good idea to plan for the future or the inevitable. Over the past few months, I have seen a large number of officers retiring and moving on to other endeavors. The key to any move is preparation. How many of us can honestly say we are prepared for an emergency or a change in our current working status?
When I began this job 22 years ago, I was fortunate to have a co-worker who had about 18 years on the Department. He offered me some advice one night about being prepared for the circumstances that you will face on this job. He showed me a leave balance he had accrued of about 1,700 hours. He called this time his “insurance policy” in case a catastrophic event occurred. He also reminded me that he would sell back his hours to the Department upon his retirement and walk away with a large sum of cash. None of us can see into the future, and we all are hopeful that we are never faced with a catastrophic emergency. But in the event that you are, it is smart to be prepared.
If you were to lose your life in the line of duty, would your family be prepared?
When my son was born 13 years ago, I spent the first four months of his life at home with him. I was able to do this because of the advice I received from a co-worker. Plan ahead and always place money into your savings plan, deferred comp or even that shoebox you have buried in your backyard. Ask yourself this: If your current living situation were to change due to a flood, fire or maybe a split with your significant other, where would you go? Do you have the means or the ability to check into a hotel or rent an apartment until your situation is settled? Always have a plan or a strategy that does not involve asking a friend for help. You must plan ahead. As boring as it sounds, planning is the key to being successful.
We have the ability to earn four hours of sick leave per pay period; this total comes to about 100 hours per year. When you are new, set a goal as to how much sick leave you would like to have in your first five years. In five years, you will earn 500 hours. Then set a goal to save at least 400 of those hours. There are numerous emergencies you cannot plan for, such as an unforeseen illness that leads to surgery, or maybe you would like to set aside time to start a family. Having time away from the job to bond with your family is what sick leave should be used for.
I am not telling people how to save, spend, use or squander their time or money, but I implore us all to plan ahead. Ask yourself this: If you were to lose your life in the line of duty, would your family be prepared? Life will go on for the family you leave behind. Our goal is to ensure that we remain in the lives of the kids left behind. To date, our Law Enforcement Assistance Fund (LEAF) charity has paid for college for numerous kids whose parent has died in the line of duty. My 13-year-old son informed me recently that he wanted to donate $50 of his savings to LEAF. I was shocked, and I asked him why. He simply stated, “I have a lot in savings and I want to share it with the kids who lost their parent.”
My point is to be smart with your time and your money and plan ahead. Don’t assume that an emergency will not happen. A famous boxer once said, “Everyone has a plan until you get punched in the face.”