Survey shows most first responders have post-retirement careers

The results of a new survey conducted by the Illinois Public Pension Fund Association (IPPFA) indicate the majority of Illinois firefighting and law enforcement professionals continue working in a variety of professions after retiring from their first responder jobs.

Firefighters and law enforcement officers typically retire at a younger age than those in other lines of work due to the physical stresses of the occupation. The IPPFA survey, conducted during the fall and winter of 2020, measured how many of these public safety employees work following their police or fire retirements, the types of jobs the retirees take, and how how satisfied they are with their post-retirement employment.

“This is the first in-depth survey of what these first responders do after retiring from their primary careers, which is important because they usually have more years to work after retirement than workers in other professions,” said IPPFA President James McNamee. “We will use this data to fine-tune the IPPFA’s training and education program offerings for our members.”

A total of 252 fire and 501 police retirees completed the survey, which showed that 74 percent of fire and 82 percent of police retirees continued to work or started working again following retirement. A total of 48 percent of fire and 64 percent of police respondents worked full-time as opposed to part-time after retirement, while the post-retirement careers of 52 percent of fire and 30 percent of police retirees were a continuation of work that they did on the side while they were fully employed in firefighting or law enforcement.

Most of the survey respondents indicated they obtained special training or experience in their police and fire careers that helped them to be successful in their post-retirement careers. The vast majority of those taking the survey considered their post retirement careers to be successful both financially and in terms of personal fulfillment.

The most-cited post-retirement careers for firefighters included firefighter officer or fire chief, non-fire-related government positions, sales, building trades, driver, and higher education.

Police retirees often took other careers in law enforcement including administration, college police, security or investigation. Other often-cited post-retirement careers included consulting, finance, information technology, and elementary and secondary education.