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  • Matthew Dunham

Will Duty disability be enough?

What happens if I get injured
and can't work anymore?

It’s on your mind, maybe with every shift, “I hope I don’t get hurt today”.  You live with the tension of knowing you are at a higher than average risk for injury due to your job, but it’s also your everyday life. It’s crazy the things you see and deal with in any given shift – and how quickly things can go south (maybe those crazy things don’t seem so crazy anymore, they’ve become “normal”). Your body takes a beating too, lack of sleep, multiple alarm fires, long patrol shifts. This was one of the main reasons for going back to get my degree. I knew that if I got injured on the job and was physically unable to do the work, I needed some other career option to provide for my family. Your job requires that you are prepared and ready in an emergency situation – you can apply this to your finances as well. 

Don’t rely solely on duty disability.

As a first responder, your savings strategy should prioritize an emergency fund, not relying solely on duty disability and your pension, as there are gaps, and they may not be enough. 

This is especially the case if you are supplementing your income through overtime or a physically demanding side job. If you get injured, these additional sources of income may also be affected. 

Pension/duty disability is based on a percentage of income/base pay – income may include a five year average of overtime (WRS), so if you are funding a lot of your expenses, extras, or your general lifestyle with overtime pay, you may not have enough to continue to live the lifestyle you want. There also is a transition time, between injury and when duty disability kicks in. Bills don’t stop coming during this time and some expenses may increase (medical).

How much do you need in an “emergency fund”?

Google that question and you’ll get a lifetime of reading. 3-6 months is the most common answer, I tell people to get to  6 months of living expenses then divert most of what you were putting into this goal into another savings goal (college, car fund, retirement). Keep adding to the emergency fund, just not as much. The key is to save this money somewhere, don’t go back to spending it.

So how do you go about this?

  1. Get your finances in order and prioritized (did someone say “Budget”?(I did, I love a good budget)). You should not be living on more than what your base pay (not including overtime, supplemental income) can cover. 

  2. Review your expenses, where does all your money go? Are there places you need to downgrade in order to increase your savings?

  3. Allocate a % every month from your income towards a savings account

And if you don’t get injured on the job? Awesome! You’ve got an emergency fund saved up for other unforeseen expenses when they come up in the future and one last thing to keep you up at night. You have enough of those already.

If you want help creating a budget and getting your finances prioritized, give me a call.

Dream Lake Financial is a fee only firm, providing comprehensive financial planning and investment management for public safety personnel.

This communication is for informational purposes only and is not intended as tax, accounting or legal advice, as an offer or solicitation of an offer to buy or sell, or as an endorsement of any company, security, fund, or other securities or non-securities offering. This communication should not be relied upon as the sole factor in an investment making decision.



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