How can IAFF retirees without medical care afford to get their own? And what can active IAFF members do to better manage their money while they are on the job? Speakers during the Convention’s second roundtable answered those questions and discussed how active and retired members can achieve financial wellness.

General President Edward Kelly, General Secretary-Treasurer Frank Líma, and IAFF-FC Chief Operating Officer Kurt Becker led the discussion with panelists Washington State Council of Fire Fighters (WSCFF) Secretary-Treasurer Greg Markley, Missouri State Council of Fire Fighters (MSCFF) Legislative Affairs Advisor Corey Hogan, Miramar, FL Local 2820 President James Estep, and IAFF-FC Board member and Chula Vista, CA Local 2180 President Darrell “Doc” Roberts.

Helping retirees without medical benefits has been a long-standing issue for the IAFF and its members. In 1999, the Washington State Council of Fire Fighters leaders decided to act and created the WSCFF Employee Benefit Trust.

“We were seeing our members work longer than they should have because they could not afford health care after retirement,” said WSCFF Secretary-Treasurer Markley. “The trust allowed us to create and manage our own retiree medical insurance.”

The WSCFF eventually extended to assist surrounding states in the northwest and now it has been expanded even further to help all IAFF members. Its new name is the IAFF Medical Expense Reimbursement Plan (MERP) under the IAFF-FC umbrella. It’s a tax-sheltered plan designed to help participating members pay for health insurance premiums and other medical expenses in retirement. Markley now chairs MERP which serves over 8,600 members.

The IAFF-FC can also help state associations create their own medical trust like it did for the Missouri State Council of Fire Fighters (MSCFF).

“We tried to do it on our own a few years ago, but it was complicated due to the number of fire departments we represent,” said Hogan. “After direct assistance from the financial corporation, our trust is now up and running. It has only been activated for a month, but we are optimistic about its future.”

Before fire fighters retire, there are steps they can take to set themselves up for steady financial health including financial planning and retirement savings.

Estep became a certified financial planner in 2010 and started his own financial advisory firm in South Florida. He also serves as a trustee of a multi-jurisdictional healthcare trust in South Florida.

“When you start wondering how you are going to financially care for yourself and your family, it can be stressful,” said Estep. “Most believe you need to be wealthy to use a financial planner, that is not true. The job of the planner is just to guide you through big financial decisions and plan.”

Members who do not live in South Florida have access to financial planning through the IAFF-FC’s Wealth Management Initiative (WMI).

“The earlier you start making plans, the better,” said Roberts. “The WMI’s ‘15 by 5’ plan makes it easy as it defers a small percentage of your pay into a deferred compensation retirement plan. With this plan, your retirement savings grow at a steady rate. The simplicity of it is what makes it work as well as it does.”

The IAFF Financial Corporation’s mission is to offer member families products and services which will help them achieve financial wellness without having to make significant increases to union dues. For more information, visit the IAFF-FC website.