Problems and Success Factors Inherent in Fire Service Retirement

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Problems And Success Factors Inherent In Fire Service Retirement
By Gerald Bates

Retirement from a life-long career can be a stressful event, regardless of the field. Research conducted in the military and law enforcement fields indicated that retirement from a career in public safety can be more stressful than retirement from the general work force. Currently, there is little literature that is dedicated to the issue of retirement from the related public-safety field of the fire service.

The purpose of this research was to determine what problems a person may face, as well as how to successfully deal with those problems, when retiring from a career in the fire service.

This study used an evaluative research methodology. The research questions that were answered were:

  1. What are the problems associated with retirement in general, and the fire service in particular?
  2. How do retirees deal with those problems?
  3. What factors contribute to a successful retirement from the fire service?

A survey was conducted of 71 retired members of the Tucson Fire Department. The survey tool included questions on personal characteristics, reasons for retirement, level of planning for retirement, financial security, level of activity, social and personal relationships, and health. The returned surveys were analyzed to determine what patterns and relationships existed.

The findings revealed that the majority of participants (95.7 percent) felt that their retirement was successful. The primary determinant of a successful and satisfying retirement appeared to be directly related to the level of planning that went into it. The most satisfied retirees tended to be those who planned for their retirement several years in advance.

A significant relationship was found between the participants' rank at the time of retirement and their perception of their personal and social relationships. The higher the rank, the greater the sense of loss of friendships, prestige and self-esteem. There also appeared to be a positive relationship between the participants' perception of their good health and their satisfaction with retirement.

The recommendations of the research were for the City of Tucson and the Tucson Fire Department to: 1) conduct retirement counseling early in an employee's career; 2) stress the importance of retirement planning to all employees, regardless of where they are in their career; 3) stress the importance of physical fitness and wellness to successful living; and 4) provide counseling specific to the emotional problems that may be encountered by the officer upon retirement.