As I write this article, I realize this month represents my 33rd year with the Department, having graduated from Class #248. More and more of my friends and classmates have joined the ranks of “The Retired.” Conversations with these retired members often include quotes such as “Best job you ever dreamed of” and “How did I have time to work?”
Those of us still in the workforce, especially those of us in the 50-plus age range, understand the pressures all too well. Not only do we have the stress of work, but let’s add to it the family pressures of adult children who fail to launch or the responsibilities of taking parents to their medical appointments. These weights exacerbate and exaggerate the desire to retire as the number of days on the countdown clock ticks down ever so slowly.
The retirees I have spoken to communicate that their newfound freedom allows them to address these burdens and so much more. They embrace the next chapter of life, whether it is traveling, becoming a farmer, writing a book, starting a new career or helping others through volunteer work. Without the stress of “the job,” they look younger and healthier than ever before. They inspire me to balance my life now, allowing for creativity and activity in preparation for my own retirement.
Every generation says this, but I would challenge any of the predecessors. The stressors of a career in public safety have never been greater than today. A worldwide pandemic and the polarization of politics in our nation, state and county, as well as the anti-law-enforcement sentiment, all create a difficult mindset, decreased productivity and undue stress. My discussions with representatives of LACERA and our workers’ compensation attorney partners represent extraordinary numbers of members who either are impaired by injuries on duty or are in the retirement process.
You get the picture. And if you are still active but at the tail end of your career, you really get the picture. Friends and colleagues who have already retired will tell you that the motivation to retire gets stronger as you begin to envision your next chapter in life. That optimism is natural. Unfortunately, the motivation for thousands of cops nationwide who have been hastily retiring lately is not because of what the future holds as much as it is because of what the current job is up against.
Not only are potential retirees increasing in annual numbers, but retirees are also increasingly leaving the state of California. In fact, retired PPOA members living out of state increased by 17%, including the top five most popular destinations: Arizona (140), Nevada (95), Idaho (47), Texas (45; new to the list and pushing Oregon out of the top five) and Washington (41). Regardless of where members retire, they travel, start businesses or raise grandchildren (sometimes children), and a very valued few even continue their involvement with PPOA, for which we are extremely grateful.
The retirees I have spoken to communicate that their newfound freedom allows them to embrace the next chapter of life.
I am very grateful for the opportunities the Sheriff’s Department and PPOA have provided during my career. When I retire (no timeline planned yet), I look forward to the next chapter that many of you exemplify. Traveling, spending time with family and friends, and exploring interests you never had the time for while working and raising a family all sound fantastic.
To those retired, thank you for your service. Please stay healthy, enjoy your retirement and, as my father says, “Take the County for every dime they owe you.”
To those remaining active, thank you for all you do in these historically unprecedented times. Stay safe, hold your heads high and represent our noble profession to the best of your abilities.