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October 16, 2013

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I guess I would ask myself these questions:

How confident am I in my pension?
Would I be ok with less vacation if I'm working less during the week?
How secure is the new job?
Do my kids want to go to that school? Do I want them to if they have a better but more expensive option?
When I picture myself in 5 years doing either job, in which picture am I happier?
What if I just stopped doing the overtime?

I agree you should answer the questions already posted by BIGSeth for yourself.

Sure, it would be great not to have to pay for college, even if only one or two kids took you up on it and the others chose different paths it would still make sense financially. But if the sacrifice is 12 years at a job you detest, then it might not be worth it mentally even if it is worth it financially. The flip side is if you see yourself in 12 years still doing the job your doing, or even being willing to keep doing it in 2 years.

Is this something that you need to decide soon? You could ride the middle ground and work another few years where you are at before moving on.

Finally a quick note on freeing up all that extra time. Just be careful of your expectations. Your family has developed a routine around the fact that you work a large number of hours. Your ideas of what you would do with that "free" time versus what they are used to can come into conflict pretty quick. On the other hand, you will need to determine if you will be around more or less for your kids based on the shifts you are putting in. 40 hours of 4-Midnight shifts including weekends might mean seeing and being around even fewer hours with your family than you have now.

Always things to consider when making a significant change. Best of luck.

Yes all those questions should be answered before you proceed. It seems like you are still unsure if you should leave the police force, and you struggle between doing what you love and providing a free education for the kids. Will you have the same passion getting up everyday working at the university? If not then continue to stay in the force, pay off the house before the children begin college, have them work for half the tuition and provide the other half. When they are responsible for the education they will take it more seriously.

Some of my family has been on the job, and fwiw I have never met an LEO who regretted taking retirement.

Looking at it from a $ perspective, you would be working an average 20 hours/week for an extra $20K/yr (less a couple weeks vacation). From a time/opportunity perspective, you will not have these years with your children again (even if you work graveyard shifts at the U). From a workstress perspective, a metro LEO job would seem to have a lot more risk/stress than a University job; 60 hour weeks is a lot different when you are 50 than when you are 25. And a University job is something you can do as long as you want; can you say that about the department?

It is a good 'problem' you have, nice to have options in this economy. Whatever you choose will be correct. Continued success to you, and thank you for your service!

If I were in your shoes I definitely wouldn't want the job at the university to get away from me. For one thing the university job is a lot less stressful and has a far lower risk of you having a bad experience in the line of duty. Your current job is also going to be more demanding and stressful as you get older. Try to assess how the new job would impact your family life, I would think that many aspects of your life would improve if you took it. However you need to talk it over with your whole family and see what the consensus is.

One thing to look into: does the university get tuition reciprocity with other universities?

Your kids may not want to go to this university; but if reciprocity exists, there may be a list of other universities where they would get such tuition benefits as a result of reciprocity between universities (i.e., University A gives tuition discounts to both employees of University A and University B and vice versa).

And also, you need to take a long-term look at things. College/universities can be expensive, but there are low-cost student loans, scholarships, work-study, etc. that can make them more affordable. Sacrificing significant income (and your awesome vacation time) for 8 years of tuition help that your kids might not need (due to scholarships/low-interest student loans/work-study or just because they go to a school that isn't the one you work for) may not be the best approach, when factoring in other financial priorities.

Do you expect raises at your current job going forward? Because that means a higher pension when you retire. What's the difference in health benefits (if any)? How about 401ks and matching?

I think there's an awful lot more to weigh here than the university tuition assistance. Based on the math, I think you might make MORE than enough to pay the tuition at your current job vs. getting the tuition and a lower salary/less vacation time at the new job (particularly given that the mortgage payments will be done in 2 years). And there is an advantage to knowing your current environment, versus the uncertainty of the new one.

How much job growth do you have at your current job?

I believe you'd come out ahead financially if you took the new job. But this is more of a personal choice than a financial one. Do you and your family want to make this change? Thats really up to you to decide.

I don't know what it's like in the education or public sector but in private sector professional/office work, probably the MOST negotiated benefit as part of taking a job is vacation.

If they want to hire you, ask if you can start with 3 weeks of vacation the first year then increase in accordance with their standard policy.

Are you happy working 70 hours a week while your kids are still young? I think that's the most important question here.

Well let's compare numbers here, shall we?

Starting with salary -
Cop job: $110K (base + avg o/t) vs
Uni job: $91K (base + cop pension)
Observation: after taxes, net take home looks pretty close in either choice.

Vacation -
Cop job: 5 wks vs Uni job: 2 wks (after 1 yr)
Weekly working hrs -
Cop job: 60 hrs (avg) vs Uni job: 40 hrs
Observation: After working 6 weeks at the Uni job, you will have gained back 3 40-hr wks of lost vacation

Kids' Uni Tuition -
Cop job vs Uni job: I won't even bother stating the numbers. It's obvious that the Uni job wins hands down.
Observation: With the Uni job paying kids' tuition, after paying off your mortgage, the savings can then instead be used towards your personal retirement investments. As far as other Uni costs, let the kids work and earn $ plus apply for scholarships (being straight A students) to cover these costs.

Job security -
Cop job: you have more seniority / security
Uni job: you have less seniority / security
Observation: Life's a crap shoot, 100% security is a myth

Job satisfaction -
Cop job: more stress as you age plus more work hrs req'd
Uni job: much less stress due to the nature of the job plus reduced work hours req'd

General observation:
Given that you checked out other employment after 20 yrs as a cop indicates that you are considering a change, knowing that you're not getting any younger. You state that you "have a chance" to take a Uni job offer. Is that a firm job offer? The Uni benefits to me would lead to that choice but the more important consideration is job satisfaction. After working as a cop for 20 yrs, be prepared for "at least" a 3-6 month break-in period to feel comfortable in the Uni job, should you take it. Consider everything. Talk especially to wife for her views (since she knows you much better than us).

Good luck dude!


I think you should consider other benefits like health insurance for your family. Will you get those with your new job? If that's not a problem and tuition is free, you should tell your kids they will have to work if they want to live away from home. I would make sure that your offer is not possible but firm, like the guy above said.

This is easy. Both sound great and pension gives a lot of leeway. Pick the one you think you would enjoy more. I think there may be the third option of just working more reasonable hours at current job, hard workers who have gained seniority usually pressure themselves too much to stop and realize this.

You don't mention the stress factor. Police work has a reputation for being highly stressful, though maybe less so at your level.

On the other hand, I have observed, consulting in academia, that that environment can also be highly stressful (even hostile, at times) for employees who are not faculty.

I don't know the answer but I think it's a factor to be considered.

I retired from federal law enforcement after 25 years and it was not as stressful as your job. I decided not to get another full time job because my wife is working full time, our kids are out of college now, and looking for full time work after age 57 is very difficult. Saying all that and talking with a lot of other law enforcement types who want to work after retirement, you are also in a perfect position to work on a Semi-Retirement plan.

1. Do you have your college degree? If so, what about a Masters so you can not only teach but have the credentials from University affiliation for consulting?

2. Are you a POST certified instructor? If not, get that certification before you leave the force. Again, looking at time after your gig at the University and in semi-retirement.

I know that being self employed after law enforcement has been invaluable to helping my family and I cope with a number of life changing events(marriages, moves, and the passing of parents). It sounds like you want to take the job at the University. If so, consider the benefit you get from getting additional education for that semi-retirmeent gig!

My husband is actually a police sergeant at a University. I would see for sure if you get compensatory time off for University holidays. He's been with his department for 8 years now and while he technically has similar vacation as you mention, if he has to work during the huge holiday break they get in academia he gets to bank all of those days as well... this ends up being an additional two weeks at least. Universities in this area also work 12s instead of regular shifts. Between working 7 out of 14 days and all of the time off, more than half the guys in the department are retired from somewhere else. You may also see an increase in your paycheck from not having to pay into the pension system and having your benefits taken care of from the pension, not the job. Anyway! Just other things to consider.

Are you excited by this job opportunity? Are you burnt out at your current job? If you are happy at your current job, why change? You don't mention your feelings, just facts.

Why work at your present job for half pay? Grab the pension and take another job at our near your salary and enjoy life. There are no guarantees for tomorrow, so enjoy the life you have made now! a 70 hour grind will get worse as you age

What about Social Security?

In my state, policemen are exempt from FICA contributions over their careers due to their separate pension plan. An early retirement followed by a job that does contribute to Social Security lines up a second income stream later in life. I'm aware of several former LEO's who have done this. A decade in a well-paying, post law enforcement job was all that was necessary. The key is to start it early enough so that you can fully retire (if you so desire) at your chosen age.

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