Police officers have a special relationship with their money, says Wendy Tariff, president/CEO at $40 million asset Police Credit Union of Connecticut (PCUCT) in Hartford. “When I took this job, I learned that being a first responder comes with a unique mindset.”
She takes a certain pride in matching the needs of that mindset—and making time for some friendly but pointed financial guidance now and then.
Tariff explains a predictable pattern among new police officers, both men and women.
Fresh on the new job with a grown-up’s paycheck, possibly for the first time in their lives, the first financial move many new officers make is taking out a loan for an expensive truck.
Not so fast, Tariff advises new members and incoming recruits during her visits to police academies and class graduations, and during financial counseling sessions.
“The best way to help our members is by educating them at the beginning of their financial journey,” says Tariff, a certified financial counselor through the CUNA Financial Counseling Certification Program. “I talk about financial responsibility and ask if they really need the truck right away or if perhaps they should start a rainy-day fund first.”
Tariff adds that police officers typically work a lot of overtime and often take side gigs on top of irregular hours, accounting for their sometimes unconventional approach to personal finance.
That’s one reason she has a strategy to create a statewide law-enforcement credit union. She took the first steps in making that plan a reality when she guided PCUCT’s merger with Waterbury Police Federal Credit Union this year.
Tariff says the merger provides more updated products and services to former Waterbury Police Federal members, and friendly mergers can do the same for other law enforcement credit unions.
“A lot of police credit unions are still old school,” Tariff says. “They’re losing members. If we can create one united credit union, it will benefit everyone.”
She spends much of her time volunteering for and donating to organizations such as the Hartford Police Athletic League, the Western Connecticut Police Chiefs Association, and the Hartford Police Department Homeless Outreach.
She shares that passion with her employees. Despite limited resources, each year Tariff takes one of her (currently) eight employees to the CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference to introduce them to the nationwide excitement of credit union advocacy.
“If I can take just one person each year, they’ll better understand that we are really changing lives. We’re improving our community and we’re doing good for others,” Tariff says. “We have a mission, not just a job.”