There’s a lot that’s different about being a police officer. And it’s not just the nature of work. Policing can creep into more than your family life. It can affect your relationship with money. 

Dr. Gilmartin talks about the psychology behind why it’s common for police to struggle with finances. He calls it the stress-related consumerism cycle.

Stress-related consumerism

This cycle is an officer’s attempt to move from the bottom reaches of the sociological rollercoaster to the top by making novelty purchases. When that something is a new house, car, boat or other expensive item, officers take extra shifts, just to stay above water.

The reason why they originally buy the item, to alleviate work-stress and to feel good, becomes the problem. The work stress turns into financial stress. Financial security becomes next to impossible. Family life becomes tense because money becomes the issue, not just time.

According to Gilmartin, financial difficulties, as seen by an officer lacking sophisticated awareness of his or her financial status, on more than one occasion, have led to unethical violations – motivated by short-term financial gains.

It’s important for departments to provide officers with awareness of the benefits available to them. If you don’t know what you’re eligible for, spend some time discussing with your supervisor.

Financial security reduces stress & anger

Making emotionally-charged purchases only results in added stress. Officers who have a sense of financial security are in a position to free themselves of anger and frustration. You can continue to invest energy into your professional goals, rather than working to pay off that big house, new car or boat.

The next time you’re thinking about buying something expensive, take a step back for a moment. Give yourself time to explore the reasons why. Do you really need it or is it just something you want? There’s a big difference.

So, what should you spend your money on?

Science proves that spending your money on experiences, not things, can bring you prolonged happiness – instead of momentary.

“One of the enemies of happiness is adaptation,” says Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University who has been studying the question of money and happiness for over two decades.

“We buy things to make us happy, and we succeed. But only for a while. New things are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them.” 

Rather than buying that new iPhone, spend your money on doing things. This could be travelling, learning a new skill, going to art exhibitions or doing outdoor activities. Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than material goods.

If you need proof, do this. Think about happiness for you. What first comes to mind? We can bet that it’s going to be something you’ve done or someone you know, not an object.