Promoted content

People helping people: local financial educator leads free counseling workshops, inspired by journey at UCSC

Recent UCSC graduate and Bay Federal Credit Union’s Certified Financial Educator, Tiffany Zachmeier, looks back at her educational journey and how it changed her outlook on how she views the world and her role as a financial educator. Tiffany credits the mission and values of Bay Federal Credit Union, the credit union philosophy of “people helping people.”

This past May, when Bay Federal Credit Union’s Certified Financial Educator, Tiffany Zachmeier, received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology, and graduated with honors from UC Santa Cruz, she completed a journey that she never anticipated making.


“I’m just really happy I did it,” Tiffany said. “I wanted to get my degree for years, but I kept putting it off because my kids and my job took up so much time.” However, she finally decided to start slowly, but shortly after that, she didn’t want to stop.

Tiffany leads Bay Federal Credit Union’s Financial Education initiatives, teaching free financial education webinars, workshops, and events at community centers and schools throughout the Tri-County area. She also meets with Bay Federal members one-on-one for financial counseling.

“I am amazed at the amount of shame and guilt people can have over their finances – people burst into tears when they start talking about credit card debt, or say they feel like a failure if they can’t afford to buy a house,” Tiffany said. She noticed people tend to blame financial problems on poor decision-making and a lack of financial education.

However, once she began her studies in Anthropology, she realized that was only part of the real issue.

“Financial problems are often seen as a sign of personal or moral failure, but they are often caused by factors beyond our control,” Tiffany explained.

She also learned to look at situations from different perspectives than her own.

Through this journey, I have a better understanding of the cultural and historical factors that undermine financial stability.

— Tiffany Zachmeier

These eye-opening experiences through her time at UCSC have inspired her when meeting with those in need of financial counseling, and have changed the way she talks to people about money during a session or webinar.

“Instead of using phrases such as ‘past financial mistakes’ or ‘poor choices,’ I offer reassurance and respect,” Tiffany said. “People are so grateful for that! It makes me want to help even more.”

When Tiffany is asked for advice to those who may be on the fence about furthering their education, or starting a similar journey, she says to take it one step at a time.

“If you really want to go to school, just go. Register for one class, commit to finishing it, and see what happens next,” Tiffany answered.

For those trying to navigate the financial impact of pursuing educational aspirations, Tiffany offered another piece of advice. She completed her first two years of school at Cabrillo College, and couldn’t speak more highly of the experience.

I highly recommend the guaranteed transfer programs offered by California community colleges. I studied with exceptional teachers, earned my two-year Associate’s Degree, transferred to UCSC to earn my Bachelor’s Degree, and saved about $30,000 in tuition!

— Tiffany Zachmeier

Colleges and universities are now offering more flexibility with online learning opportunities as well, making the pursuit of higher education more feasible than ever before.

Looking back at her journey, Tiffany is grateful for how it has changed her outlook on how she views the world and her role as a financial educator. Tiffany credits the mission and values of Bay Federal Credit Union, the credit union philosophy of “people helping people,” and the support of the leadership team at the Credit Union as key factors in her being able to complete her educational journey.

Tiffany with her Bay Federal colleagues at event
(Rob Watson)

“Going back to school has helped me see the world in a very different way. I will always be grateful for the opportunities Bay Federal has provided to me and for the support of all the people I work with.”

Bay Federal’s Commitment to Financial Education

Financial education is a key initiative of Bay Federal Credit Union. Besides webinars, counseling sessions, and school presentations, Bay Federal has a host of resources on their website for teachers, parents, and students ranging from elementary to college-age at

Bay Federal also has a partnership with GreenPath Financial Wellness, which offers free access to certified experts who can empower members to eliminate financial stress, budget and get out of debt, increase savings, and achieve their financial goals. Greenpath is a free service with no strings attached – just personalized answers to individual needs. To get started, visit

The Credit Union also promotes their financial education initiatives through their annual scholarship program. Since 2008, Bay Federal has awarded 64 scholarships totaling $69,000 to students who are pursuing a degree or certificate program at any college, university, or professional school. The annual application period opens in November through January, and the winners are awarded at Bay Federal’s Annual Meeting in March.