Mary Zimmerman CFP®, RLP®
PATH Financial Strategies, LLC
1421 N. Butte Ave., Chandler, AZ 85226
After 25 years of working with people and money in a thriving tax practice, I became a Certified Financial Planner in 2000 and, looking to expand my planning skills, took George Kinder’s Seven Stages of Money Maturity®workshop in 2002. Four hundred different clients pass through my door during the first four months of each year. I had always thought of myself as a good listener. I thought I was pretty empathetic. But I had no idea how much more there was to learn!
The Seven Stages workshop resonated with me in a deep and profound way. In the workshop I learned a new framework for understanding the impact of money in our lives and a new process for talking to clients about it. But more importantly I experienced for myself just how much emotion and meaning we all attach to money. These insights made sense out of the intuitive promptings I had been receiving for years. With this newfound knowledge I felt I finally had the tools and concepts I needed to create the personal life and business that fit who I am and how I think clients should be supported.
In addition, my life has been enhanced by the stunning quality of relationships within our Life Planning community. I am constantly amazed at the caliber of people who are attracted to this work. I am never at a loss for ideas to toss around, books that have meaning, or lives that inspire. That rocks!
In my own personal Life Planning exploration I discovered, or perhaps re-discovered, that I have a passion for talking to people about money and meaning—the MORE the better. That is why I went through the rigors of becoming a Certified Faculty member at the Kinder Institute. In this position I get to connect with financial advisors and share my love of this work. Each time I lead or co-lead a Seven Stages workshop, I transform a bit. It is a privilege to witness effort and change over the course of the two days. The model has stood the test of time and seems more relevant as the years go by.
Here’s a great example. One of my favorite clients of the past year called me because he’d read the Seven Stages book and wanted to work with someone who was philosophically aligned with it. His wife had not read the book. When I met with the couple, the wife almost immediately said that she and her husband didn’t get along when it came to money. Although I don’t usually discuss the Seven Stages concepts with clients, I didn’t want the wife to feel uninformed, so we discussed the first two stages—“Innocence” and “Pain”.
In these stages, the model teaches that all of us retain unexamined, naïve or “innocent” beliefs about money, principally from our early family experience, that cause us pain as adults because they often have little basis in reality and are usually inflexible and thus don’t fit the variety of situations we face. In this instance, the wife had a huge Aha! moment because she could see how her own “innocent beliefs” caused her agitation every time she and her husband discussed their finances. She was blown away, and her husband said he didn’t care what I charged; this one realization was worth it!
Another deeply moving experience I had as a result of Life Planning involved a couple that came to me a couple of years ago to discuss retirement. The husband had decided on a retirement date and I took them through the classic “3 Questions” exercise that helped stimulate a thoughtful discussion about their future. Unfortunately, shortly after our appointments, the husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor and for the next two years he was cared for by his wife as his health worsened.
Shortly after his death, I sent the wife an email (we had been in touch during the illness) and reminded her of our Life Planning sessions. I sent along her husband’s answers to the 3 Questions which reveal what a person considers to be most meaningful and important. In each of his 3 Questions, the husband had named his wife and children. It was such a gift to his family that these questions had been asked so that they knew with certainty how much they had been cherished. This fall they hiked the Colorado Trail together in his honor because it was a dream that was also part of his 3 Questions responses.
We never quite know where we are going when we enter into a Life Planning arrangement. Each appointment is original and real. Life Planners are in that honored position of seeing the beauty that comes to light in these meetings. My practice has been rejuvenated by the hope and vigor that this process helps inspire and release in my clients