Mary has been part of the Life Planning movement since its early days. As the owner of PATH Financial Strategies, based in Arizona, USA, she uses her skills as a Life Planner to find out what is most important to her clients and builds a financial plan to support that. Mary is a Kinder Institute trainer and can be found leading a 2-Day training, co-leading an EVOKE course, or coaching advisors during the Mentorship Program.
How has Life Planning changed your personal and professional life?
I had afternoon plane tickets for FPA National in California on September 11, 2001, having signed up for an interesting pre-conference training entitled “The Seven Stages of Money Maturity®.” By that afternoon, planes had been grounded and the entire conference called off. Therefore, I was determined to attend in the fall of 2002. And, oh my! It was a particularly potent year for change and this training propelled many of us forward. I made friends for life in those two days.
The 2-Day training resonated with me in a deep and profound way. 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 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 represented me and my thoughts on how 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 trainer with 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 or EVOKE training, I transform a bit. It is a privilege to witness effort and change among participants. The model has stood the test of time and seems more relevant as the years go by.
I count myself fortunate to have been part of the Life Planning movement since the early days of its formation. While there has been an evolution, the core elements have remained. In Life Planning, there is a relational, not transactional, alliance. Life Planners find out what is most important to their client and build a financial plan to support that.
What was a meaningful interaction that you had with a client as a result of Life Planning?
Years ago, Tom and Nancy came in to discuss retirement. Tom had decided on a retirement date and, together, they wanted to talk about how that might look. I took them through the classic Three Questions exercise which stimulated a thoughtful discussion about their future. From their answers, dreams were put into place. A Life Plan was made.
Unfortunately, shortly after his designated retirement date, Tom was diagnosed with a brain tumor and for almost four years following his diagnosis, Nancy cared for him as his health worsened. Born on the 8th day of the 8th month, he died on the 12th day of the 12th month.
Shortly after his death, I sent Nancy an email and reminded her of our Life Planning sessions. I sent along Tom’s answers to the Three Questions, which reveal what a person considers to be most meaningful and important in their life. Nancy and their two daughters were in the core of each of the three answers, in his handwriting. It was such a gift to his family that these questions had been asked and answered so that they knew with even greater certainty how much they had been cherished. After his passing, the family followed up on the dream of having a cabin in Colorado, as well as hiking the Colorado Trail together in Tom’s honor. Sticks were gathered on the hike and were arranged in his name off to the side of the trail.
We never quite know where we are going when we enter into a Life Planning engagement. Each appointment is original and real. Life Planners are in an honored position: you see the beauty that comes to light in these meetings. My practice has been rejuvenated by the hope and vigor that this process helps to inspire and release in my clients.
What piece of advice would you give to new Life Planners?
If you are looking for meaningful work, this is it! Your own life will change as you work with clients. Feel into your feelings and enjoy the ride!
What is one practice management tip that you would give to new Life Planners?
Bring your authentic self into each meeting. Trust yourself and the process. And breathe!
Mary Zimmerman, CFP®, RLP® has a passion for talking about money and meaning. This passion has taken her around the globe, including twice to India, where she led The Seven Stages of Money Maturity® 2-Day Trainings, based on the work of George Kinder. She is the owner of PATH Financial Strategies, LLC, in Chandler, Arizona. PATH is an acronym for “planning at the heart.” Mary is one of the founding members of Kinder Institute of Life Planning and was the first trainer with the Institute in the United States. She is a former board member of the Financial Planning Association of Greater Phoenix and is trained in The Art of Hosting Conversations about Money. She is certified in Levels I and II of Spiral Dynamics. Mary is a member of the National Association of Tax Professionals, the National Society of Accountants, American Mensa, and the Nazrudin Project, a global think-tank of professionals, many with the CFP® credential, dedicated to the human and spiritual aspects of money.