What the CFA Means To Me

The CFA didn’t help me get a job. In fact, it hurt my chances.

I was at an insurance company from 2008-2010, and when I left, I already knew what I wanted to do, but I had no idea how to get there. My resume was garbage, I got kicked out of school (twice), and I needed to do something to make myself more knowledgable and more marketable. I found the CFA program and fully dedicated myself to it.

Level 1 was incredibly exciting. The material was all brand new, and for the first time in my life, I knew I was tugging on the right thread. I passed the first exam in 2010.

I was looking for work in 2011, but with the economy what it was, even getting interviews was difficult. And then I got a break, well, a chance at least. A friend I worked with at the insurance shop was an internal wholesaler at PIMCO, and he got me in the door for the same position. I met with his boss and it went great. I was enthusiastic and interested in the market, I was taylor made for this role. After we spoke, as a formality I assumed, he introduced me to his boss, the big macher. He asked me what I found appealing about the position, and why I would excel at it. All was going well, and then I thought I’d seal the deal by letting him know that I was studying for Level 2 of the CFA exam in June. “Wait, what? Why are you doing that?” I told him I love the market and wanted to learn as much as I can about it. He told me that’s not what this role required, and the meeting sort of hit a wall there. I knew I wasn’t getting the job.

Level 1 was exciting. Level 2 was excruciating. I had no experience in the industry, no network to bounce ideas off of, and this material was completely foreign to me. On top of that, my mom was very sick, I spent hours studying in the hospital. Sitting for that test was one of the most demoralizing experiences I ever had. I spent months studying for the exam, but it was as if I hadn’t studied a minute. I knew I bombed.

I met Josh a year later and began working for he and Barry, basically in a utility role, I was doing a little bit of everything. I was much more interested in portfolio construction than financial planning, so I decided to rededicate myself to the CFA. I passed level two and level three. Just a word on the exams, I found level two to be as hard as everyone says it is, and level three was equally unpleasant.

“Is it worth it” is a question a lot of people ask themselves, because becoming a charter holder involves a lot of mental sweat and a lot of personal sacrifices.

Even though I’ve never done a discounted cash flow in my life, the CFA was absolutely worth it for me. It didn’t help me get a job, but it’s given me knowledge, confidence, and a sense of accomplishment.

If you’re debating whether or not to commit to it, I would encourage you to set realistic expectations. There are a lot of candidates, so just having it on your resume might not necessarily do anything for you. On the other hand, because there are so many candidates, it’s almost becoming mandatory, depending on the role. Becoming a CFA charter holder might not get you a job, but not having the charter might keep you out of one.

If you’re taking the test tomorrow, best of luck!