Thursday, 29 August 2013

Why I dropped out of the CFA

I hate quitting things...I really do.  I didn't enjoy my law degree for most of it but stuck to it because I knew why I was doing it (to get into investment banking) much as I wanted to quit.  I started banking and found that the lifestyle was terrible and not for me and as much as I wanted to quit after my worst day as a banker I stuck with it because I knew what I was aiming for.

It surprised me therefore, that I decided to drop out of the CFA before even undertaking my level 1 exams. I had registered, ordered the materials and spent a few weeks going through the materials when I decided to postpone sitting the exam.  Note that this blog post is not to encourage you to quit the CFA, however it will hopefully make you think about whether you actually want to do the course before you pay your money and register for it.

Why did I decide to do the CFA?

To quit, you first need to register and there were several reasons that I decided to do the CFA:

  1. I really like the investment industry
    • I currently work in the investment industry and I love it
    • If you want to make it long term in the industry though you almost have to have a CFA
    • Some places of employment require it, some highly recommend it and if you have one you are always going to stand in better stead than someone who does not have a CFA
  2. I registered for it when I had a big gap of time to fill
    • This rationale is rather embarrassing, but basically I registered for the CFA, in part because I had a whole heap of time after breaking up with my girlfriend and it seemed like a productive thing to do 
    • Not the best of reasons, but a surprisingly compelling one at the time.  By the way - for all you single folks who read websites telling you to take up hobbies to improve yourself after a breakup...make sure that your willing to commit to it long term
  3. My friends were doing it at the same time
    • This may seem like a bad reason to do the CFA, but I actually think it is an OK one
    • One of my best friends was starting level 1 at the same time I was thinking about it so we registered for it together
    • If you want to do the CFA anyway, it helps to do it with others.  The CFA is mainly a self study course and motivating yourself to do it can be quite challenging
  4. It is a great idea to get all your professional studies / qualifications out of the way before you settle down
    • This is a more a 'why now' rather than 'why at all?' type reason
    • Everyone I have spoken to has told me that once you settle down, get married and have kids, further study is virtually impossible
    • I was at the prime time in my life to do it
Why did I decide to drop out of the CFA?

Once again there are several reasons which I will outline below however it essentially came down to
me actually thinking about what I wanted to do with my life and my career and what was the best path for me.  I encourage everyone to think about to use their time most efficiently.  Here are the reasons I dropped out of the CFA:
  1. It meant that I could not start my own business
  2. That gap of time I thought I had...turns out it didn't last that long
    • That whole 'improve yourself when you become single' thing I mentioned above didn't turn out to be relevant for that long
    • I got myself out of the doldrums and onto the dating scene much quicker than I expected and most people know that new relationships take a fair bit of time
    • Again...not the best reasons but it is what it gets in the way
  3. I was already working in the industry
    • A lot of people use the CFA as a way of leveraging into the investment industry - I was lucky enough (because of investment banking) to get a job without doing that
    • Although I would probably need a CFA to get to the top of this industry, I do not need it to be successful at what I do now
    • I still haven't decided what I am going to do with my career however committing to 3 years of study without having made this decision seemed a bit silly to me
  4. If I study again...I want to get the most out of it that I can
    • When I was at university I was the master crammer.  I wouldn't study for the whole semester (even though I attended classes) and then would learn everything in the final two weeks so I could pass the exam
    • Once I left university I swore that if I ever studied again I would do it properly so that I learned the material and had a chance to engage with it 
    • Although I could have crammed the CFA materials in and probably passed the exam on only a month or two of intense study (I have several friends that did this) I did not want to
The optionality is valuable

The best thing about the CFA is that you do not get penalised for failing and you always have the materials if you want to have another go.  Yes you do need to pay for the exam fees again but it is not a 'do it now or never do it' type of course.  

This optionality is valuable and you should think about what you want to do with your life, your career and your education carefully before committing to something which seems like the right thing to do 'because everyone else is doing it'.

What do you think?  Have you done the CFA?  Do you regret it or are you happy you stuck to it?

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