Has anyone regretted studying for the CFA?

Phat's picture
Rank: Baboon | 109

While the question is phrased negatively, I do not intend this thread to only be a way to shit on the. Positives examples of how it has benefited individuals outside of their career prospects are welcome. We are not 100% in control of our careers but we can choose what to do with knowledge that is acquired.

Comments (78)

Aug 25, 2019

You probably won't find anybody that regrets studying for it. You may find people who couldn't pass and eventually gave up and are bitter about it. But the experience of forcing ones-self to study, learn and impose discipline just isn't something that humans look back upon with regret.

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Aug 26, 2019

I wonder if the people who blamed it on memory problems legitimately studied and failed, or half-assed it and forgot most of what they "studied."

Stay strong!

Aug 27, 2019

Since this is the top comment, I'll be devil's advocate.

There are definitely people who regret studying for it or would at least be cautious. I used to work at a long-only asset manager and considered studying for it. I had several more senior colleagues, some who passed all 3 levels, caution me against taking it because of the time sink. While there are some benefits, you need to be realistic about how the CFA will help you. If you did not study finance in undergrad, I would argue the CFA offers a nice, structured finance and accounting curriculum. However, I've seen it has more limited benefits in helping you get a promotion or next job.

All in all, just think about the opportunity cost of your time. There are lots of things to learn and do that are productive uses of time (coding, relationships per below, etc). That's also time you could spend working on stock pitches. There's no right answer, but I would definitely avoid thinking that you won't find anybody that regrets studying for it.

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Aug 27, 2019
lr135:

Since this is the top comment, I'll be devil's advocate.

There are definitely people who regret studying for it or would at least be cautious. I used to work at a long-only asset manager and considered studying for it. I had several more senior colleagues, some who passed all 3 levels, caution me against taking it because of the time sink. While there are some benefits, you need to be realistic about how the CFA will help you. If you did not study finance in undergrad, I would argue the CFA offers a nice, structured finance and accounting curriculum. However, I've seen it has more limited benefits in helping you get a promotion or next job.

All in all, just think about the opportunity cost of your time. There are lots of things to learn and do that are productive uses of time (coding, relationships per below, etc). That's also time you could spend working on stock pitches. There's no right answer, but I would definitely avoid thinking that you won't find anybody that regrets studying for it.

Totally agree. For most people (not all), 900 hours of studying various coding languages would be more valuable.

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Aug 28, 2019

If the main argument that you have for people regretting studying for it is that they may have spent the time doing something more productive, I disagree. People aren't that productive. If they could have been using the hours to learn a coding language, why weren't they doing that already? Because people are too lazy. At least if you sign up for an exam and tell people you're taking it, you can probably force yourself to work at it. But other pie-in-the-sky goals like learning programming or something else just isn't enough to get people moving.

The opportunity cost for most people's time is very low.

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Aug 29, 2019

I regret studying for it. I took and passed all the exams in 18 months because my first manager 'highly encouraged' it when I was fresh out of undergrad. I wish I had pushed back more. 18 months of my youth sacrificed and it has never benefited my career in any measurable way. Have worked at 3 top tier HFs since then and it has never mattered in interview processes or otherwise.

The subject matter is a mile wide and and inch deep--most of it is irrelevant for this industry and is really ideal for financial advisors.

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Sep 6, 2019
Sling Shot:

I regret studying for it. I took and passed all the exams in 18 months because my first manager 'highly encouraged' it when I was fresh out of undergrad. I wish I had pushed back more. 18 months of my youth sacrificed and it has never benefited my career in any measurable way. Have worked at 3 top tier HFs since then and it has never mattered in interview processes or otherwise.

The subject matter is a mile wide and and inch deep--most of it is irrelevant for this industry and is really ideal for financial advisors.

This is how I sometimes feel about it as well, but then I hear guys saying something to the effect of having the CFA is no longer the benefit it once was but not having it can be looked at with suspicion if you're in AM.
Thoughts?

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Sep 6, 2019

Double post

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  • Prospective Monkey in Investment Banking - Mergers and Acquisitions
Aug 25, 2019

Curious about the pay-off for CFA certifications. Did it significantly help you get a better job? Was it necessary? How bout the difference from level 1 vs 2 vs 3? Any insight is appreciated.

Also, would it make sense for someone that is starting in IB out of undergrad or is there less of a need?

Aug 26, 2019

just passed level 3 this year, so ill let you know if it improves my clout. All in all it was a pain in the ass, but not that bad in retrospect.

Aug 26, 2019

I'm 2/2 so far and going to sit next summer for lvl 3 - but I can say it takes a serious toll on any relationship you have with a significant other. I heard the comments prior to sitting that make sure you don't have any kids and/or a wedding to plan because it it hell - well I didn't listen and got engaged. Needless to say, I'm pretty positive that the wedding is off (I'm not suggesting the CFA was the cause just certainly did not help).

As far as career-wise is concerned, it helps on the edges (I'm in AM long only) but nothing is quite as educational as having some bad stock picks blow up in your face and help you learn what some warning signs are

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Aug 27, 2019

Couldnt agree more. It will put a major strain on any relationship and so many people (myself included) believe it played at least a (significant) part in their relationship not working out. I believe CFA is a necessity now for sell side or buy side ER, but it is a major sacrifice that shouldnt be underestimated.

Aug 27, 2019

Couldnt agree more. It will put a major strain on any relationship and so many people (myself included) believe it played at least a (significant) part in their relationship not working out. I believe CFA is a necessity now for sell side or buy side ER, but it is a major sacrifice that shouldnt be underestimated.

Aug 30, 2019
ManzielsMoneyPhone:

I'm 2/2 so far and going to sit next summer for lvl 3 - but I can say it takes a serious toll on any relationship

8/26 - CFA takes 'serious toll' on any relationship

8/30 - CFA breaking up marriages

Wedding Called Off - Now What?
https://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/wedding-cal...
damn bro - that's harsh

Maybe you should take a week off from work and go to Asia or something and clear your mind.

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

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Sep 1, 2019

sounds about right - going to asia can fix ALL your problems

Sep 2, 2019

Honestly, if a girl is going to leave you because you were studying for the CFA, she was gonna leave anyway. This will hardly be the most stressing or time consuming thing in a serious finance career.

Sep 3, 2019

lol spot on man - prior to my thread, I thought we still had a chance to work things out, but then the comment that she didn't want to try and mend things while I was studying came up andddd it that was it.

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Sep 4, 2019

Agreeing with this sentiment based on friends who have gone for it.

One buddy in particular was in a top group at a BB right out of college, worked and an elite firm after, and we still didn't see them for the duration they went 3/3.

Not saying you need to be a genius to pass, but regardless of intelligence level it is a grind. If it won't be practical to what you're doing or what you're going for, there are plenty of other options to bolster your knowledge and resume.

Aug 26, 2019

A CFA Society report in my region asked this question. I believe 8% of the Charterholders regretted obtaining the designation.

Aug 26, 2019

I am waiting for your link to the article:)

Aug 27, 2019
WolfofWSO:

A CFA Society report in my region asked this question. I believe 8% of the Charterholders regretted obtaining the designation.

Selection bias. The people who complete the designation and maintain active status are probably disproportionately using it. Those who passed a level and decided they didn't need the designation (like me) regret the lost time and money.

Aug 26, 2019

I actually am curious about this as wel. I remember I was thinking about doing level 1 out out of college with the encouragement of mentors and teachers, but I heard it would not be necessary if I went into IB (which was mostly true in my career so far).

I imagine the CFA is more impactful for people interested in AM and HF path, but would like to hear from people who have studied for it to chime in.

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Aug 26, 2019

My impression is that it is not that common for people to pursue the CFA designation in IB. I also think it would be challenging to dedicate the hours to studying if you have a demanding IB job. It is very common on the buy side.

Sep 3, 2019

Correct, nobody in IB does the CFA.

It's only common in some parts of the buy side. A good rule of thumb is that the more concentrated the fund, the less common the CFA is.

So in places that call themselves 'asset management' (passive shops, factor funds and other highly diversified funds, wealth managers etc), CFA is very common.

In PE/VC, which are always highly concentrated, nobody does CFA.

In fundamental shops like most hedge funds and some mutual funds, CFA is more of a mixed bag. Again though, I bet you'll see some correlation between the degree of concentration and the number of CFA's. A PM at Fidelity overseeing several dozen positions may have a CFA. But probably no CFAs at Pershing Square with their 8 positions or whatever.

Aug 26, 2019

My old boss said he regretted it, called it useless. It was so "useless" he tried to pass level 2 three times, failed, then quit

Maybe I led you to believe that this was a God given gift and not something I worked for, every single day of my life.

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Aug 26, 2019

Let's just say it's necessary in many ways to have it and propel yourself professionally speaking. I know a lot of people who don't have it that are perfectly fine without it though. However, there's no denying the power it yields and how employers look at you differently if you have it.

So with that being said it's worth getting it just for that reason alone. Not to mention you do learn quite a bit from it obviously. It's a lot of information, some of it is bound to stick!

Aug 27, 2019

Regretted? Nope. Though I did stop pursuing it.

Studying made me realize that BS or SS ER just isn't something I'm interested in as much as I thought I would be. Helped that in the middle of studying I was able to pivot roles into a Corp Dev / Strat role and found that I really liked that more than ER. (To clarify, I wasn't in ER prior to that. I was in a BO role and prepped for CFA just to be more marketable at the time).

So will I ever finish L2 and L3 or ever put L1 on my resume? Probably not. Do I regret the time I spent on L1? Not at all. I made some really good friends studying for it and consider the experience critical in figuring out where my interests lie.

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  • 1st Year Associate in Equity Research
Aug 27, 2019

Haven't finished yet, but do not regret the time I spent on L1 and L2. Having both those levels cleared definitely helped me break into ER as a post-grad, and especially helped offset a horrible undergrad gpa

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Aug 27, 2019

Exactly this. I didn't have a horrible undergrad gpa but a 3.5 wasn't opening any doors. I wouldn't have stumbled into ER (unintentionally) had i not made progression towards CFA the first 1-2 years out of school.

I would go further to say that for Finance/Accting majors who didn't go the extra mile in undergrad it really fills in the knowledge gaps and gives you an understanding that would help in any investment related role.

So I guess you never know what career you'll end up in within Finance and having the knowledge and resume items could open a door that wouldn't be otherwise.

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Aug 27, 2019

Regret is too strong a word, but I'd say my time could've been better spent elsewhere. I passed Levels 1 and 2, and never sat for 3.

Level 1 was a breeze, Level 2 took some studying though. It took up the bulk of my weekend for 7-8 weeks.

That doesn't sound like a lot of time, but I could've done better things with that time for sure. Could've learned more about an industry/company/market, could've honed my investment philosopy, etc.

I also found it annoying how much I had to un-learn the right way to do things so I could learn the "CFA way" (i.e. the wrong way) for the test. A lot of their valuation stuff was simply not how things are done in the real world.

All in all, I think its important to recognize that the curriculum is a survey curriculum. Its slightly relevant for everybody, but highly relevant for nobody. It gets your feet wet in every topic but doesn't provide fully rounded skills.

I've seen CFA work well for folks who didn't have any formal finance education to start out, and are trying to break in. A classic example would be a lawyer who wants to become a compliance head at a bank or hedge fund. That kind of a person can use the survey topics of the CFA to get familiar with things and not feel so lost in the unfamiliar finance world.

But what I see too often is folks who are already in the investing space, who want the CFA to magically get them to some higher rung. Classic example is a compliance or client relationship guy who wants to switch to be an investment analyst, or a PM at a passive shop who wants to be an active PM. For these guys, CFA is less helpful and the anecdotal evidence is that they don't get what they want out of it.

They'd be better served first doing a focused valuation track like BIWS, then learning the qualitative side of certain industries/companies, and rounding it all out by developing investment theses. The won't end up with letters after their name but they will end up with a real investing skill set.

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Aug 27, 2019

If you are outside the AM industry, it could help start conversations if you pass level II.

If you are inside the industry, I would prioritize on being a better investor over getting some textbook knowledge that is not really applicable to fundamental investing.

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Aug 27, 2019

I regret it.

I was a dopey accountant. I wanted to move into investment banking. A lack of research led me to the conclusion that the CFA could help me break in.

After studying for 4 months I was 3 weeks away from my test and a major life event came up and I couldn't make it to the test. I was frustrated because I felt prepared. This ended up being somewhat positive because I really had to dig in and do some research on why I wanted to do investment banking and how I want to get there. I later decided that a FT MBA at a T20 program will give me a good enough chance that I am willing to take.

Before you start studying for the CFA make sure you know what you want to do with it. Don't be a noob like me and dig, dig, dig, all over the internet for the two stories of someone who passed levels 1 and 2 and then transitioned from non B4 accounting to BB IB and think that can be you.

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Sep 2, 2019

Great advice, so are you in MBA now or what?

Sep 3, 2019

I take the GMAT soon and will hopefully hitting the round 1 deadlines! Studying valuation and modeling sounds way too exciting because I'm so ready to be done with this GMAT

Aug 27, 2019

I know someone who sat for the L1 twice, did not clear it, and only then started regretting the time he had spent in trying to put his ass to chair to study for the exam. I hope you also understand the meaning of the phrase I know someone.

Look, if it comes easily to you, you can afford it and are in the beginning of your career in asset management, then you should go for it. You will not regret. I am not saying CFA will give you all the knowledge you need to make it big in money management, but it will compile a ton of knowledge you will need to get started in a logical fashion. That may save you some time. The CFA societies are somewhat an add-on and recruiters who understand what it takes to get the designation, might consider you for a minute longer than they do to other prospective leads. Plus, I have seen some MSF programs give a GMAT waiver to candidates who have cleared L1. So, that too is a tangible benefit.

If you fly down to India, people are going nuts with both CFA and FRM. I believe, over the coming years, the sheer increase in the number of charterholders will only diminish the value of the designation. That is because a ton of these people have no clue what they are doing with the designation. I mean, do you really need a CFA, an FRM and an MBA to work as a Data Analyst at S&P? I still know people in the investment management business here, who would prefer someone from a hardcore CA (the Indian version of CPA) background, over someone with a CFA.

If you are really passionate about investment management, you can focus on learning accounting, economics, finance along with increasing your fluency in financial modeling to break in. And there are several other sources to do that; this may work for you, if you are disciplined enough to accumulate all the skills by yourself. Even for rebranding purposes, an MBA will take you longer than a CFA. Obviously, it's also more expensive by all means, but you're building a career - not a school project. So, focus more on the returns than on the capital, energy and time you're putting in.

As someone stated up there, being able to build an investment thesis that makes sense in these economic times is much more valuable than putting three letters beside your name.

Now, I would like to take the opportunity to shit on any insights I might've given in the response so far and say this - in conclusion, it depends.

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Aug 27, 2019
Phat:

While the question is phrased negatively, I do not intend this thread to only be a way to shit on the. Positives examples of how it has benefited individuals outside of their career prospects are welcome. We are not 100% in control of our careers but we can choose what to do with knowledge that is acquired.

Me. I studied for and passed L1 and never sat for L2. The credential is definitely helpful to your career in narrow circumstances. If you aren't going to fit into that narrow circumstance, it's a complete waste of time.

Aug 27, 2019

Passed L1 then took L2 and didn't study at all just showed up so I could get my company to pay for it.

I wouldn't say I regret studying for L1 because I learned some accounting stuff but otherwise I could have spent that time prepping for Google or FB interviews my ROI would have been much better.

The golden years of AM are over and that influenced my decision to stop. As a software engineer, I didn't think it was wise to waste my time when there are better ways to spend my time advancing my career.

Edit: If you want to work in AM as an analyst it is basically a necessity. I work in a very niche analyst/software engineer hybrid role but long term the money can't compete with top tech jobs given that AM is consolidating and trying to cut costs.

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Aug 27, 2019

It's a great refresher on finance. Most folks haven't looked at a textbook since undergrad or their MBA program. They're actually super rusty on anything finance-related that doesn't come up in their daily work.

So, kind of a different perspective, but the CFA has kept me far more knowledgeable by forcing me to hit the books every few years versus peers who haven't done so in a decade.

Aug 27, 2019

I took level 1 as I was trying to move out of AM sales. My thought process at the time was that having L1 would help me pivot out of a sales role into investing/banking/research. My next move ended up being BB IBD and I guarantee you that no one interviewing me cared. I'm now at a hf and so glad I didn't continue with it. Do I regret taking L1? A little bit yeah

Aug 27, 2019

I didn't regret studying. However, I will say that you should only study the CFA curriculum if you believe you're going to get an adequate return for the amount of time invested.
If you're working as an equity and/or fixed income research analyst and have aspirations to be a portfolio manager, the CFA is almost required.
If, on the other hand, you want to pursue other avenues, your time (900+ hours) may be better spent developing a specific skill (e.g., coding, data science) or obtaining a more well-rounded degree with a strong network (MBA).

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Aug 28, 2019

Currently a L3 candidate, passed L1 and 2 over the past two years. It's definitely a lot of work, and it requires sacrifices in other areas of your life (exercise, relationships, socializing, hobbies). I don't come from a target school or have an amazing job/background (it's not bad but not tier 1). I'm fairly confident that passing L2 allowed me to get my foot in the door at a couple ER firms, passing L1 doesn't mean shit tbh.

Waiting to hear back on the final round I just did so I'll let you know if it leads to success, but to answer your question, I don't regret it.

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Aug 29, 2019

I don't regret studying for it at all--it was quite useful for me. But I don't regret not going through the exams--the CFA wouldn't really boost my income, and the only way it could possibly make me more money is if I pivoted to a position I don't want to have. I still keep the books in my office and use them from time to time.

Array

Aug 30, 2019

Wait you studied and didn't take the exams?

Sep 2, 2019

That's right. I only studied for the L1, although I've read more leisurely over some L2 and L3 stuff. I was going through a particularly stressful divorce at the time, so decided to postpone my test--and by the time that was done, it was evident that going through with the exam wouldn't have much of an impact on my career.

Array

Aug 29, 2019

no. and guy

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  • Prospective Monkey in Other
Aug 29, 2019

There are much faster ways to make your name 3 letters longer.

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Sep 2, 2019

2/2 so far. Lvl 3 next summer.
I never felt regret taking the time to read the books. Yes, I read every page of the texts for level1 and 2.
However, wasting time to practice and calculate numbers is what I most regret about. The course materials are good to widen any investment professionals' knowledge base. But calculating the bs numbers for some fields you know you will never set foot in is just a waste of time, especially the numbers can be easily calculated using excel or other tools... why still calculator and pencil???

Sep 4, 2019
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Sep 4, 2019