I am proctoring a mock exam as I write this and see one of the often overlooked and underappreciated aspects of the CFA. These exams are truly the great equalizer!
Some of the candidates pulled up in BMWs and Lexus, pulling off their designer sunglasses before entering the building.
Others pulled into the parking lot in things that may once have been considered cars, but are now a loose compilation of spare parts.
Whatever your economic situation in life, you can’t BUY the charter.
While it doesn’t hurt to have a fair amount of brains, I’ve seen the brightest and most adept students fail the exam.
I’ve also seen people pass the exam who I was surprised could figure out how to walk and chew gum at the same time. There are no free rides on the exam because of your natural intellect. It is a tough 18 hours of testing and everyone needs to put in the time studying. As long as you treat the curriculum with respect and work hard, you will earn your charter.
I consider myself a pretty lucky guy. I was not born wealthy and I don’t have a Clooney-esque chin, but I was born in a country with a high standard of living and enough opportunities that most people take them for granted. Others are not as fortunate, having to face political, social, or economic hardship on a daily basis. The CFA exams do not care about this. My citizenship or relative ease of life does not put me on the ‘short-list’ of charterholders. The only bouncer at the velvet-roped door of the CFA is the exams, and he’ll only let you through with a passing score!
Having those three little letters after your name will not ensure an easy life for the rest of your career. You may even find yourself working longer hours because of a higher level of responsibility. The charter is not like winning a lottery ticket, you will still have to work for your money. What you will get from the charter however is the knowledge that you accomplished something that very few are able to do, less than one percent of all financial professionals, and that you did it on a fair and even playing field. You will know that your hard work and perseverance, more than anything else in life, earned the charter and that no one can take it away (given you conduct yourself in an ethical manner and maintain dues/conduct statement each year).
Above all the injustice, unfairness and just plain crap luck in life there is one thing that is fair. It cannot be won or bought and you cannot talk yourself into its graces. It is the great equalizer for financial professionals. Good luck on your CFA exams!
‘til next time, happy studyin’
Joseph Hogue, CFA