Using Your CFA Program Skills in Sin City

Let’s face it: studying for the CFA Program exam isn’t the most fun thing in the world.

At times, you want to pull your hair out. At other times, the boredom kicks in. And then there are the inevitable moments of stress, despondency, and apprehension in the weeks and days before the exam. It is a roller coaster ride of emotions and it can be difficult to handle.

When you’re in the thick of your exam preparation, it may be difficult to see how topics like price-to-earnings ratios and statements of cash flows can be used outside of the CFA exam—or even the financial services industry. Yet these skills can be your competitive advantage in certain situations—including trips to several distinct locations.

One of those locations is Las Vegas.

Whether you decide to travel to Las Vegas after (or even before) exam day, you will be in a unique position compared to other tourists. While you have been preparing for one of the most difficult exams in your life, you have simultaneously been preparing for the trip of a lifetime in Las Vegas. From walking the casino floors to attending a nightclub or dayclub, your CFA training has given you some key advantages that you can leverage throughout your vacation.

Don’t believe us? Let us explain.

Here are several ways how studying for the CFA exam can help you have a spectacular time in Sin City.

How Your CFA Program Prep Can Help You Own Las Vegas

Let’s start with gambling. In recent years, restaurants and clubbing have overtaken gambling as the primary reason that adults visit Las Vegas. That said, Las Vegas is still known as the gaming capital of the United States. When you visit the city, you are going to feel the energy surrounding a craps table or the lights and sounds of a nearby slot machine. It is nearly impossible to ignore.

Whether you have never gambled before or are a gambling pro, your preparation for the CFA Program will give you an edge over other gamblers. How so?

Let’s start with risk management. Acting as a fiduciary to your own portfolio, so to speak, you will intuitively understand investment risk and risk tolerance. You will know that you should only gamble an amount that you are comfortable losing in its entirety. If you decide to proceed, you are more likely to gravitate toward the games that minimize the house advantage and maximize your advantage—namely blackjack and craps. Understanding basic statistics and probabilities (like doubling down in blackjack when the dealer is showing a six) will increase your odds of success compared to the standard Vegas tourist. Whether your profits or losses are due to skill or sheer luck, your CFA Program training will help you understand that gaming is more based on logic and statistics than emotion and feelings about the next card in the deck.

Another important tool is diversification—both in your bets and your expected utility (i.e., fun). Sports or horse betting can be a fun way to take a more passive approach to your gaming experience, as compared to being more active at a table. Ultimately, you can use sports or horse betting to generate alpha by leveraging your knowledge to make smart, calculated wagers. If you place a parlay bet, you will also inherently recognize the value of hedging in order to lock in gains.

Next, you can use your CFA Program studies to make one of the most important decisions on your trip—your hotel. Specifically here, we are looking at the relationship between price and value. Yes, you can choose to stay in one of the premier hotels on the Las Vegas Strip, like the Aria, Cosmopolitan, or the Wynn. Or you can explore hotels off of the Strip. That said, are you really getting enough value for the price that you are paying?

Your CFA Program training will help you answer this question. It will help you understand some of the factors that influence the price, including location, amenities, and even the time of year that you take your vacation. If you follow markets, you may even try to look into a hotel’s financial statements (like Wynn, MGM Resorts, Caesars Entertainment or Las Vegas Sands) to determine if they are struggling to fill their rooms. If so, you may be able to receive a significant discount for your visit—even at a “premium” resort.

On to the next important decision: the restaurants that you visit. As stated above, Las Vegas has become more known for its world-class restaurants. If you are looking for an outstanding restaurant with any type of cuisine, you are sure to find it.

That said, if you are traveling with a large group of people, there may be some debates about where to eat. Some may want to go to the buffet while others will want to go to a premium restaurant in the Bellagio. In this situation, you can rely on your CFA Program training to identify and satisfy your “investors’” (i.e., your friend’s) needs. When communicating with your friends, explain the opportunities and risks of each option. Analyze the options like you would a potential investment. By doing this, you will build authority and will help the group reach the most rational, well thought out conclusion.

Finally, let’s talk about clubbing. Whether you choose to go clubbing at XS, Marquee, or any other club in Las Vegas, you can use your CFA Program studies to have a great time. For instance, let’s talk about cash flow and profits. While you may experience a cash flow crunch when paying for $20 drinks, you may book higher “profits” due to the fun you have on the dance floor or the people that you meet.

Along with this, your CFA Program training will help you in that it provides a large amount of ethics training. The ethical guidelines that you would apply to employers, prospective clients, and co-workers in the financial industry can be applied to having a great time in Las Vegas. Simply put, high ethical standards are paramount here. You need to express professionalism, respect, and integrity in any situation that you encounter. Lucky for you, you have been trained in these ethical standards and should have no problem applying them at the bar or on the dance floor.

You Have More Training Than You Think

Yes, becoming a CFA charterholder will provide a significant number of benefits for you and your career. It can help you accomplish many of your career goals. Yet there are other hidden benefits to studying for the CFA Program exam—one of them being the implicit training that you receive to have a great time in Las Vegas.

Yes, it may not seem like your CFA Program exam training can be used in other ways. That said, we hope to have convinced you that yes, you can use your studies in a different, fun way. While we cannot promise that you will get filthy rich or will find your future spouse in Vegas, we can guarantee that your CFA Program training will help you have a great time—or at least avoid a Hangover-like experience. Be safe, have fun, and good luck!

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