Growing up, I had stereotypical childhood career ambitions every child seems to have (fireman, pilot, baseball player, astronaut, etc.). But when the time came to actually get serious and choose a career path, I struggled. I even joke that I still do not know what I will do for work for the rest of my life. I never quite understood how, as teenagers, we were supposed to just pick something and ride with it. Not to mention spend thousands of dollars on an education for a career that we have no idea if we will actually like. But that’s a conversation for a different day.
After following the path into financial advising, many opportunities for advancement arose. There are many credentials in our industry that an advisor can earn to advance their knowledge and expertise (here is a link to a short list of 10: Financial Certification List). After much consideration, I decided the CFP® certification was the credential I wanted to pursue. The CFP® certification focuses on different subject areas within financial planning including the financial planning process and principles, tax planning, income and retirement planning, estate planning, risk management and insurance, among other important topics.
In the short time I have spent in the wealth management industry, it becomes more apparent every day that our clients have needs that span well beyond asset management. Let’s face it, any financial professional can do asset management. But, can any financial professional advise on social security, college savings strategies, minimizing estate taxes, stock options, or Medicare. Every client has unique needs that, in my eyes, the CFP® certification best prepares an advisor to help clients achieve their financial goals.
Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I created an account through the CFP® Board’s website, and quickly learned how rigorous this process was going to be. There are educational requirements, including a seven-section set of classes for each subject area, ethics requirements, experience requirements, review classes, practice tests, and more. From start to finish, the process would take just under a year.
The two CFP® Practitioners we currently have in the office, Jake Heisler and Peter News, were a huge help in guiding me along the process. They recommended what classes to take, studying tips, and answered a ton of my questions I had on the material. And, let me tell you, there was a ton of material, seven textbooks of it to be exact. Classes on each of the sections met monthly, four days in a row, for 10 hours a day, with an exam on each section on the last day. Needless to say, by the last month of classes, I was overwhelmed with material. I have always considered myself a good student, but I knew this would be the hardest test I have ever taken.
After the classes ended, I had about two months of studying to prepare for the July exam. On average, I would estimate I studied 4-5 hours a day. If I had a free moment at the office, I studied. On lunch, I studied. After work, I went home and studied. Before work? You guessed it, I studied. Any free time was filled with reviewing the material, which really takes a toll on you, and the people around you. I wouldn’t say I became a total hermit, but I definitely skipped out on a lot of social occasions. If you are familiar with the movie, “A Beautiful Mind”, you will recognize this reference. But this is what my office looked like as I studied:
But, as I worked through the material, focusing on my weak points, I became more and more confident as the days past.
Finally test day came, and while I was well prepared, I was still nervous. And if you have ever taken a test at a Prometric Center, you will know that they didn’t help with the nerves. Entering those testing centers is like going through TSA. The test was six hours with 180 questions. And, I was correct, it was the hardest test I had ever taken. Results were given on the spot, and as I hit submit after the final questions, I nerve-rackingly waited for the results. After a few heart-stopping seconds, I was given my passing result!
My takeaway from the experience is this: that test was hard, and the material was extensive. If you are a financial professional looking to take this test, be prepared to work hard. If you are looking for a financial advisor to work with, look to work with a CFP® Practitioner. The CFP® certification process is rigorous, and by passing this exam, a financial professional demonstrates they are not only knowledgeable in financial planning, but they are also hard working and dedicated to helping clients achieve their financial goals. I am happy to be the third CFP® Practitioner on the Quaker Team and look forward to providing high level financial planning to our clients.