Archives for posts with tag: cfa

Every first Sunday of June, I get reminded of the fact that it’s CFA exam day.

Not too long ago, I would have been just like all the would-be candidates, fretting about what’s going to come out on the exam as well as cramming as many of the arcane formulas into my head as I possibly could.

In fact, as I write this, candidates are probably going to stream out of the exam hall at the Singapore Expo Halls 7-9, trying to grab lunch from one of the few possible options. The last two times I took the exam, the queues were so horrendous that I bought chocolate bars and a can of coffee from the 7-11.

That’s how winning is done

If there’s one thing I can offer to anyone thinking about getting the CFA Charter, it’s probably to tell you to hang in there.

Every end of semester, I show my students a clip from Rocky where he says this.



Ok, it’s suppose to be “keep moving foward”. Go watch the full thing for a dose of inspiration.


Unless you’re a hardworking, determined genius (and I personally know one) that can get all the material easily and pass all three exams on your first try, that’s exactly the mentality you need to get through all three exams. I remember taking the first exam with a lot of friends and familiar faces but by the time I got to Level 3, I was alone.

I can’t count the number of times I asked myself things like “Am I really cut out for this?” or “Is it a sign to give up?” when I got back the result that I didn’t pass. However, when you eventually do, the feeling is incredible.

As I told a friend who asked me why I kept trying, this charter was my Everest. It was my personal challenge and for many years, it remained so.

So what’s next after getting the CFA charter?

Personally, not much has changed.

I’m not the best person to answer this because I’ve never even worked in finance. I guess a certain level of recognition comes with it which is nice but more importantly, on an intellectual level, the subscription to the Financial Analyst Journal has been awesome and the events organised┬áby CFA Institute Singapore have been great (if only I had the time to attend more of them).

If you want to work in finance, your best bet is to start there and get your CFA charter after. No one’s going to hire you if you have a CFA charter but lacking in relevant work experience – you would be overqualified for entry level positions even if you were willing to take a pay cut and you would be underqualified for mid-level positions.

I guess what’s more important is the content I learned from studying for the exams. If not for the exams, I doubt I would have heard about MM’s Dividend Irrelevance Theory, learned how to calculate the value and payoff of swaps and other derivatives (which is nice to know but a nightmare to work out in an exam) as well as other pretty interesting stuff.

To all candidates, do your best!


It’s finally over. I’ve finally climbed my Everest. All three of the CFA exams over and done with. I’ll never have to spend a whole day sitting at a desk in the middle of a huge hall at the Singapore Expo and finish two papers that have a maximum duration of three hours each.

The journey hasn’t been easy though- I’m not the smartest fellow in the room nor the most disciplined. I had to take the papers a total of seven times (L1 twice, L2 thrice and L3 twice) which puts me squarely in the average camp because that’s roughly the probability of passing each level in any given year.

I seriously thought of giving up many times. After all, I’m not working in finance where the designation would probably lend some weight towards a better posting or a job opening and knowledge is knowledge, what matters most is how we use it and not whether we can pass a written exam. Make no mistake, the knowledge gained from studying the CFA ┬ásyllabus is extremely useful, I learnt a lot but what I mean is that how that knowledge is put to use is more important than passing the exam and getting the credentials.

However, I remember telling a close friend that this is my Everest- a challenge I set for myself and one that I need to see through no matter what. It really felt good to get the positive news and I think it’s affirmation that someone average like myself can do above-average things too.

That’s going to be my reminder for any future challenges that seem to big to overcome- hang in there and do your best. You may stumble and you may fall but you must never give up.

In the words of the fictional hero that I let my students listen to every semester, “It ain’t about how hard you can hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. That’s how winning it done!”

If I can do it, you can do it too.

Finally scored a minor victory- I passed the CFA level 2 exam.

Considering that you hear stories about how some people pass all three exams on their first try (I personally know one person who did it), It’s a little embarrassing that it was my third attempt but I’m glad I finally cleared it. I’m not sure if I would have the mental stamina to do it a fourth time so I’m really glad I don’t have to think about that now.

Some of my friends might be wondering why I’m still trying for the CFA. After all, I’m not currently working in the finance industry and the CFA charter has little value in terms of career progression outside the financial industry.

It may sound silly but I guess you could say it’s my Everest. I have to admit that determination is not one of my key attributes. Many times when I’m stuck in a rut, I think about quitting. Maybe it’s because I made a silent promise to myself that this is one thing I won’t quit so no matter what, I’m going to pass all three exams.

My idea of retirement is also to manage money for family and friends so this would come in useful. After all, Singaporeans are woefully underinvested for retirement and even among my family and friends, financial planning is somewhat haphazard. My dream would be to manage my own monies alongside theirs so that finances won’t be an issue for the rest of their lives.*

Next year, level 3!

*Of course no one person can help another if one chooses to live beyond their means. Money not being an issue refers to being able to put food on the table, not worry about medical bills, having a roof over one’s head, enjoying simple pleasures in life, being able to afford your children’s education and being able to travel once in a while. If one chooses to blow money on supercars, mansions and substitute water for fine champagne, I’m not sure if that person is worth helping in the first place.