Taking the CFP Exam

By the time you read this blog post I will be sitting for the CFP (R) exam. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the CFP (R) certification, you can read more about it on the CFP website.

Basically, it’s a professional designation that shows you’ve achieved competency in a wide range of topics related to financial planning.

To officially get certified and be able put CFP (R) after your name you must:

  • Have a BS/BA from any accredited college/university (in any subject)
  • Take a CFP (R) approved educational program, which is a series of 8 classes in each of the major topics (tax planning, estate planning, investing, etc.)
  • Pass the CFP (R) exam
  • Have 3+ years of experience in financial planning or a related topic

Right now I have the first two requirements completed and hopefully tomorrow I’ll have the third done too.

The CFP Exam

This is a brutal exam. The pass rate varies from year to year, but in 2016 it was 64% overall and 69% for first-time test takers. It’s a HARD test.

The kicker for me is that most people who take the test have extensive experience in the industry. I took an in-person review class in LA a few weeks ago. There were 15 of us in the class and I was the ONLY one without industry experience. 2 people in the class had taken the test once before and failed.

I don’t want to fail this test.

As a result, studying and preparing for this test has largely consumed the last 3 months of my life. Here’s what a typical weekday has looked like since the end of March:

  • 5 AM – Alarm goes off. I try to turn it off within 1-2 seconds so I don’t completely wake up my wife. Spend the next 5 minutes wondering why I’m doing this to myself.
  • 5:05 AM – Get out of bed, get dressed, grab the baby monitor for our daughter (3 years old) and head downstairs to start my coffee.
  • 5:15 AM – Start drinking coffee while I study. This involves reading, taking practice tests, reviewing flash cards, etc.
  • 6:00 AM – Head to my garage to workout.
  • 7:00 AM – Wake up the kids. This involves asking my daughter what she dreamed out which always results in an answer that incorporates whatever she is currently looking at. If she’s looking outside right now then she says that last night she dreamed about trees. If she’s looking at one of her princess dolls then she says that last night she dreamed about princess fairies.
  • 7:05 AM – Help my wife get breakfast ready. Mostly this involves letting our 1-year-old “help”, which means everything takes 3x as long as it should but is 10x more fun.
  • 7:30 AM – Family breakfast
  • 8:00 AM – Cleanup breakfast dishes
  • 8:30 AM – Shower, get dressed, head to work
  • 9:00 AM – Arrive at work
  • Noon – 1:30 – Go somewhere I can study while I eat. Try to get a solid 90 minutes of studying at lunch.
  • 5:15 PM – Head home
  • 5:30 PM – Get greeted by the kids yelling “Daddy!” when I walk in the door. Heart melts.
  • 5:45 PM – Dinner
  • 6:30 PM – Do dinner dishes while my wife gives the kids a bath. Then it’s stories and bedtime for the kids.
  • 7:15 PM – Kids are in bed. Finish the dishes, pick up bewildering array of stuff strewn around the house. Wonder how two tiny humans can cause such an enormous mess.
  • 7:30 PM – More studying
  • 9:00 PM – Go to bed

As you can see, on an average day there isn’t a lot of time for anything except family, work, and around 3-4 hours of studying.

As a result, my work on this blog has suffered. For the last 3-4 months I’ve only been posting 2-3x/month. I’ve been posting our net worth and passive income updates and maybe one additional post per month. I feel like I have enough interesting things to talk about that I could post 2-3x/week, and I’m looking forward to doing just that.

So to say I’m eager to be done with this test is an understatement.

But there’s one problem – I’ve been working towards the CFP (R) designation for 3 years now. For the last 6 months I’ve been thinking about this test, and for the last 3 months I’ve been solely devoted towards taking it and passing it.

Now I have one big problem.

What’s next?

I’m one of those people who likes to be busy. I love having things to work on and projects to complete.

I know that for the first week I’ll just luxuriate in all the free time I’ll have. I’ll be able to spend my weekends doing fun stuff with the family instead of locking myself in the office to study.

After that I have a few weeks of projects around the house. Some are financial, some are miscellaneous other things.

After that…I’m not really sure.

Of course, all of this is predicated on the assumption that I pass the test tomorrow. I’m cautiously optimistic, but this is a hard test. As the instructor of our review class kept reminding us, it’s a mile wide and an inch deep. If you happen to get a few questions on a topic you don’t know enough about it’s entirely possible to fail the test.

The next post you see from me will either be a delirious celebration or gut-wrenching despair.


10 thoughts on “Taking the CFP Exam

  1. I am going to save this post and pull it out every time I get frustrated with my life. Best of all, you have dinner as a family, a rare find these days. It’s one of the most important things you can do with your kids.

    For the record, I don’t even have kids, but coming from the perspective of a kid who did sit with his family each night for dinner – does the soul good.

    1. My goal has been to arrange my study habits so that my kids don’t even know I’m taking any classes or studying for the test. I think I largely accomplished that goal on weekdays, but unfortunately on the weekends I had to take time away from doing things with them to study.

      However, I always made sure I was available to have breakfast and dinner together as a family. As you said, it does a soul good.

    1. The good news is that you don’t need any industry experience to take the test. After all, I have exactly zero experience. You just need to take the educational requirement (a series of 8 classes covering each of the major areas, like tax planning, insurance, estate planning, etc.).

      Once you have the educational requirement finished you are eligible to take the test. Once you’ve successfully passed the test you have 5 years to get the necessary experience.

  2. You only work 6 hours and 45 minutes everyday? That is amazing for your income level…

    I used to work 12+ hours a day for my job. It’s one of the reasons why I early retired.

    1. I should clarify – that’s how much time I spend at the office. I have customers all over the world, so I’m checking email and handling things early in the morning and late at night.

      It’s also much rougher when I’m traveling, as I tend to work 12+ hour days (in addition to the travel) on my international trips.

      1. If you are mostly able to follow that schedule everyday, I think that you have a dream job…

        My hours were so intense for so long that I was willing to leave millions on the table when I left.

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