It’s Been Four Days and What Have You Learnt About the CFA

by Johnny Debacle

The recovery period for an anal fissure is roughly the same duration as the recovery period for taking the CFA Exam (any level). And I do mean roughly. I expect those of you who took one of the three levels are still relearning what certain sensations feel like. The taste of food, the liquid frothy texture of beer, the loving embrace of a stripper and the sisyphean rock that is your employment (keep pushing, you’re almost there, no really, keep going). These sensations are all new again, and you are well on your way to readjustment into life.

For those 65% of you who failed Level I last weekend, I futurely feel sorry for how much of your life you poured down this horrible Chartered drain. For those 50% of you who failed Level II, I used a time machine to send you well-wishing telegrams exhorting you to “Keep your chin up and next time, don’t be such a tard.” And for those 30-50% of you who neglected to pass Level III, I took a worm hole, dropped into your apartment and left a lifesize model of a failure of the last mile — when your opponent is weak, it’s incumbent upon you to go for the throat. CFAs have to be earnt. Then they have to be acknowledged to have minimal value in the real world and to have been a horrible call on the part of the newly minted CFAer.

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  1. Dash22
    June 11th, 2009 | 1:30 am
  2. TB
    June 11th, 2009 | 10:35 am

    I think it was a great privlege to take the exam this year, when the CFA itself had realised that 90%+ of the content is entirely useless (except in a “what are the real suckers thinking right now” sense).

    My favourite parts from the Level III course this year were:

    standard deviation not being a suitable risk measure for emerging markets (because they alone are not normally distributed);

    the market outlook (developed in mid-2007) where a return of 18% in the next year was “not unrealistic”, but a return of -50% was “highly unlikely” and this case should be ignored;

    any mention of banks, which was generally followed by references to how safe and defensive they are;

    the entire chapter on the Brics, where it just extrapolated their growth in 2000-2006 for the next 50 years;

    the behavioral chapters on the implicit uselessness of forecasting, which preceeded the lengthy chapters on forecasting

    the chapter on the impact of pension schemes on companies (bizzarely written like a speculative academic paper), which took the simple idea “more risk in the pension scheme increases the risk of the company” and turned it into a multi-page formula-ridden journey through a wonderland where people think the various forms of beta mean something.

    Memories, wispy watercolored memories…

  3. Pleb
    June 11th, 2009 | 11:14 am

    Yeah, well, at least they don’t steal your soul like the NYS Bar Examiners did with mine. I still remember them handing it to a senior partner at my firm, who started chewing on it immediately. It was pretty tough but he ate the whole thing before I’d been at the firm for two months.

    Oh well. At least there was nothing left for the first wife’s divorce attorney to rip out.

  4. June 11th, 2009 | 11:22 am

    “the behavioral chapters on the implicit uselessness of forecasting, which preceded the lengthy chapters on forecasting”

    This was my favorite part. The entire behavioral part was amazing in the context of studying, and when taken together, the behavioral stuff would lead to a paralytic investor, which is itself some sort of behavorial bias.

    Pleb, quit your whining, no lawyer needs a soul anyways.

  5. maggie
    June 11th, 2009 | 1:32 pm

    In Hong Kong at least, fresh graduates are trashing CFA exams and thousands of them take it each year. Ditto in China. It has become as unremarkable as wearing a business suit to work.

  6. maggie
    June 11th, 2009 | 1:38 pm

    BTW, I forgot: my next door neighbour’s son who works in the Royal Bank of Canada as wealth planner or somesuch TOLD me this: there are CFAs working as tellers in his bank.

  7. June 11th, 2009 | 1:42 pm

    Not believable considering you need 4 years of work experience to be a CFA…And what does trashing mean in this context?

  8. Pleb
    June 11th, 2009 | 2:27 pm

    >>>Pleb, quit your whining, no lawyer needs a soul anyways

    Yeah, we don’t need 7 Series BMW’s either, but we damn sure like to collect ’em. Now about last month’s billing statement…

  9. June 11th, 2009 | 11:32 pm

    I haven’t taken the CFA tests, but from what I can tell they’d be easiest to start asap after undergrad (assuming Finance undergrad), anyone?

  10. MGW
    June 12th, 2009 | 10:40 am

    Anal_yst: Assuming that your undergrad major was something along the lines of Accounting or Finance, then yes, it makes sense to start as soon as possible after undergrad. Very few things on the test are actually used in most finance jobs (at least in my job), so working before taking the tests accomplishes nothing other than helping you forget things.

  11. the inscrutable chicken
    June 12th, 2009 | 1:11 pm

    it’s “earned”, not “earnt” – not that it will have any value in the real world for the next 5 year.

  12. June 12th, 2009 | 1:20 pm
  13. June 12th, 2009 | 1:21 pm


    “entirely acceptable alternative form of the simple past and past participle earned. Still considered to be incorrect by many, who are largely unaware of the historical development of the English language.”

    Who is basking in whose ignorance now? KNOWLEDGE IS POWER.

  14. June 12th, 2009 | 4:43 pm

    @MGW ftw! Honestly, just going over the cfa “curriculum” I couldn’t help but notice how much I’ve forgotten/don’t care to remember

  15. MGW
    June 14th, 2009 | 6:39 pm

    I should also mention that working before taking the tests makes you realize how pointless they are, therefore making you less likely to study and pass.

    If, by some miracle, you should pass a few levels, by the time you take level 3, you will have realized it is a complete waste of your time, but will still waste $1000 on it since you already spent $2000 on the first two levels.

    This is what is known as a sunk cost, and my taking sunk costs into account shows how thoroughly I’ve mastered the CFA curriculum.