CFP Personal Financial Advisor licensing study

Studying for the CFP® exam? Don’t run out of gas

About 10 years ago, before ‘distance-until-empty’ technology was standard in vehicles, I had a couple of friends who often played the ‘gas light’ game. The rules of the game are simple: Reset your vehicle’s tripmeter once your gas light goes on, and see how many miles you can go without running out of gas. Because MPG can vary for each vehicle, my friends never played against each other, but rather the game was always them vs. their car. Interestingly, there’s no way to win the ‘gas light’ game. Either you eventually go to the gas station to refuel, or you run out of gas and lose the game. Consequences of losing the game included calling a loved one, explaining why you ran out of gas, and then humbly asking for their help.

Studying for the CFP® exam is a lot like playing the gas light game. Each study module is its own challenge where you must push yourself to the limit and increase your knowledge, but you must know when to give yourself a break and refuel. You must understand that it is a lot like planning for a wedding, not a toddler’s birthday party, and the inability to pace yourself appropriately can cause one to get burnt out and ‘lose the game’.

Another key similarity between studying for the CFP® exam and the gas light game: There is no way to win the game. “What?! Don’t I get credit for passing the exam?!” Well, yes, but that’s not the end. If you’re like me, it is more of an enabler towards the ultimate goal: Helping people who need help. What matters most is what you do with the knowledge and how you use it to positively impact people’s lives, and there is no end to that, but rather it can be a life-long calling.

CFP Personal Financial Advisor licensing study

So, I bet you can guess what my motivation was for wanting to pass the CFP® exam. What is your motivation? What is the very specific, extremely tangible reason why you yearn to be a CFP® Professional? I strongly believe that you must have a confident, consistent answer to that question, because you’ll need that ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ amidst your long study sessions. What else might you need? Here are a few things for you to consider:

Leverage a professional education provider and trust their process. At Vanguard, we have a program where we partner with a professional education provider, and they have a myriad of resources that improve one’s ability to be successful. If your company does not have a formal partnership established, do some research and ask for corporate sponsorship through a provider of your choice.

Know your learning style and study habits. I cannot stress enough that this is, in my opinion, the most critical piece of one’s study strategy. You must know your learning style and what works for you. This allows you to be efficient and spend your time learning how you learn best. For me, self-study is key, and a classroom environment isn’t as effective. For you, it is likely something different. Adjust your learning style as appropriate.

Set a study schedule and get buy-in from your support system. I have five young kids. NOTHING is getting accomplished at home. For me, study time started in the office at 6:00am each weekday before my work day began. Whatever it is for you, make sure those supporting you during this journey, both at home and at work, know your study schedule and agree to help hold you accountable to it.

Final encouragement: If I can do it, anyone can do it. I hadn’t studied for a formal exam in over 10 years, and my fifth child was born a month and a half before exam day. That means my study skills were rusty, and I wasn’t getting enough sleep when I needed it the most. You’ll likely have your own challenges, but if you hold on to that motivational reason and persevere, you’ll be well on your way to positively impacting people lives. Just don’t run out of gas.

-Matthew B.

CFP Personal Financial Advisor licensing study

Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, in the U.S., which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board’s initial and ongoing certification requirements.

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