Author Topic: Pursue a CFA, or hang it up?  (Read 1820 times)

Milizard

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Pursue a CFA, or hang it up?
« on: October 16, 2018, 06:54:50 PM »
Would passing the first level of the CFA exam get my foot in the door for a job as a financial analyst?  I do not have the personality for sales, at all.  I would just love something back office, corporate or otherwise. I'm mid-40's, completed a BBA in Finance, but had to take a few years off to help my mother as she was dying.  Prior to that, I worked in an accounting niche for 15 years.  After my mom passed, I've applied to all kinds of accounting and finance jobs, had a handful of interviews, but nothing.  (Well, one crappy offer a year ago while DM was still alive.  Hindsight is 20:20, I suppose.)  I am confident that I can pass the test (I did fantastic on the BAT, which most people don't have a clue about), but I don't want to continue wasting time and money if it's not going to get me anywhere.  I can wait yet another 6 months to try for a scholarship, but I'm not getting any younger, so maybe I really can't wait, if you KWIM.

The current stash and DH's income is not quite sufficient for the long-term  The other employment option is to go into retail, I guess.  I'm just afraid that would render my hard-earned education absolutely and completely useless.

Little Aussie Battler

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Re: Pursue a CFA, or hang it up?
« Reply #1 on: October 16, 2018, 07:48:11 PM »
At your age, I think you run the very real risk of age discrimination when looking to change careers. I don't know if the CFA would help offset that, particularly if it's only Level 1.

Also, financial analyst is a very broad category - are you sure that the specific roles you are interested in really benefit from the CFA qualification?

Is there an option to go back to accounting?

Milizard

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Re: Pursue a CFA, or hang it up?
« Reply #2 on: October 16, 2018, 08:00:14 PM »
At your age, I think you run the very real risk of age discrimination when looking to change careers. I don't know if the CFA would help offset that, particularly if it's only Level 1.

Also, financial analyst is a very broad category - are you sure that the specific roles you are interested in really benefit from the CFA qualification?

Is there an option to go back to accounting?

I've been trying to get back into accounting as well.  My experience was in a very small niche.  I applied for a few similar roles, some also in AR, but much simpler, some tangential, entry level, etc.  I thought about going for a Master's in Accounting &/or CPA, but that is much more $$ and time involved.  I would do data entry even, as long as it paid enough to justify the cost of the commute.  Collections, I just can't do.  I'd rather go into retail.

mozar

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Re: Pursue a CFA, or hang it up?
« Reply #3 on: October 16, 2018, 08:31:33 PM »
If you're willing to be an entrepeneur you can be a remote bookkeeper. You'll have to figure out the marketing yourself (upwork, craigslist, etc). Where I live there are always tons of people hiring for AR etc but I live in a major metro area. How about taxes? It's pretty easy to join a franchise for a season then get the certification. I also recommend taking the CPA exam if you are good at tests. Or even a CFP if that interests you.

Milizard

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Re: Pursue a CFA, or hang it up?
« Reply #4 on: October 17, 2018, 08:06:19 AM »
If you're willing to be an entrepeneur you can be a remote bookkeeper. You'll have to figure out the marketing yourself (upwork, craigslist, etc). Where I live there are always tons of people hiring for AR etc but I live in a major metro area. How about taxes? It's pretty easy to join a franchise for a season then get the certification. I also recommend taking the CPA exam if you are good at tests. Or even a CFP if that interests you.
Even if I wanted to,  I don't have the full charge bookkeeping experience,  so it would be a difficult sell.  As I mentioned,  going for a CPA is a possibility,  but requires 4 or 5 more accounting classes,  while the CFA does not. I have a degree in finance already, while I took additional accounting classes, I didn't take all the ones needed in order to sit for CPA exam yet.  CFPs are more on the sell side of things. I love the idea of helping people, but I'm quite introverted, so find dealing with lots of people every day quite challenging.  I may be able to handle a part time schedule of it for tax season. That's a good idea.

danakado

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Re: Pursue a CFA, or hang it up?
« Reply #5 on: October 17, 2018, 08:39:33 AM »
I would think you could learn full charge bookkeeping responsibilities without any additional paid classroom training.  With your prior experience and even contemplating the CPA route you must have a solid background in accounting, no?  I would think the combination of youtube and library books could get you there.  To be marketable you would likely need QuickBooks certification which you would have to pay for.  Personally I"m not sure I see the value of a CFA in your situation.  I would explore more accounting work.  Good luck.  P.S. I'm a CPA but work in a Finance role currently. 

FrugalFisherman10

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Re: Pursue a CFA, or hang it up?
« Reply #6 on: October 17, 2018, 08:50:55 AM »
If you're looking for back office/corporate, I would think CPA would actually be more beneficial/a better fit than a CFA. While the CFA may be more impressive to some initially, it wouldn't be as applicable to that type of work.   CFA deals alot with investments. If someone hired you into FP&A when you have a CFA, they may be wondering why you weren't involved in/more interested in being on the investments side at an investment firm.

Like you said though, CPA takes more school, tuition, time, at this point.
CFA you can just sit for it.

Soooo...hmm..yeah maybe passing level 1 would be a good 'indicator' to have something recent on your resume that shows you're:
A) smart and
B) serious about getting back in the workforce?

A finance/accounting recruiter would likely be better to comment on whether or not it legitimately sends that message or not. Do you know any of those? If so I would reach out to them.

Source: I work in Corporate FP&A at a large asset manager and have my CPA


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Milizard

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Re: Pursue a CFA, or hang it up?
« Reply #7 on: October 17, 2018, 09:19:19 AM »
If you're looking for back office/corporate, I would think CPA would actually be more beneficial/a better fit than a CFA. While the CFA may be more impressive to some initially, it wouldn't be as applicable to that type of work.   CFA deals alot with investments. If someone hired you into FP&A when you have a CFA, they may be wondering why you weren't involved in/more interested in being on the investments side at an investment firm.

Like you said though, CPA takes more school, tuition, time, at this point.
CFA you can just sit for it.

Soooo...hmm..yeah maybe passing level 1 would be a good 'indicator' to have something recent on your resume that shows you're:
A) smart and
B) serious about getting back in the workforce?

A finance/accounting recruiter would likely be better to comment on whether or not it legitimately sends that message or not. Do you know any of those? If so I would reach out to them.

Source: I work in Corporate FP&A at a large asset manager and have my CPA


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I am actually more interested in investments, but more interested in actually being employed. If I'm going to run into too much age and/or sex discrimination to get hired on the buy side, or if there just aren't enough opportunities for those jobs in my area, then I'd like to pursue whatever avenue that I can get in that suits my personality and uses my brain.
I've worked with a couple different recruiters, and they haven't been terribly helpful, to be honest. Apparently, the 5 year gap in my resume is a huge obstacle. I mentioned I'd love to get into cost accounting as well, but they tell me I need cost accounting experience to get any of those jobs. I applied for entry level jobs, fully expecting entry level pay, but have had no luck there.

mozar

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Re: Pursue a CFA, or hang it up?
« Reply #8 on: October 17, 2018, 09:38:23 AM »
I think that you are going to have to get some more training or classes either way so I think you should pick something and go in that direction.
I switched from retail to accounting by getting a masters degree in accounting. I graduated the same month that lehman brothers collapsed in 2008 and took the only job i was offered. I don't recommend the masters route as the cpa is a lot more valuable.
In your state is it possible to take the cpa tests without finishing the classes? You can in my state. You could also take the extra accounting classes cheaply through a community college. I know of a couple of people who took classes at a community college and passed two of the cpa tests and got jobs as full time federal auditors.
Do you have any friends with a business you can do cost accounting for? Get them to give you ten bucks and boom you've got cost accounting experience. There is always a way.
Don't let the needing experience line bother you. What recruiters really want to know is if you have picked a certain direction and are sticking with it.

pbkmaine

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Re: Pursue a CFA, or hang it up?
« Reply #9 on: October 17, 2018, 10:29:56 AM »
https://www.imanet.org/cma-certification?ssopc=1

Join a local professional organization at the student level. This will give you the opportunity to interact with those who have the certifications. You can talk to them and find out what’s available in your geographic area. You may even get hooked up with a job. It’s how I got my first job as a financial planner. Networking is absolutely key.

The link above is to the Certified Management Accountant certification, but you should also look at your state CPA society or the CFA Institute.

https://www.cfainstitute.org

Milizard

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Re: Pursue a CFA, or hang it up?
« Reply #10 on: October 17, 2018, 10:32:36 AM »
I would think you could learn full charge bookkeeping responsibilities without any additional paid classroom training.  With your prior experience and even contemplating the CPA route you must have a solid background in accounting, no?  I would think the combination of youtube and library books could get you there.  To be marketable you would likely need QuickBooks certification which you would have to pay for.  Personally I"m not sure I see the value of a CFA in your situation.  I would explore more accounting work.  Good luck.  P.S. I'm a CPA but work in a Finance role currently.
My prior work was all on the billing, AR side.  I had never heard of the Quickbooks certification, though I took a Quickbooks class a few years ago.  I'll look into it.  Thanks.

Milizard

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Re: Pursue a CFA, or hang it up?
« Reply #11 on: October 17, 2018, 10:37:16 AM »
I think that you are going to have to get some more training or classes either way so I think you should pick something and go in that direction.
I switched from retail to accounting by getting a masters degree in accounting. I graduated the same month that lehman brothers collapsed in 2008 and took the only job i was offered. I don't recommend the masters route as the cpa is a lot more valuable.
In your state is it possible to take the cpa tests without finishing the classes? You can in my state. You could also take the extra accounting classes cheaply through a community college. I know of a couple of people who took classes at a community college and passed two of the cpa tests and got jobs as full time federal auditors.
Do you have any friends with a business you can do cost accounting for? Get them to give you ten bucks and boom you've got cost accounting experience. There is always a way.
Don't let the needing experience line bother you. What recruiters really want to know is if you have picked a certain direction and are sticking with it.
That's what I thought I did when I went back for the degree in Finance.  I understand what you're saying, but I was trying to get into financial analysis, and trying to figure out some way to get there. People are telling me to get a CPA, which is not a direct path to this job, but I do see that it is preferred to have one in job postings.  It seems that I wasted my time and money going the Finance route in the first place.

ETA:  I forget to answer your other question.  It looks like I need 4 or 5 more classes before I could even sit for the exam.  I went over some of this with my last accounting professor several years ago.  He suggested that I pursue an MBA, and just take the additional accounting classes on top of it to get the CPA.  My university is good, but isn't top tier, so I question how much good that would do. 
« Last Edit: October 17, 2018, 11:49:15 AM by Milizard »

Milizard

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Re: Pursue a CFA, or hang it up?
« Reply #12 on: October 17, 2018, 10:41:11 AM »
https://www.imanet.org/cma-certification?ssopc=1

Join a local professional organization at the student level. This will give you the opportunity to interact with those who have the certifications. You can talk to them and find out whatís available in your geographic area. You may even get hooked up with a job. Itís how I got my first job as a financial planner. Networking is absolutely key.

The link above is to the Certified Management Accountant certification, but you should also look at your state CPA society or the CFA Institute.

https://www.cfainstitute.org
Thanks for the info. Can I join as a student if I'm not a student any more?

pbkmaine

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Re: Pursue a CFA, or hang it up?
« Reply #13 on: October 17, 2018, 01:10:19 PM »
You are a potential student, aren’t you?


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Milizard

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Re: Pursue a CFA, or hang it up?
« Reply #14 on: October 17, 2018, 01:25:43 PM »
You are a potential student, arenít you?


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Yes, but not a current student, and not until January at the very earliest.  It seems like a bit of a catch-22 with trying to determine a path forward.  Even classes at my local community college run about $1000 each.  Well, now that I think about it, Ill look to see if any 1 credit courses start mid-semester.

Doubleh

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Re: Pursue a CFA, or hang it up?
« Reply #15 on: October 17, 2018, 01:49:22 PM »
I'd caution against thinking of the CFA as any l kind of easy route because of no prerequisite classes. I am qualified as a chartered accountant in UK - roughly equivalent to CPA, and work in banking with people who are pretty much all qualified accountants. I've seen more smart and well educated people work really hard and still struggle with CFA than anything else - with perhaps the exception of actuarial exams. It can be done of course but it's no easy option!

Additionally my perception may be skewed from banking but the kind of roles that want to hire CFA tend to be the sexy jobs ie lots of people want to do them so ultra competitive and you'll be expected to be really keen, dedicated and hard working. Not sure how great a fit that is likely to be for someone with young kids who places a premium on time spent with then as you presumably do given your time away from the workforce. I don't mean that in any sexist way - it's certainly not the sort of job I'd be looking for as a father of young kids I want to be able to see!

Have you thought of trying for temp jobs in accounting, book keeping or credit control? Or even doing some volunteering to get over the perception of having been out of the workforce?

Milizard

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Re: Pursue a CFA, or hang it up?
« Reply #16 on: October 17, 2018, 02:15:32 PM »
I'd caution against thinking of the CFA as any l kind of easy route because of no prerequisite classes. I am qualified as a chartered accountant in UK - roughly equivalent to CPA, and work in banking with people who are pretty much all qualified accountants. I've seen more smart and well educated people work really hard and still struggle with CFA than anything else - with perhaps the exception of actuarial exams. It can be done of course but it's no easy option!

Additionally my perception may be skewed from banking but the kind of roles that want to hire CFA tend to be the sexy jobs ie lots of people want to do them so ultra competitive and you'll be expected to be really keen, dedicated and hard working. Not sure how great a fit that is likely to be for someone with young kids who places a premium on time spent with then as you presumably do given your time away from the workforce. I don't mean that in any sexist way - it's certainly not the sort of job I'd be looking for as a father of young kids I want to be able to see!

Have you thought of trying for temp jobs in accounting, book keeping or credit control? Or even doing some volunteering to get over the perception of having been out of the workforce?
I don't think of it as an easy test at all, but I've already taken finance classes, and have over 7 months to study for the exam, plus the self study would be tuition free.  The CPA involves 5 more graduate level classes, then studying for the exam on top of that.
My time away from the workforce was due primarily to my mother's health, but I challenge anyone to work full time, plus care for an ill elderly relative that speaks very poor English, plus take care of an infant and toddler at home.  I am not cut out to be a SAHM, but my DH didn't speak my mother's native tongue, so it was up to me.

I have been trying to get temp jobs. Pretty much any job that could improve my resume, actually.  I already feel like I wasted my time and money on my Finance degree, which I pursued in order to be more attractive to potential employers.  I don't want to continue to make the same mistake again.

Doubleh

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Re: Pursue a CFA, or hang it up?
« Reply #17 on: October 17, 2018, 02:27:50 PM »
I do hope it didn't sound like I was implying any criticism of your taking time out of your career - I've done that twice myself for far less worthy reasons - and after all isn't that pretty much the whole point of this site?

If the key concern is something you can self study with no prescribed clases have you looked at IRS Enrolled Agent as an alternative to CPA if you're thinking of doing tax seasonal work?

pbkmaine

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Re: Pursue a CFA, or hang it up?
« Reply #18 on: October 17, 2018, 03:00:13 PM »
You are a potential student, aren’t you?


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Yes, but not a current student, and not until January at the very earliest.  It seems like a bit of a catch-22 with trying to determine a path forward.  Even classes at my local community college run about $1000 each.  Well, now that I think about it, Ill look to see if any 1 credit courses start mid-semester.

They won’t ask for a transcript. You are interested in the profession and in potentially taking certification exams. That would generally qualify you for student membership, though individual chapter requirements might vary. Go to the meetings! It’s the best way to find out about the profession, meet people and network. I cannot emphasize this enough.

Milizard

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Re: Pursue a CFA, or hang it up?
« Reply #19 on: October 17, 2018, 03:03:51 PM »
I do hope it didn't sound like I was implying any criticism of your taking time out of your career - I've done that twice myself for far less worthy reasons - and after all isn't that pretty much the whole point of this site?

If the key concern is something you can self study with no prescribed clases have you looked at IRS Enrolled Agent as an alternative to CPA if you're thinking of doing tax seasonal work?

No, I'm sorry--you're fine.  You just stoked my feelings of frustration over everything I've had to deal with these last few years.  No, I haven't considered the IRS enrolled agent at all.  That's an interesting thought.  I haven't taken any tax classes yet, though, unless you count a payroll class.  I do appreciate all the new ideas you and others are presenting me, though.  I had been figuratively hitting my head against a wall trying to proceed along one path.  My idea about the CFA was one I hadn't considered, and now I have several more, so I guess that's good, I think.

Milizard

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Re: Pursue a CFA, or hang it up?
« Reply #20 on: October 17, 2018, 03:04:51 PM »
You are a potential student, arenít you?


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Yes, but not a current student, and not until January at the very earliest.  It seems like a bit of a catch-22 with trying to determine a path forward.  Even classes at my local community college run about $1000 each.  Well, now that I think about it, Ill look to see if any 1 credit courses start mid-semester.

They wonít ask for a transcript. You are interested in the profession and in potentially taking certification exams. That would generally qualify you for student membership, though individual chapter requirements might vary. Go to the meetings! Itís the best way to find out about the profession, meet people and network. I cannot emphasize this enough.

Oh, that's really good to learn!  Thanks for the information!

mozar

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Re: Pursue a CFA, or hang it up?
« Reply #21 on: October 17, 2018, 03:26:19 PM »
Another option is to start your own investment firm. All you need is to pass the series 65 test to get started. If you manage the investments in your family you can say you manage x amount in investments. But that is sales as well.

FrugalFisherman10

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Re: Pursue a CFA, or hang it up?
« Reply #22 on: October 19, 2018, 04:35:35 PM »
I think to get over the 5 year gap thing then going the temp/contractor route is going to likely be necessary, and at the very minimum helpful. So yes, I second the temp/contractor idea you mentioned.

 We have several people at my company now in accounting and finance that are temps who took time off work at some time or another. One of them did well in his position and ended up interviewing and getting a Senior Manager role that came available (which is probably the most ideal outcome).

FatFI2025

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Re: Pursue a CFA, or hang it up?
« Reply #23 on: October 20, 2018, 09:08:00 AM »
I'll agree with all the other posters here that a CFA would be a waste of time for you. Here's the plan I would execute in your shoes: 1) finish enrolled agent by year end, 2) in January sign-up to do tax prep, preferably for a firm that can give you at least part-time work year around; 3) start your CPA courses, 4) finish courses and CPA exams by year end. At the back end you will be current with work experience and command an hourly wage around $50/hour. Just one guy's opinion from the interwebs. Good luck!

pbkmaine

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Re: Pursue a CFA, or hang it up?
« Reply #24 on: October 20, 2018, 03:09:13 PM »
I do hope it didn't sound like I was implying any criticism of your taking time out of your career - I've done that twice myself for far less worthy reasons - and after all isn't that pretty much the whole point of this site?

If the key concern is something you can self study with no prescribed clases have you looked at IRS Enrolled Agent as an alternative to CPA if you're thinking of doing tax seasonal work?

This is a good suggestion. I am a (former) CPA who used to have an Enrolled Agent do my taxes. He knew a lot more about tax prep than I did.

Cpa Cat

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Re: Pursue a CFA, or hang it up?
« Reply #25 on: October 20, 2018, 03:49:10 PM »
I don't regret going back to school for my Master's in Accounting and CPA. It did give me a lot of access to to career options.

But these days, I encourage my employees to do the Enrolled Agent exam instead of embarking on more education. The financial and opportunity cost of a Master's degree is pretty high. An EA lets them do everything I do now (as a tax focused CPA).

You can also do the Quickbooks Online training to be a QBO Proadvisor. The training is all free, and the test is cheap. I know a lot of bookkeepers who have taken it, but none of my staff have bothered. Quickbooks Desktop is a dinosaur - definitely don't pay for that training.

An EA puts you in a good position to do independent tax work and Proadvisor training is good for basic bookkeeping skills. That said, there are a lot of garbage bookkeepers out there, so don't let lack of experience stop you. An EA also puts you in a good position to hire onto Turbo Tax remotely or H&R Block of you're not the independent sort.

Finally, have you considered inquiring with employment agencies like Accountemps or non-accounting employment agencies? They often have temp-to-permanent accounting positions, and an employment agency will often have permanent hire accounting positions.

daymare

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Re: Pursue a CFA, or hang it up?
« Reply #26 on: October 21, 2018, 03:00:16 PM »
I'm an enrolled agent & will chime in that it's a designation that you should hopefully be able to obtain with a few months of self-study.  You can self-study (I used Fast Forward Academy), and then you just pay to sign up and take the 3 parts of the exam.

That said, you should also consider finding industry associations, or people who are senior in the track you're looking at, or hire for those entry-level analyst roles.  As an example, when I was looking to become a financial planner, I reached out to advisors listed on the NAPFA website, asked to meet for coffee and got advice on how to proceed, plus networked at study groups and local happy hours for the organizations.  I don't actually know if the plans you're thinking of will get you what you want ... but there are people out there who should be able to answer the questions because the have the knowledge to do so, and you should work first to find them, rather than to start studying (much as that might be more fun ...).

Milizard

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Re: Pursue a CFA, or hang it up?
« Reply #27 on: October 22, 2018, 01:06:12 PM »
I hadn't realized I had gotten more replies here.  Thank you all for chiming in!  I'm surprised that enrolled agent is where the trend is heading, as it wasn't even on my radar.  So, I can do that without any formal tax classes, eh?  Good to know. I can't say it would've been my #1 choice, but I would love to be in demand for jobs sooner rather than later, so there's that.  Sounds like a great avenue for semi-retirement as well.

I have been working with staffing agencies all along.  Just had a conversation with one just an hour ago.  Hopefully they can get me into something this time around.