Bryan, Luke, and I answer three questions about transitioning from college, CFP® exam studying, and reading:
1) What has been your biggest surprise since transitioning from college to work as it relates to your job?
Bryan: Most of your peers will not share the amount of passion that you have for your particular career. You’ll find that some people merely followed the path of least resistance and “just took a job” after college, as compared to some of you who may have taken a leap of faith in yourself and followed your passion. Regardless of where you fall on that scale, it’s important for you to find the others who are like you and surround yourself with them to learn and grow.
Luke: My biggest surprise since transitioning from college to work has to be the difficulties of communication, and the attention that must be given to how information is delivered. Peer-to-peer explanations are easy; explaining an investment concept to a fellow investing buff requires little effort since you are both on a level playing field and have a similar foundation of knowledge. The same investment concept proves to be far more difficult to effectively deliver to a client; a financial planner must have a good understanding of who the client is and how they are going to interpret/respond to the information. There are many hidden preconceived notions and biases that often do not show themselves until a client’s beliefs are questioned by new information.
Joe: Understanding the technical side of financial planning does not matter if you cannot communicate effectively. This makes sense, but I had not thought of it until I started getting involved outside of the academic setting. The real skill is in explaining a complicated topic in simple terms. Storytelling, analogies, etc are important.
2) What is your number one piece of advice for preparing for the CFP® examination?
Bryan: I’m a firm advocate of training your brain for the exam. On the morning of the exam, you want no surprises. You don’t have control over the exact questions that you will be faced with, but you do have complete control over the external factors, which include good sleep patterns, mental sharpness at 8am in the morning, and a test taking strategy. These exercises and practices are not only for test day; they are learned and implemented weeks and/or months in advance. I want to place extra emphasis on mental sharpness during morning hours by asking a question: if your exam begins at 8am and consists of 170 multiple-choice questions, when is the most appropriate time to study and what is the most appropriate form of practice for the exam?
Luke: I am currently studying for the November CFP examination. I feel that I gave myself much more time than most (~6m). This extra time has given me a chance to experiment with different study techniques to determine how I absorb mass quantities of data best. (Depending on results) I would recommend patiently trying out different study methods and honing in on what techniques maximize your productivity and effectiveness.
Joe: Have a very detailed plan. Understand your plan will likely change over time.
3) What book have you read that you recommend others read too?
Bryan: I recently heard (from what I would consider to be) a successful person say, “I don’t know any successful people who don’t read.” Yes, I have my favorites. But rather than give you one book suggestion, my ultimate suggestion would be to simply read. For those who want to learn and grow into their best potential at an exceedingly fast pace, there is no excuse for not reading most days of the week. My recommendation: read anything, today.
Luke: Book recommendations are tough. I have my favorites for both non-fiction and fiction. I am in my early twenties and I have to say Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Taleb has probably had the most profound effect on me.
Joe: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. A must-read if you are an introvert. Still good if you are an extrovert.