A week back, in February 2021, I cleared my final CFP exam. It was a very proud moment for me as I completed all exams in first attempt and that too in just about 4 months. Without any classes. After initial euphoria, I thought of sharing my experience with you. Hope it will motivate you.
Before I start with my CFP journey, little background about me. I have significant interest in personal finance for long time. I have already cleared Mutual Fund Distributor, Investment Advisor (Level 1 and 2) and Retirement Advisor exams by NISM.
So before I started, I did have good background in this field and it did help me during CFP.
My CFP Journey
I wanted to do CFP for long time (since 2017 to be precise). However other commitments somehow took higher priority. It took a friend of mine who completed CFP last year to persuade me to go for it.
He felt it was very satisfying and learning experience. He was more confident about me be able to clear it than me. But somehow, I was not taking that first step.
Then came announcement that CFP format and fees are going to get changed from April 2020.
Both these, drove me to finally take the plunge. I applied for CFP registration in first week of Jan 2020. It took couple of months to get it activated and finally in third week of March 2020, I got my user id activated for a year (Till March 2021).
As I started journey, Covid-19 struck the world
My friend offered me and couple of others to teach on weekend. We created a whatspp group with three of us to share knowledge, questions, doubts etc.
However just after couple of sessions , COVID-19 struck and lockdown started. That was enough excuse for me to stop. I gave up the hope of doing CFP. Because of sudden lockdown, I did not even get chance to get the study material from friend. Also situation was anyway not prudent for study.
November 2020 – Hopes again
Came November 2020 and I received a mail from FPSB that we could give exams from home (Video proctored). I checked with my friend again and he encouraged to give it a try. Our whatsapp group by then had grown to 7 members so more people were interested in doing it.
So paid and registered for first exam – Insurance Planning in November slot. I got study material from friend just 5 days before exam.
It was difficult but my background in this field helped. Somehow I cleared exam but with just C grade. That was good enough for me to get motivated.
December 2020 – Time to cheer
Next, I registered for Investment Planning in December slot. This time, I already had study material and sufficient time. Also since this exam was calculation oriented, I cleared it with flying colors – with A grade. Reason for success was practice, practice and practice. I solved all the examples in study material during this period.
January 2020 – Adventure Time
Now I had three months to clear three papers. Retirement Planning , Taxation and Estate Planning and Advance Financial Planning. Initial plan was to clear one exam per month. But keeping last exam in last month before expiry (March 2021) of current syllabus was making me worried.
So I decided to be little adventurous or may be I did not had other options. I planned to give two exams in January. That way if things don’t go as planned, I can have March in hand for another attempt.
I decided to give Taxation and Estate planning first and Retirement Planning after 4 days. In online video proctored exams, we did not have many options to select from. Days and timeslots were limited.
Plan was to complete study for retirement planning in 10 days and then 15 days for Taxation and Estate Planning. After Taxation exam, revise Retirement Planning again in 4 days. Sounded easy.
Retirement planning study I completed on time. With 2-3 hours every day plus 5-6 hours on 2 weekends, book was fully covered. Retirement planning has many conceptual similarities with Investment planning. So that helped too.
As I started on Taxation and Estate planning, I realized mistake I had made. I sensed this was the toughest paper in initial four papers. After a week, motivation started going down.
Things were looking gloomy. Fortunately had couple of friends who encouraged to keep going. Gave the exam but was not very confident. Was able to clear the exam but with just C grade again. I was not happy with outcome from grade perspective. But at least most difficult paper was out of way.
Retirement Planning was a cakewalk and cleared it with A grade after 4 days.
February 2020 – Final exam
With 4 exams under belt, I thought final would be straightforward. Taxation part however was bothering me. So started solving case studies followed by taxation study. Around 3/4 of time during this period was for solving whatever case studies that were available. Rest of the time was spent on studying of other papers – mainly Taxation.
Went through all 5 case studies and corresponding Goals available on FPSB site at least 2-3 times. However as I started approaching exam week, fatigue started sinking in. Work pressure plus study for continuous 3-4 months started showing its effect.
Efforts started dropping to just an hour per day during a week before the final exam. I will not be able to explain what state of mind I was during that period. Tired and maybe just wanted to get over with it.
And the exam day arrived. I have never sat for 4 hours exam ever before. Not even in school. Also I was feeling that it would be race against time because when exam is given from home, software used (MSBB Browser) takes control of your system and no application like open office or excel is allowed. Only calculator is allowed.
Anyway. Two case studies that I got in exam were of Ashwin(1st) and Sanjay(5th). As time passed, I was getting more and more confident.
Overall it took around 3 hours to complete all the questions. Next 30 mins I spent on revisiting 2 questions. No price for guessing they were based on Taxation.
With prayer in mind, I clicked on ‘Finish Test’ button. It took 10 seconds of waiting (which seemed very long time BTW) for screen to splash the result. I got A grade with 86% marks.
I was over the moon. In recent times, rarely I had got such joy and happiness. Felt great sense of satisfaction.
After thanking GOD multiple times, I broke the news to my family, group and congratulatory messages started flowing in.
I am now waiting for getting certification awarded. Have submitted required documents of education, experience for their review.
As things settled, I started getting few common questions. So putting them with my understanding. Hope it helps.
How much it costs to do CFP?
For me it costed around 42,000 INR for entire thing. But that may not be case for you.
Most of you will be aware that CFP format has changed last year. With new format, approximately 75 thousand would cost you for FPSB registration, various exams and certification. This is assuming you will clear all exams in first attempt.
This amount is not to be paid in one go and as and when you progress through certifications, you will need to pay the corresponding amount. But overall this is what will cost you (approximately).
In addition, you may need to optionally pay fees for training institutes. I have written an article on coaching classes / institutes for CFP. Add 25 to 40 thousand based on your choice of institute and mode of study (corresponding vs recorded sessions vs live sessions).
So in practical sense, around 1 to 1.15 Lac is what you should be prepared to shell out.
Is CFP worth in India?
For me, it was definitely worth it. I have no hesitation to say, I learned good lot from this. My main purpose was that since I write blog in this field, I need to have some authority in the subject. CFP certification was best available option for me. It gives me lot of confidence now because my knowledge is somehow validated by a reputed certification body.
So, if you really want to gain knowledge in this field then answer is definitely YES. Content of CFP is sort of 360 degree around personal finance and you will get basic understanding on various aspects like investment planning, retirement planning, insurance, taxation in India and estate planning (will, trust etc).
You can build on this base and do more detailed research to become a specialist in particular field. CFP certification is valued in India and you will certainly get respect from your clients if you have this certification under belt.
In long run, India will move towards paid investment advisory work and this certification will help you get started.
How much does a CFP earn in India?
For me this was not a criteria at all. I was not doing this for a job.
Salary varies as per your experience in personal finance field. If you are doing CFP for your first job then expect somewhere between 15,000 to 20,000 per month.
What type of job CFP get in India?
Some bad news first. You will not work as real financial planner to start with. If you want to work with bigger organizations, then you will need to sell their products of Insurance, Mutual Fund etc and build from there.
It is more likely a telemarketing type work. You may have seen situations where you want to know about some fund or ulip and website asks your email and mobile. Someone then calls back to explain the product. It will be similar to that.
In some cases, it could be direct on field contact but COVID-19 has changed that dramatically. So such person to person contact type job will be less in demand in near future.
My suggestion would be to opt for a role with some small private financial planner as assistant with aim to understand financial planning process. You should focus on how to reach out to prospective clients, how to convert leads into clients, communication, technology tools available etc .
Then move on to start your own business. Don’t focus on salary in first job. Instead think of what you can learn and if job gives you opportunity
If you wish to directly start your own advisory work directly then having this certification will give you edge over other mutual fund distributors. You can slowly plan complete financial portfolio for clients rather than just selling SIPs.
How long does it take to become a CFP?
Once you register for CFP, it provides you one year to complete the certification. Based on status, you can seek extension as well.
I applied for registration in Jan 2020. It got activated in March 2020. So I had to complete my certification by March 2021. Thankfully I was able to do so without need of any extension.
I started study somewhere in November 2020 as I could not get any study material due to lock down. Was able to complete all exams by Feb 2021. So if you have interest in subject and committed then you can certainly do it in short period.
Of course, I had some background and experience in this field. That helped me. For fresher, it could take 6-8 months with say study of an hour or two per day.
Is CFP exam hard?
My personal opinion is Taxation is most difficult subject in entire syllabus. If you come from accounting background, then you may find it simpler compared to others. Investment and Retirement are very much calculation focused. If you understand the logic, then you should be able to clear them. Insurance is something neither simple nor difficult.
Last exam with case study is to check overall understanding. Its my personal opinion that if you score well in Investment and Retirement subjects then you can do well in final exam as well. Vice versa is also true.
CFP pass rate is somewhere around 60% as per information available on net. I also found it in line with my friends. Some cleared it easily in first attempt and some struggled.
One personal observation here. Those who cleared CFP exams were very much focused and committed to do CFP and genuinely interested in subject. Those who did not do that well very sort of looking at it more of good to have qualification.
My Tips for clearing CFP exams
- First and foremost, Enroll for CFP only if you are committed to do it and interested in Personal Finance. Don’t go with attitude of ‘let’s try and see’ . Its not very difficult but not simple as well. Also with new format, cost has increased a lot.
- Practice, practice, practice – Try to solve all the problems in whichever course or study material you use it. Exam has high weightage on calculation and less on theory
- Give good attention and time to Taxation part. Less logic here. Lot of things to remember.
- Understand your calculator well ( In Video proctored exam mode, no open office. I had to give all exams only using calculator)
- Take notes or use highlighter in case you have study material. Couple of days before exam, they will come very handy.
- See if you can form a whatsapp group with at least one person who has completed CFP. That person can help if you if you get stuck and can also act as mentor. Doing in group also helps add some peer pressure and keeps you going.
That’s all for now. I will keep updating based on any query that I will get in future. If you have any questions regarding CFP, do let me know in comments or reach out to me via Contact Me page. Will be glad to help.