istock_000033578658.350Going for his CFA certification wasn’t something Scott Tochterman envisioned. In fact, there was a time he wasn’t even sure what a CFA was. But all that changed when he landed a job as an endowment portfolio analyst for Messiah College. And the more he learned about investing, the more he enjoyed it. Here’s his story.

What made you decide to pursue your CFA® certification?

I have a MBA from Penn State, but never had much interest in investing. At Messiah College, a colleague approached me about getting a CFA. I was unfamiliar with the process. More I learned how much it takes to pass, the more I felt like Jonah—I wanted to get in a boat and sail in the opposite direction. I have kids, a senior in high school and a seventh grader. I was worried about balancing studying and being responsible to them.

I tried several different course reviews, including Kaplan. I spent some time on Analyst Forum and people said the CFA Exam Review from Wiley was superior to Kaplan, so I got a used copy of the Wiley book and went from there.

You’ve said you struggle in some areas of FRA, Quantitative Methods and Fixed Income. What has your study strategy been in those areas?

The shear volume of formulas to memorize is daunting. I’m 43, so I don’t memorize as well as I did when I was 23. My strategy was to rely heavily on flashcards. I made lots and lots of them for Quant. On exam day, I actually felt day that I did better on Quant than other sections.

I still struggled with FRA and Fixed Income on exam day. The granular nuances of Fixed are challenging, but my strategy came down to just spending more time on the areas I felt weakest.

You’re studying for the CFA while holding down a job. How are you managing that in terms of time management and work/life/study balance?

That’s hard. It did cause some strain at home. I did most of my studying in the evenings. For Level I, I prepared for at least 600 hours over a 9-month period, then took a week off before the exam to focus on mock exams.

I’m a slower learner. I do very well but it takes me a while, so I know I have to work harder than some.

What tips or advice do you have for people studying for the exam now?

The best advice I can give is, if you’re single and thinking about a CFA, don’t think. Do. Take advantage of that time.

If you have a family, explain to your spouse what’s involved so they’re prepared and get it. My wife realized it was like nothing I’d done academically. My focus was to not miss family things. I was going to be around when my family needed me and would just find my own time to study. I studied from 10pm to 1am each day, drank a lot of tea, soda…did a little more snacking than should have, but now that test is done I’m getting back to exercise.

The advantage with CFA Exam Review Course from Wiley is that it’s self-directed. It was great not to have to go to class and miss a wrestling match or soccer game. As Wiley’s weekly live online classes are all recorded too, if there was an emergency, I didn’t have to miss a class.