Preferred Provider Organization

If you have a Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) health plan, you can see a doctor inside or outside of your PPO network.  But if you choose a doctor outside of your network, you will most likely have to pay more.  The good thing about PPOs is that you do not need to see a primary care doctor before seeing a specialist.  So, for instance, if your chest has been hurting, you can go straight to a cardiologist instead of having to see your primary doctor first to get referred to a cardiologist.

The bad thing about PPOs is that you usually have a deductible on top of a copayment.  And even after you’ve met the deductible, you might still have to pay a coinsurance.  Plus, some doctors require you to pay them upfront and file a claim afterwards with your provider to get reimbursed.

Even with these extra costs, if money isn’t tight, most people still prefer a PPO plan over a HMO plan for the flexibility.

Studying for the CFP® Exam

I’m 100% sure I wouldn’t have passed the CFP® exam without the help of Linda & Nancy and all their prep courses.  When I think back to all the teachers, professors and tutors I’ve had since elementary school, I’d say they are two of the most effective instructors that exist in this world, or at least in my world.  Not only are they experienced, knowledgeable and equipped with a strong curriculum, they are also crazy funny!  Okay, now that I’m done singing their praises, let’s get to the not-so-fun parts of prepping for this exam.

To squeeze in as much effective studying time as I could per day on top of working full-time, I woke up around 5:30am Monday through Friday and studied for about 2 hours before work.  I also studied everyday at lunch (1 hour) and then 2-3 hours after work.  For me to wake up that early every morning and still have the mental capacity to absorb anything, I had to stop studying by 10pm every night.  The CFP® exam is a marathon, not a sprint.  So cramming will not work for 99% of us.  On weekends, I spent all morning and afternoon studying or attending one of the prep classes I mentioned earlier.  I missed birthdays, reunions, dinners, hang-outs and even a wedding ceremony (thankfully, I was able to make it to the reception).  Unfortunately, my situation is not unique.  A lot of my friends who passed the exam can attest to giving up any resemblance of a life while they were studying.  But they’ll all agree with me when I say it was totally worth it.

I passed the March 2014 exam, which was my second attempt.  My first attempt was November 2013.  My studying methods didn’t change too much the second time around because I don’t think I studied ineffectively.  I just needed to go over the material a second time to really master it.

CFP® Exam Prereq

Before you’re even allowed to sign-up for the CFP® exam, you have to complete the education requirement.  To fulfill this requirement, I took evening classes at UCLA Extension for 2 years.  You can get through all the classes (there are 8 of them not including the 1 day Ethics class) in less than 2 years if you choose to take more than 1 class per quarter.  Since I was working full-time and had no finance background whatsoever, I chose to take 1 class at a time so I wouldn’t be overwhelmed with all this new information.  Some people prefer to take the classes online or a combination of online and ground (i.e. on campus).  I took all of them on campus because I learn better when I can interact with my professors and classmates (probably because I’m an extrovert and I like structure/routine).

If you have one of these degrees or professional credentials, you can bypass most of the classes and just take the Capstone (comprehensive) class.  Once you pass that class, you’ll be eligible to sign-up for the exam.

For someone who didn’t major in finance or never worked in the finance industry, I suggest taking 1 class at a time like I did.  If you rush through all the classes and don’t develop a strong foundation, you’ll have a much more difficult time studying for the CFP® exam.  Passing the exam takes mastering the material.  Merely understanding it will not be enough.