Too old to pursue the designation?


I am 36 years old.

I wrote level 1 last summer and did not pass. Was in group 7.

I picked up a severe shoulder injury (ironically, happened while walking to the library to study!!!!) about a month before the exam, required about 12 months of rehab.

Is age nothing but a number?

Reason for CFA: I would like to open my own practice and the designation gives me the credibility and legal right to invest money on the behalf of clients.



what do you do now? you are managing money as part of a team at another firm?

Nothing much.

I started studying for my charter at 38.

I received the charter at 40yo

So did I.

ok, here is the point: a quarter of candidates are students, so expect the mean age to be way below 36.

I say - it is never to late, but the earlier the bigger the benefit for you. Just go for it

xk, 38 yrs old and counting


I didn’t start until 35, killed L1 and L2 though on first try (and hopefully L3…we’ll see) so now 37. Assuming you work in finance, us oldies have an advantage over the young punks with their high school TI calculators! Keep going!

I work in performance and risk for an asset manager.

to the other greybeards here;

what do you guys do?

I’m 36 as well and giving it a go. I attempted L1 6 years ago and failed, but last year decided to give it another try. Still awaiting results from 2 weeks ago. You’re never too old to learn and have goals.

Started the program at age 48. Passed Level I and II easily but made lots of stupid mistakes/misread questions on Level III this year - so I give myself a 50/50 chance of getting the charter this year at age 50. I do think my mental sharpness is declining (which may be the reason for the mishaps this year) but think that is a recent phenomenon so if you are in your 30s, you have a long time before that is a factor.

I just sat for L3 at 50. I haven’t failed one yet and will be very surprised if I fail this one.

You’re only too old when you think you are.

Even if you don’t earn the designation until you’re 40, you’ll be working for another 20+ years.    

The longer you wait the more you might question whether you’re wasting your time studying instead of doing other other high priority tasks like building your practice.

I read a fascinating article once about differences in how people learn as they age.   When we’re younger, we have an easier time memorizing (and studying for hours because it’s what we do when we’re young!).  As we age, we have a broader frame of reference so we tend to see more relationships in what we’re learning and tend to be poorer at cold memorization.

I started the CFA program years ago but put in on pause when my dad was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.  I’m now in my 40s.  Half the time I wonder why I’m even bothering since being a charterholder is not likely to impact my career in any material way, but there’s some really good stuff in the curriculum. If the course of study weren’t as strong as it is, I’d just pick up a few books here and there.


Age is something but not everything, your mind, determination can make difference, I think. Respect y’all, I am just a scared student in challenging something hard or seemed beyond my power. I think I am given the nice energy in this thread. Thanks

Having work experience really does help a lot particularly on L2 and L3. I work in banking (Corp fin, ALM, etc) and it has made fixed income, equity and derivatives a breeze at each level.

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.

Im locked in to sit the Level 1 exam this December at 29yrs old, goal is to have the 3 level completed by 35!

Too old ? Lmao !!

This is a “myth” propagated by an insecure bunch of people who “seek validation”. They sound like : “oh I completed the program without ever failing and hardly studied and I am xx (fill in an age of choice)”

The Truth :

1) It doesn’t matter how old you are or how many times you’ve attempted the exams. 

2) Passing exams without failing doesn’t make you a genius/superior analyst relative to other candidates. Exams are designed to reward candidates who are ‘best prepared’ (synonymous to ‘ “developing a great understanding of all the material and sound exam technique”)

3) All the label “group 7” is telling you is that you aren’t ready to be your very best “yet”. Remember, you don’t want to merely invest money on behalf of others, but you want to be damn good at it and keep getting even better !! Just like in any facet of life (be it sport, academic success, relationships whatever) “hard work/effort” and “passion” are essential for high levels of competency/achievement.

4) So set yourself high standards, put in the hard work to learn the content effectively, and develop good test taking skills. Take the exam when YOU are ready and have done the above. 

I sincerely applaud every step that you take each day to learn something more and be better than you were the previous day. All the best with your endeavours !!

Many colleagues from the bank I worked in were over 40 and were CFA candidtaes. Some of them also took part in PhD program at the same time. Those real people (with families and children) were also working like crazy. Somehow they managed to organize everything. The real issue was not if they can or not (mentaly) but it was more the challenge of time, the same challenge all other CFA candidates have. I really think that good time management is critical in CFA study no matter how old you are. Age brings only some new opportunities where you can spend your time (like children), and unfortunately you must have certain routine to handle all the important aspects of your life in a fair way. I remember that I put time slots for studying only after agreed with my wife and we also agreed on time to spend with family (no work/no cfa). I’d put this time slots in TimePrep and just stick to it. The feedback from the app made me sure that I will manage the process on time.

Let me add my voice to those who are encouraging you.

In my late 50s, I decided that my life was too short to continue paying dues to the American Institute of CPAs. Don’t misunderstand, please - most CPAs are incredibly decent, honest, and hard-working individuals. But top management @ AICPA is a different story. Sleazy doesn’t begin to describe them. Besides the sleaze and being repeatedly embarrassed by opaque policy stances AICPA took, I also had a specialty credential in business valuation from AICPA. So, before I could bolt, I had to get another designation. I looked around for an organization that met four criteria:

  1. rigorous and demanding testing regimen (AICPA has a passing ‘quota’ for the CPA exam);
  2. squeaky clean with zero tolerance for ethical violations;
  3. an insistence on putting clients first; and
  4. tons of cash to ensure its continuing independence from the members it oversees.

What was then the Ass’n for Investment Management & Research was head and shoulders above the several organizations I checked out from top to bottom. I bit the bullet, enrolled in the CFA curriculum, and, at age 62, passed Level 3. I don’t know that I’m the oldest newly minted charterholder, but I’d bet that I don’t miss it by much.

As a recovering academic myself, I want to assure you that the CFA exams are like nothing I’ve ever grappled with. Those tests make the CPA exams look like a walk in the park. In fact, there are not many charterholders who are also CPAs. That’s because accounting looks backwards; investment analysts and money managers look forwards. I’ll also be surprised if, when you pass Level 3, you don’t say that passing the three exams is the hardest thing you ever did. I sure felt that way.

But it’s also the accomplishment in my long career of which I’m the most proud. It has gotten me work that I would not have gotten any other way. Even though I’d then been a valuation professional for more than a decade, I learned one heckuva lot. More important, the policy stances of the Institute have never embarrassed me. In fact, I’ve only disagreed wtih one of them. To their credit, CFA Magazine published my strong disagreement. The AICPA wouldn’t have done that in a bazillion years.

I love the fact that the Institute publishes an annual report that includes the pay and perks of its five highest-paid executives…just like a public company includes in its annual proxy statement. If the AICPA ever did that, the senior sleazebags there would be run out of town on a rail by the members.

I encourage you to pursue this. As others have mentioned, somewhere along the line you’re going to need to get the requisite four years of ‘qualifying work experience.’ I’m confident you’ll be able to do that, once you can put “Level 2 Candidate for the CFA Designation” on your resume/C.V.

You are welcome to contact me if you would like to discuss any of this ([email protected]). I made about every studying mistake along the way that one can make. The big one was thinking that my goal in the exam process was to learn. WRONG! The goal is to pass the tests. I can learn later. Remember that one. I think those with an academic bent, as we both have, are susceptible to emphasizing learning at the cost of perhaps not passing.

Hope I hear from you.

Best of luck!!

Warren Miller, CFA, CPA - Lexington, Virginia - Founder, LinkedIn’s Strategy Reading Group

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