Balancing CFA studies with a full time job is hard enough, but what if you have children added to the equation?
Is it possible to pass the CFA exams while juggling a full time job and a family? Or should you just give up and watch Peppa Pig with them instead? After all, Marc has described ‘CFA’ as ‘Children & Family Abandoned’ from his experience, and also has a reflective follow up to that.
Some of us at 300 Hours have rambunctious children, so we know parenthood ain’t easy. We also know from speaking to hundreds of CFA candidates who are parents that ‘CFA as a parent’ is possible. It is however by no means easy, and here are their top tips on how to make it work:
What we found from speaking to many parents who are revising for the CFA exams (or any exams for that matter) is that you cannot study AND take care of your kids at the same time.
Sure, you can give it a try and review your productivity later, but multi-tasking is not recommended here as it almost always turns out the worst of both worlds – you not getting any serious studying done, and your children not getting your full attention either.
That said, it’s not to say that having children is completely incompatible with CFA exams, many of whom we spoke to had successfully passed exams and became charterholders too. You can only focus on one thing at a time, so the secret is to create an environment that encourages that, by separating CFA away from your children.
Here are a few effective strategies:
#1. Have a supporting spouse or family member to help free up a set amount of time
Having a supportive partner in this is extremely valuable. Speak to your partner, or a family member about it and ask for temporary help as you wade through the challenges of this exam. You’ll need their help to take care of the children so you can free up a certain number of hours in a week (depending on work and your study plan) to focus on your studies. It’s good to be clear about the number of hours you expect help with childcare per week, to manage expectations and provide discipline to your schedule since you’re asking for a favour, after all.
If this is not possible, you’ll need to consider paid childcare as a temporary solution. It’ll be a tough period trying to juggle everything, but it can be done with some help.
#2. Improve your study productivity on weekdays
There are times (if not all) where you’ll feel guilty for not seeing your children as often as you’d like to because of your CFA studies. With a full time job, it can start to feel impossible covering the syllabus in time unless you spend the whole weekend revising, which would exacerbate that feeling even more.
However, all hope is not lost. In fact, many candidates who are parents have taken baby steps towards improving the situation by incorporating some revision time on weekdays, no matter how little, as they accumulate towards freeing up more time on the weekend to spend time with their family. Here’s a couple of neat tricks they’ve successfully applied:
- Study during the commute to and from work – whether you have 15 minutes or 1 hour journey one way, doing this every day has an amazing cumulative effect on your study progress.
- Study during lunch breaks (and/or a little more after work) – you may be a little more anti-social at work these days, but it is understandable if you explain it to your colleagues. Utilise your lunch break to learn a couple of concepts in 20-30 minutes goes a long way towards shaving off your weekly study plan targets.
- Study when your children are asleep – whether it is waking up earlier in the morning, sleeping later at night, and/or even putting the kids to sleep earlier on weekdays, these are possible options that you can include if you feel you can still concentrate a little bit more after a day’s work. This is the only time where studying at home with your children works, when all is calm and quiet and you are fully focused to bite of chunks of the syllabus. A word of caution though, do make sure you still have enough sleep (at least 6.5 hours is preferable) as studying for the CFA is a marathon, not a sprint!
#3. Make it up by working & playing hard on weekends
What about weekends, when your children is at home, vying for your attention? How motivated are you after a tough week of work and studying? Studying seems to be the last thing you’d like to do.
Thankfully as you’d worked hard during the week putting every bit of free time you have to study, depending on your study plan, it’s likely that you have time in the day during the weekend to spend some quality time with your family, and give your spouse/family member (who has been an absolute ace) a little break too. How does one incorporate study and play on the weekend?
If you remember our “One & Only Rule” above in regards to CFA and children, is that you can’t do both at the same time. So here’s how to block out some time to study on the weekend:
- Morning is best: if possible, it’s best to wake up early and get the studying out of the way, so you can look forward to the rest of the day with your family. This is the time to check that you’re still on track with your study schedule and what you plan to cover for the weekend. It all depends how you schedule it to work around your family activities on weekends, but generally study time on weekends averaged around 3-6 hours per day depending on how much progress was made on weekdays .
- Get out of the house: head out to a coffee shop if possible to ensure that you have maximum concentration to revise – some coffee to start the day would help too. If you have to be at home, make sure you communicate to your family members that you need to do some work before you can have fun with them later in the day, and do your studying in a (locked) room with earbuds or your favourite study music on.
- Study during their nap time: You shouldn’t rely on this as your core study block out time as their nap length may be unpredictable, but you could certainly use this time as a plus to put you ahead of your study schedule for a good start next week. It’s always good to have a buffer as work and life may sometimes get in the way of your studies.
Remember to reflect and get perspective
We know that the CFA exams are an important thing – but they aren’t the only important thing. Depending on where you are as a parent and as a spouse, you should take some time to honestly evaluate if it would be better to pause your CFA campaign to focus on parenthood. For example, would you want to (pretty much) miss your newborn daughter’s first 6 months of life to possibly pass a professional exam?
Different answers apply to different situations – we’re just asking you to think about it and try and determine the best course for your case.
Over to you
If you’re a parent juggling work, family and still charging ahead with your CFA studies, you’re already amazing. Do you have any other tips on studying CFA with a family? Do share your experiences with the community in the comments below.