Trial by Fire!

I wanted to explain why you’ve gotten only crickets from Smartly lately. I’ve been lax in writing while prepping for the mother-of-all finance exams — just to demonstrate that indeed, I am serious about this whole, personal-finance-for-artiststhing I keep yammering on about.

Over the last year, I spent 243 hours in class, more than 300 hours studying, and at least a dozen fever dreams involving ‘shorting against the box’, all in preparation for the national CFP® exam, which I took [and passed!] last week.

The proverbial Fudgebucket hit the fan in the final stretch, when I realized I needed an encyclopedic understanding of every corporate retirement plan under the sun, to memorize the income tax calculation, and be able to rattle off the ins and outs of condo insurance — among other things. So I had to hunker down, study, and forgo all normal chit-chat. But now I’m back!

That test was one of the most intense things I’ve ever done. As I waited the 45 minutes to be checked in, fingerprinted, photographed, ankle inspected, and body-scanned, I ran to the restroom 5 TIMES to pee — that’s how nervous I was. Other people in the waiting room were visibly freaking out, and collectively off-gassing a thick fog of anxiety in anticipation of the six-hour exam. I had to close my eyes and go to my happy place (Arnold’s Diner from Happy Days, of course) so as not to fall into the widening chasm of despair…

But once I was processed, got to my cubicle, and began answering questions — I started to get excited. Why? Because I was crushing it. I knew that material backwards and forwards, and when I was asked how much Dr. Johnson could deduct from his ordinary income as a result of a kitchen fire in his rental property, I silently fist-pumped as I selected $0, because I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that indeed, Dr. Johnson made too much damn money to deduct that fire damage — Duh!

Why does this matter? Two reasons.
The first is, I can now confidently say I know a thing or two about finance… So bring it on brainiacs — go ahead and test me on the difference between a QDOT, a QDRO and a QPRT. Just try to stump me on [insert 10 more examples of financial mumbo jumbo no one gives a cr*p about here] — I know this stuff like I know the lyrics of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.

And second, because I wanted a concrete way to demonstrate to you that I would jump through any flaming hoop just to prove that I am one of the good guys (or rather good gals). The CFP® mark is only awarded after completing the required education (check!), passing the exam (double check!), logging 6000 hours of experience (I’ve clocked 5,376) and taking a pledge to uphold the fiduciary standard and the CFP Board’s robust code of ethics.

Fiduci-what? A fiduciary is someone in the financial industry who is legally or ethically obligated to act in the best interest of those under their care. That seems like a no-brainer to me, but you’d be surprised how many people who work with money don’t take that pledge… I’ve been in the fiduciary fan club for some time now, and I am really looking forward to playing on the team.

It wasn’t easy — of the 11 people that I began studying with last April (all of them working deep in the world of finance or accounting — yes I was the only artist) only 3 of us have made it through to pass the exam. And I’m relieved to the point of giddiness that now I can check this mega-milestone off my list and move forward again.

Now what? I want to turn my focus to you.
In upcoming posts, I plan to share the relevant nuts and bolts of getting stable and building that I learned from inside the industry. Are you curious about the strategies the wealthy use to protect themselves and nail their money goals? These things are not off limits to us, but they may have never occurred to you. I approached my studies with the mindset of an embedded journalist — I wanted to go in, see what’s what, and then report back to central command [central command being you, and the report being all the posts I haven’t written yet]. I’ve got a lot to tell, so buckle up.

But I also want to throw the ball back into your court and ask what are the financial issues you’re struggling with most right now? I’d be grateful if you hit reply to this email with your burning money questions. If you’re up at night worried about it, probably 100 other people are too, and I would love to use your question (anonymously, of course) in a future blog post.