Roger Ferguson's Retirement Plan Involves Taking the CFA Exam

  • TIAA CEO announces intention at CFA Society New York Dinner
  • Guests offer study tips as Bruce Richards is also honored

When TIAA Chief Executive Officer Roger Ferguson retires -- "at some point many years from now," as he put it Tuesday night -- he has some big plans.

Nili Gilbert and Roger Ferguson

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

“The first thing I want to do is spend the two to three years necessary to take the CFA exam,” Ferguson, 65, said at the 80th anniversary of the CFA Society New York, one of the bodies that designed the concept of the Chartered Financial Analyst exam.

Over peals of laughter, Ferguson -- whose organization tends to millions of retiree nest eggs -- sounded perfectly serious about his commitment to taking the three-level test designed to show proficiency in investment management.

“The only caveat, I’m told, is to be fully certificated, not only do you have to pass the exams, you have to work at least four years in the industry,” he said. “I’m hoping to get AP credit.”

Ferguson got full marks for knowing his audience and lightening up the task of accepting a Lifetime Achievement Award. And in a crowd full of people who’ve passed, there were plenty of CFA exam study tips for the former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve.

Guests at the CFA New York Society 80th anniversary dinner

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Use digital flashcards. Take a week off to cram. Start about six months in advance. Speed-read the curriculum before a slow, careful read. Don’t overanalyze the questions. Take the practice tests, because “knowing the material is not enough,” said Nili Gilbert, co-founder of Matarin Capital. “You have to drill.”

One challenge to a retiree test-taker may be keeping up with the latest trends. This year, the CFA Institute is adding content on artificial intelligence, robo-advisory and methods for analyzing big data.

“This is not a one-and-done activity,” said Paul Smith, CEO of the CFA Institute. “If you’re 28, thinking of the next 40 years, your commitment to lifelong learning has to be absolutely total.”

Brigadier General Steve Gilland, Commandant at West Point, with Avis and Bruce Richards

Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Smith said he’s encountered retirees taking the CFA exam all over the world, so it made sense Ferguson would put it on his bucket list. “What more important thing does Roger have to do when he retires than making sure his investments are performing for him?” Smith said.

After dinner, the program recognized Bruce Richards, CEO of Marathon Asset Management, for his and his wife Avis’s financial support of U.S. military veterans in college. The Veterans Roundtable of the CFA Society New York supports vets taking the CFA exam. Richards said being a soldier and taking the exam both require being “battlefield-ready.”

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