Oh, and One More Thing

So you’ve seen the CFA Institute’s Getting Started Guildelines that say it generally takes a minimum of 250 hours to prepare for a CFA exam.

But a very wise man once said, …and one more thing.

If you’re not coming from a financial background, like me, you have more than just the curriculum to become acquainted with. You have to learn to use one of these.

Technicolor HP-12C

But it’s just a calculator, you say! And this particular one came out in 1981! How hard can it be?

Well, I’m still a newbie with it. And so far, so good – but it’s just worth noting that it is taking extra reading and practice – time away from my CFA study guides – to work through the manual to learn how to use it to full capacity.

The point is, don’t forget to allocate a few extra hours for this if you’re also coming to the investment profession from out of left field.

So far, using it is giving me flashbacks to my assembly language course for programming the 8086. You know, storing values in your handful of available registers, concept of a stack, and so forth.

It turns out that there’s a reason its been in continual production since 1981 – it’s good at what it does. If you’re interested, check out its history. Scroll down to the entry on the 12C.

And of course the 12C isn’t the only calculator that is exam-approved. Just the one I picked.

21 thoughts on “Oh, and One More Thing”

  1. All the best fellow CFA enrollee. I have just cracked open my 18.1 pounder and am in the midst of mentally, physically and emotionally preparing myself for the long nights that lie ahead.

    I will do my best to follow your blog over the next 9 months, but reading anything other than the big six has now become a guilty pleasure.


  2. Good luck, I just got the materials myself. I created a simple spreadsheet that will help you track your progress through the 18.1 pounds of material. Let me know if you’d like it.

  3. Hey thanks for the good wishes Salem. You too! How does one prepare oneself PHYSICALLY for the CFA?! Multivitamins?!

    Steve – I’d love a copy of the spreadsheet. My email address (trying to fool the spambots) is:
    ‘sencha’, followed by the number ’71’, followed by ‘@’, followed by ‘gmail.com’.

    Salem – let me know if you want me to modify your address in the comment above to avoid spam too. Then again, it never seems to be a big problem with gmail…


  4. Steve – I’d love that spreadsheet too. I’m expecting my materials tomorrow and can’t wait to get started.

    rnbahe at stthomas dot edu

    Thanks for the blog, lumilog!

  5. Hi everyone. Steve emailed me a copy of the spreadsheet a while back – I’m not sure if he ever revisits this page to know others want a copy. If you do, just email me (sencha71 at gmail dot com) and I’ll shoot it to you.


  6. Perhaps its the geeky side of me but I loved the finance calculator discussion here. I actually also read through both the 12C and also TI and calculator links. Its fascinating how this calculator 12C has retained its perennial best seller status and longetivity. Still, technology and computing has moved on and I wondered if this says more about the state of the ‘finance’ profession than the calculators. That is, are the hedge funds using these, are these thought as antiquated and the hedge fund quants are using more advanced visualization y to spit out measurements and estimates. There’s enough tech minded people on this blog (engineers, computer people) to probably ‘innovate’ and be making money ‘in addition’ to learning the principles of asset allocation. That is, what would be great is that building from the ‘foundations’ of the CFA material, reverse engineering from course material (series I, II III) and someone should build a new calculator as this course seems to be globally industry standard (and I’m not even signed up – perhaps this is my inner entrepeneur). I’d be thinking about applying some of the current thinking on Information Visualization/Human Computer interaction to this product – do something like the iphone or ipod for finance calculators and somehow also connect them with communication/network technology and possibilities. The trick like the iphone or ipod or these original calculators is to keep things fundamental and ‘well’ engineered. I’d still be interested in seeing some finance calculator comparisons – coincidentally my wife brought home a scientific calculator from work that she uses (she’s a lab tech at our local university) and this also got me wondering if the finance calcs are solar!

    I also recently saw this utube video of this options guy from the Chicago Board of Exchange talking about his options mathematical knowledge development (he was an engineer who originally was working on the US Black Hawk project) and he spoke about how in his down time at work he’d always be punching in the “Black Scholes” functions on his “finance calculator” to be pricing options while they flight tested the jets. I wonder if the “Black Scholes” model is included in both of the calcs mentioned above?

    P.S. – I found the 12c 25th anniversary platinum edition (68 dollars) and BAII Plus (27 dollars) on shopzilla. If anyone sees any cheaper deals please respond.

  7. Yes that seems to be the overwhelming consensus. Just waiting for my annual Christmas amazon gift certificate from my parents to arrive and will no doubt spend part of it on a BAII+.

    Maybe two…

    – Lumilog

  8. Hi Lumilog:
    Great blog. I just finished MBA (General Management) in December and received the CFA material (i live in Canada). I will be writing the June exam as well. I know that i am VERY late in starting the CFA 1 exam prep, but i hope that many courses in Finance, Acct, Econ etc. taken at MBA level will help me. Anyways, thanks for a great blog – lots of useful info here.
    Does anyone has the spreadsheet Steve prepared to keep track of preparation for CFA. Steve if you are reading this entry (or any other kind soul), could you please email it to me at:
    akhtarjacob followed by at followed by gmail dot com
    Thanks all and Good Luck.

  9. Just sent a copy of it to you Jacob. Hopefully your coursework will give you a head’s up – much easier than starting from scratch!

    – Lumilog

  10. Hi Steve, Just read your blog, very helpful and encouraging , I am preparing for the Level 1 Dec 2010 exam..
    could you please email me the spreadsheet that steve prepared
    senamii2@yahoo dot com.


  11. Hi Sen,

    I still have the copy that Steve mailed me and will email it to you – but know that the curriculum changes from year to year so you’ll need to update it (the timestamp on the file says October 13, 2007).


  12. Hi Lumi

    Thank you for your blog, I really found lots of useful info that couldn’t fount it elsewhere. I have registered for this June exam L1 and have lots of questions I’d like to ask you,
    1) How many hrs per day did you study ?
    2) What was your strategy ?
    3) What was the most challenging part? Was it the materials, the time, both or something else ?
    4) I finished my BA in Accountancy and Finance last November, I have a weak ( I conceder it a weak because I should be good in this field )background about finance as to be honest I DONT KNOW how I graduated with success !!!
    5) Will be tricky questions in the exam that make you confuse ?
    6) As you might see from my writing, my english is not my first language will this affect the result ?
    7) I could not choose the calculator yet, could you tell me which one did you go for and list the reason if possible, please.
    last bet, could you send the Steve’s copy place to rakan_s85 at then hotmail dot com
    Best Regards

  13. Hi Rakan – I’ve had a steady stream of questions like this so I’m compiling the answers all in one place to be released soon (hopefully by the end of the year – realistically, probably January). Stay tuned and thanks for the questions. – lumi

  14. Hi again,
    Happy new year all ! Hope you enjoyed your holiday. Thank you Lum so much for your help, I appreciate what you did and what you are doing, I can’t imagine how I would do without reading your blog , it helps me a lot and always encourage me. Let me know if you have done with the answers please.


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