Wednesday, February 17, 2016

My Journey to becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

Let me start off by saying one important thing: I posted this picture of myself on my instagram/facebook holding my CPA license. I look excited/happy - and I accomplished something pretty big. People only see that one part of it - they didn't see the hard work, and sacrifice that went into achieving this goal of mine. That's one of the reasons I wanted to write a blog post about it. Social media can be hard to scroll through sometimes - it's mostly filled with happy faces, fun trips, and big accomplishments.  But what you don't always see is the hard work and sacrifice that lead up to those very rewarding moments. ANYWAY - that rant is for another day, I just wanted to point that out, for when you start comparing your life to others based on what you see on social media. So...

I finally finally finally got my CPA license!! Oh my gosh, what a journey. I know my blog post about being a EY intern has gotten a ton of views from random fellow EY soon-to-be interns.. and thinking about it, I'm sure there aren't too many people that talk about accounting in their blogs hahaha (...I wonder why) so most of you won't care about this post, but if you're curious as to what a CPA is, or how people become CPA's (maybe 1 person), I'm dedicating this blog post to everything I now know about taking the CPA exam. 

Lets start off for people who aren't too familiar with accounting. CPA = Certified Public Accountant. At the big four (EY, PWC, Deloitte, KPMG) you need your CPA license to get promoted, and you eventually need it to sign off on tax returns, opinions etc. At PWC, I think you need your CPA to be promoted to Senior, but at EY you need your CPA to get promoted to a manager. Each state has different requirements to get your CPA. All require that you graduate college with a certain amount and level of Accounting classes and have  "experience" hours. Some states (like Utah) require you to have a Master's degree, while other states (like California) only require you to have a bachelor's degree. Also, a lot of my co workers went to law school and passed the Bar, so they take that rather than the CPA exams.

The CPA is four parts: Financial (FAR), Regulation (REG), Business (BEC), and Audit (AUD). My personal favorite was Reg, which is more "tax accounting" focused... go figure. There are open, and closed months where you can and can't take the test. During the year, it goes, two open months, and one closed month - So Jan/Feb are open, and March is closed.  So you have to plan your studying and tests accordingly and sometimes the timing is annoying but oh well, that's how it is! Also, your tests only stay valid for 18 months, so if you don't finish taking all four parts within a 18 month time span, you have to re-take the tests you've already passed (this has happened to many many of my fellow accountant friends and it's such a bummer...). You also have to get something called a notice to schedule "NTS" to take your test - this allows you to take your test anytime within a 8 month window. So when getting your NTS, you have to decide which tests you are going to take - because when you get your NTS, you are also paying for the tests. So if you don't end up taking it, it's a waste of $200. 

Oh, thats the other part - taking the test is pretty expensive. Each part of the test is $200. Then there is a $50 application fee, a fee every time you fail and have to re apply for a new notice to schedule etc. Then, once you pass, you have to take an Ethics test, which is about another $200, pay for an $50 application fee to become a CPA, get fingerprinted ($75), get your picture taken ($25), and become part of the AICPA - required at EY, I don't know about other firms ($310). Then the study material is super expensive. ($3,000k +)! The good news is, if you start at a big four, they pay for your study material, and they pay for all the fees, and the cost for you to take each test ONCE. So if you fail a test, and have to re-take it, you are paying $200 of your own money! I also decided to pay for note cards through Becker ($180)... soo it all adds up pretty fast! 

Now to my personal journey taking the CPA test 

For some people, I'm sure the CPA was easier, and for some harder. I know some people who locked themselves in a room, studied and took all of them in 4 months. I had a bit of a longer, more torturous journey... hahaha. I started studying for the CPA while I was in the Master's program at the U. I didn't really know much about it... but they offered a class as part of your required classes that helped you take the test. I really had NO idea what I was doing or what to expect.. and I had just started dating Joram at the time, sooooo to be honest, I didn't put any time of effort into that class and it was kind of a waste for me haha (whoops). When I got my full time offer with EY - they gave me the Becker CPA test prep course. It's basically awful/torture... but it does REALLY good at helping you prepare for the test. I decided to take my first test (Audit) three weeks after I graduated.. It was torture. All my friends were travelling around, and I just wanted to hang out with Joram before I moved to California (and chill after I had just finished finals!). I had asked to start my job at EY in October (so that I could focus on studying, and have a few more months in UT before I moved to CA), but they started me in July and I was SO sad. But looking back, it was exactly what I needed and not starting work until October would have been rough. 

Anyway, I took three weeks, probably from 10AM-3PM everyday (very distracted) did the practice questions, listened to the lectures... blah blah blah and I took the Audit test. After I walked out I was like WOAH, I failed for sure. Then I started studying for BEC. A few weeks later, I found out I got a 74% on my audit test. (You need a 75% to pass). sooo lame. So I hurried up and signed up for it again so it was "fresh in my mind"... then I took BEC the day before the fourth of July, and took a week off and Joram and I drove to California where he left me in California all by myself! I started work that week, and I took AUDIT again for the second time after 2 weeks of working.. My thinking was that I got a 74% the first time, so I just had to study a bit more and I'd be fine. I DIDN'T STUDY THAT WELL (obviously) and got a SECOND 74%!!!!!!!! It was torture. I cried and cried and cried being THAT close to passing it, but missing it by one point both times... soooo sad. On a brighter note, I passed BEC with a 86% so that was good! 1/4 of the way done! By then it was September! 

I decided to start studying for FAR after that (the longest one) Especially while working, and I was travelling back and forth from Utah to see Joram and work trips, I didn't have much time to study. It took me about 8 solid hours on average to get through a chapter and FAR had 10 chapters.. and if I took too long in between, I would forget details, and have to re-study/memorize/learn it. Anyway, I decided to take it in October! October was fast approaching, and I didn't feel ready for it at all... but November was my busy season, and December was a closed month, and I would be with family a lot, and I had to take REG in Janurary before my Notice to schedule expired. Sooo... after I rushed through the material, and not feeling confident at all, I took FAR and found out weeks later that I got a 72%....... so close yet so incredibly far. 

Now November. Busy season filled up all my time and weekends in November, and then Joram and I got engaged.. and after that, I started studying for REG. I took almost all weekends in December (closed month) to study. By this point, I had taken 4 tests, and only passed once. So I decided that something needed to change. If getting my CPA was  something I actually wanted, I needed to put in the time. I took REG in January and passed with a 95%!!! I think I was paranoid at that point and studied way TOO much haha. 

After I passed REG, I was half way done, and I had a wedding in two months. I decided to take those two months, plan my wedding, spend time at the gym (lol), and enjoy them while not worrying about the CPA. We got married in March, went on our honeymoon, bought a car, moved in together in a new area, and I began studying AGAIN.

Now it was tricky - at EY, if you pass all four of the CPA tests within a year of your start date, you get a $5,000 bonus. That left me with two months to take the two hardest tests. (June was a closed month) if I wanted the bonus... which obviously I did. 

So our first two months of marriage were prettttyyyy boring. My one and only client at work  was going through a huge transaction, so I was working 12+ hours on most days, and several weekends. My husband has to be in San Francisco by 6:30AM every day because he deals with stocks, and is on the New York Market timing...  which meant he was waking up at about 5:30AM. SO, because I wanted the bonus, I had two months to take my two hardest tests. I woke up at 5:30AM everyday with my husband, and I went to work at the same time he did.  Luckily I'm a morning person - so this part wasn't too bad. Plus I wanted SOME time with him so I didn't study nights, not that I had too much time to study nights getting home past 8PM. I would get to the office around 6:15AM and then study til about 9AM on days where I didn't have something urgent at work that I needed to finish first. 

Let me tell you. Those two months were very hard for me. I was in busy season, working long hours, and on top of that, all of my free time (mornings and weekends) went to studying. I normally go to the gym in the morning, and as stupid as this sounds... not only was I exhausted but I felt so fat and just gross. My whole life was accounting. I ended up deleting all social media apps to not torture myself with watching everyone doing fun things. I took Audit at the end of April after studying three weeks, and I took FAR a month later on the absolute last day possible for me to get my bonus (May 30th). I month later I found out I passed Audit with a 90% and Far with an 80%. Hallelujah!! I passed all of them... it was seriously, one of the best feelings ever. I FINALLY had time after work where I could come home and just RELAX without thinking in the back of my mind which chapters I should be studying. 

I've been afraid to admit parts of this because sometimes I feel dumb that it took me an entire year... and that I failed the SAME test twice with a 74%... but hey, my life isn't perfect, and unfortunately, I'm not naturally brilliant at all areas in accounting. I know some people who are just completely gifted and so smart, and can pass it faster and without failing - although math and numbers have always been my strength but I've always had to work hard for my grades in college, and that's nothing to be ashamed of. And I know others who take years and many many failed tests. So yeah, however you want to see it, I passed the CPA exam!! 

After that, I worked on taking the ethics test, getting the experience hours verified, applying for the CPA, getting my college transcripts sent and most recently, seven months later, I got the best certificate ever in the mail :) 


And that was my journey to becoming a Certified Public Accountant. Sorry if it was SO boring, but as always... you don't have to read it :) Good luck to everyone taking the CPA test, or anyone who has a friend or significant other taking the test. If I could do it while planning a wedding, and during the middle of busy season... anyone can do it! Just takes a lot of time, determination, and patience. Let me know if you have ANY questions and I will do my best to answer them! 

Love you all, 


PS!!!!!!!!!! Added this for fellow current CPA test takers: 
10 helpful hints for those currently taking the the CPA tests: 
1. BUY Enounce Myspeed this saved me. It is seriously a game changer. You can listen to the lectures on double speed and not fall asleep!! So worth the $30 it costs!!
2. Don't let your NTS expire!! Know the dates!  And after you take and pass a test... don't let them expire! 18 months!!
3. After you apply to start taking the CPA Exams and get approved, you aren't done. You still have to apply for your NTS. So I got approved, and didn't realize I needed a NTS to sign up... and went to the Prometric site to sign up to take my test (2 weeks before) and couldn't. By the time I got my NTS (takes about a week) ALL spots were taken!! Sooo I was very delayed. 
4. IF YOU FAIL DON'T GIVE UP. Trust me... it's worth it. RETAKE IT ASAP!
5. The Notecards - if they give you the chance to buy them, they aren't worth it. just use the digital ones that Becker has online. Just as good and saves you $200. 
6. KEY TO PASSING FOR ME: For people using Becker: Go through the chapters, get a blank white piece of paper and make a page of all of the KEY PHRASES (anytime you have to fill in those bubbles) and MEMORIZE the crap out of them. There is a reason they are so focused on in the material.
7. THE MAIN REASON I FAILED AUDIT: I had no idea you could use the resource tabs in the simulation section to get answers!! Don't make my same mistake!! USE THEM! There was an entire section on knowing the word for word language for an unqualified opinion and I was guessing while it was in the simulation material ON THE TEST. So mad. Definitely could have got 1% more if I would have known that....
8. If you are running out of time... focus on the simulations and practice questions and skip the lectures. LEARN the material in those. 
9.  Keys for each test:
BEC - focus on practice problems (simulations aren't worth as much) I hardly spent any time on them during the test and still got a 86%
FAR - Practice Problems over and over and over. This one is tricky.. don't take too much time in between the 10 chapters or you will forget the material.
REG - Simulations. I spent so much time on really learning the information in the simulations and doing them over and over until I felt good about them and it worked because I felt so good on the test.
AUD - MEMORIZATION. take the different opinions, put them side by side and memorize the differences. Know all of the keys in Becker SPECIFICALLY. Don't just quickly scan through. Take time knowing the very specific details.
10. If you have spare time and love torture... listen to the lectures while you drive in your car! It helped me :) 
**If you haven't started your full time yet - TAKE THE TESTS BEFORE YOU START. It's so much easier to find the time to study! **If you have started full time - my biggest advice: It's a total mindset. It will be a sacrifice. These tests aren't like being in college where you go to class, take a test and always pass... it takes a lot of time. So definitely take them buuut just realize, it's gonna be hard work so go into it with that mindset. It's worth it!! 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

My 24th year was pretty crazy... Hello, 25!

Every year... sometime around my birthday, I go through all my pictures over the past year... and just look at what has happened. I know a lot of people do this around the New Year, but I think its cool to do it every birthday. Anyway.... this year has been a little more exciting than the rest, with huge changes and so many exciting things that have happened! 
Last October, I had just moved to a place that I knew very little about. I had just graduated and just started my first "big girl" job at a big accounting firm. Last October, I had a long distance boyfriend and then mid October he decided to leave his family, his friends, his job, and school (he was about to graduate and he arranged with his teachers to finish his last few weeks/credits online), to move to be closer to me. THAT was the best birthday present I could have ever asked for.. besides the RING he gave me the next month when we got engaged!! So, during the past year, I went from dating long distance, to having a boyfriend in the same state as me, to engaged, to married! I spent the last year planning a wedding, getting used to my new job, taking (and passing!) the CPA exam, running my first half marathon, traveling with my new husband and just enjoying the beautiful places that we are lucky enough to live by! 

The rest of this blog is SUPER long and kind of a photo dump, but it goes through the year somewhat chronologically so I can better remember it :) Anyway, love you all! It's been a great year and I'm lucky enough to have such amazing friends and family... here's to being a quarter century old!! 25, can't wait to see what you have in store <3

Here are some pictures we took when Joram first moved out to California. It was kind of funny, because we only dated long distance for three months, and we saw each other just about every other weekend... but this reunion was sooo much different than when he had come three months earlier and dropped me off and then went back to Utah.

October 2014 

Last birthday we drove down to LA and went to DISNEYLAND! He spoiled me all weekend and let me take whatever pictures I wanted :) 

The weekend after, we went to Seattle/Portland to spend my birthday (yes my birthday gets celebrated for a whole month) with my family!!

November 2014 

In the middle of Novemeber I went to Washington DC for work. I loved walking around the mall and seeing all of the monuments! The conference I went to was awesome, and it was in the middle of busy season so it inspired me and lifted me right back up! 

November is a pretty busy month at work for me, so we mostly stayed around, I worked some weekends, and then the weekend before Thanksgiving, my roommates and I took "roommate pictures" after church so that I wouldn't jump into sweats and then we GOT ENGAGED at the palace of fine arts! 

We got to spend Thanksgiving in Utah with Joram's family! I was so excited to be engaged and we were excited to tell everyone! My mom flew in on Friday and we went black friday wedding shopping.... for a wedding dress <3 

December 2014 

We visited Utah shortly after for Thanksgiving and I got to show all of Joram's family my sparkly ring <3 It was such a fun time. Then for Black Friday, we went wedding dress shopping and I picked out my dress! It was the third one I tried on!
We got to drive to Oakland and see the pretty temple lights in December

Then for Christmas we went to Oregon and spent it with my family... 

January 2015

For New Years, we went up to the city with our friends Steve and Christine. It was soooo fun! 

In January we went to Chicago for training at work! It was fun to be with my friends and explore the city... even though it was freeeezing cold!! Haha, I don't mind the cold for a week or two when I'm in 75 degree California all year long. 

February 2015

In February we flew to Oregon and I got my endowments out. Joram's parents flew in and were able to go with me. And... my dad invited our whole ward as well, so it was so cool to have so much support and see so many loved ones. One of my favorite days :) 

We got our engagement pictures taken in January, I haven't posted a lot of them.. because they're mine! And I can't spoil them all in one month by posting all 30 of the beautiful things. But our engagements were gorgeous and taken by knw she did great!!!

March 2015

In March, we got Married!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

Then we went to Tahiti for our honeymoon, it was the most perfect week and vacation I have ever been on. My husband is sooooo good at planning these things. And he COMPLETELY surprised me... he had all things sent to his work email, and didn't tell anyone. All i knew was that we were going somewhere warm and it was an island. 

April 2015 
After Tahiti we went to Canada! We had a few extra days after our honeymoon and before our Oregon Open House.. so we thought, why not!? We went to Whistler and it was sooo cute and beautiful! 

Then we had our reception in Oregon and it was soooooo beautiful. My dad did a great job putting it together :) 

May 2015
All of April and May I spent working a lot, and studying for the CPA exam a lot. In May Joram's sister and brother in law came and visited us. It was a much needed break and Joram's sister, Alyssa actually married one of Joram's best friends so it's always a fun time hanging out with these guys. MAY was also great because I took my last test May 30th and then i was DONE! So we FINALLY had weekends and I didn't have to study every weekend so now we are able to go on adventures! 

We moved in May to the cutest little apartment and have been able to experiment making yummy treats like this Nutella Oreo Cheesecake that Joram made!! It's been so fun decorating and having our first tiny apartment together. If only housing in the Bay area wasn't so dang much money... 

June 2015

Then we went to Portland for my little brothers graduation! He's now at BYU and I'm so proud!! We had a quick stop by the rose garden, its so pretty!!

July 2015
We went to LA for the fourth of July with my family!! We got to see the Chinese Theater and Joram and I brought Cokes with everyone's name on them! 

We went down a day earlier than my family and got to go to six flags - Joram looooves roller-coasters so he was in absolute heaven haha

We took some days off in July and went to Pineview Lake for a family get together with Joram's family. We made a video of it too (which I added below)!

Matching hehe

We visited Monterey Bay Aquarium - and we bought a year pass. Joram loooooves sealife. 

I completed one year at my job!! Can't believe how fast time flies... I got pretty lucky and I work with some amazing people, who are now some of my best friends :)

Tiffany and I celebrating our 1 year with a nice pic. haha #casual

This is when I found out that I had passed the CPA exam! I passed two before I was married, I took a break for the two months before our wedding to focus on planning and working out (and it was the middle of busy season). And then after I got married, I woke up everyday at 5:30 (with Joram) and studied until my work started at 9.... AND I PASSED ALL 4! 

Long made partner so we all got Hawaii shirts and celebrated! I love our team. 
We LOVE foosball, and the office managing partner always sees us so he took a picture with his selfie stick hahah it was awesome.

Haha Tiffany and I spent a whole week matching.. which I obviously loved because I LOVE MATCHING!
We ran the WIPEOUT run as a team.. haha it was soooo fun
We all went to Santa Cruz together and we got the coolest caricature picture haha 
I'm on the HP soccer team.. and its soooo fun. I love that my office loves soccer and that I get the chance to play still. 
In July, Joram started on a new time at his job! He works a the Merril Lynch in San Francisco and he is LOVING his new team.. so I was soooo excited for him and so proud of him!

August 2015
Joram's best friends got married right around the time we did (One friend, a month before, and his other good friend a few months after!) So in August, we went to Utah for that and then got to spend some time at the Lake with Joram's family :)

Got to see one of my best while I was in Utah too! Love Cait :)

 September 2015

 For Labor Day, Joram's cousins came and visited us!! We just explored the city and the beach and absolutely loved having them!!

On September 12th, I got to go to Utah for an EY recruiting trip.. September 12th is a very special day for me. It's the day one of my most favorite people passed away. She was the ultimate role model of what I wanted to be when I grew up. So I spent the day remebering her, I went to the temple with my mother in-law and got to see my little brother who is at BYU!! I also got to spend time with Justin (who is Claudine's son, and my little "brother." It was a great great day.

Picking up Joram's little brother Tyson from school! Him and his friends are soo cute omg i was dying

My little, big, brother! Freaking love that boy. And he loves Chipotle, so naturally we went there. 

Here's us losers hanging out at the BYU recruiting event. 

At night we all got together and spent time with each other, Claudine was there with us, I know it :)

We went to Oregon and surprised my dad for his September 11th birthday weekend after! We showed up on his porch on Saturday morning and he was sooooo surpirsed and was like "what are you guys doing here!!!?" Haha it was awesome. 

At the end of September, Joram's parents came and visited us! Joram's dad had a conference for work in San Jose.. and then his mom joined us for the weekend! Early in the week, Brian came with Joram and they watched my EY soccer game haha. 

I was in charge of EY Connect day on Friday and it is SO cool that my work takes a day to give back to the community. There are a bunch of different projects, and for ours, We went to a high school and talked with kids about college and future and they were awesome :) 
While Joram's parents were here, we went and saw Phantom.. took them all over the place for our favorite food spots and spent some time is Sausalito! It was so pretty and such a great great weekend.

I just love these guys. 

During all the weekdays, Aimee and I were busy training for our NIKE HALF MARATHON!!!!!! I was soooo nervous because I'm an awful runner but we survived and I love our morning runs. 

 October 2015

At the beginning of October we went to a Giants football game and scored AMAZING seats. We also went to the Stanford football game vs ASU and Stanford killed, which we had nosebleeds for haha both soooooo fun :) 

THEEEEN!!! second week of October we went to VEGAS for the RiSE lantern festival!!!!! It was incredible and I wish I could just re-live this day over and over again. When we first found out about it, I texted some friends and so we ended up going with such good friends which made it an even better experience. The whole weekend was just SOOOOO fun and magical! 

LAST weekend I ran my first ever HALF MARATHON! Aimee and I have been training since JUNE so it was crazy that the day was FINALLY here!!! 

Then last week we carved pumpkins for FHE and watched Hocus Pocus... I love this time of year... its soooo fun AND its my birthday soo nothing beats it :) 

typical pumpkin carving for us

One of the main reasons this year has been so great is because of the knowledge we have that families are forever and for the knowledge of a loving God and Savior. I could write forever and ever about how thankful I am and how I believe Heavenly Father saved this one just for me... but I'll save that for another day.

It's been a year full of fun, flights (mostly from California to Oregon/Utah), and lots and lots of love!!!!! Best year ever!!! 

What a crazy adventure it's been. SO SO SO thankful to be able to have so many cool experiences but mostly to be able to spend them with this boy by my side. He makes everything incredible. Who would have thought marriage would be this much fun!?!

Can't wait to see what 25 has in store for me and I also can't wait til Adeles 25 album comes out next month!!!!!! I love it because Taylor Swift's "22" came out the WEEK before my 22nd birthday and now Adele's album 25 is coming out and I'm 25 and I'm already in love with her new song "Hello" so I'm excited!!! 

We are headed to San Diego as I write this to celebrate 25! Love you all!!!