Aspiring Actuary and CFA Candidate
Michael Samuels is an ambitious professional pursuing both CFA and FSA designations. He shares his motivations, career aspirations, and how Salt Solutions is helping him balance studies and social time.
As the finance and actuarial fields get increasingly competitive, professionals who have multiple designations can really set themselves apart. Through our interactions with Michael Samuels on social media, we learned that he's one such individual. Simultaneously, Michael is working toward both his Chartered Financial Analyst® (CFA) and Fellow of the Society of Actuaries (FSA) designations.
In our interview, Michael shares his journey as a CFA® candidate and aspiring actuary, as well as his career aspirations and how the Salt Solutions platform has helped him stay on track.
You're studying to become a charterholder as well as an actuary! How did you decide to take on this ambitious task?
I knew that Dave Kester [lead instructor of our actuarial exam prep provider Coaching Actuaries] and Mike Carmody [lead instructor of Salt Solutions] were good friends and great business partners, so it was easy for me to learn about Salt Solutions using Coaching Actuaries. I was first introduced to Mike when studying for the Society of Actuaries (SOA) Exam IFM (passed March 2022), and I saw that he had both the FSA and CFA designations, which I thought was very impressive.
I started looking into what the CFA entails and found that there were a lot of synergies that could be created by pursuing the Quantitative Finance and Investment (QFI) track through the SOA and the CFA program. This was exactly what Mike did, so, I am basically following in his footsteps!
How will these designations benefit your career?
I graduated from university in November 2022 and so I am just starting my professional career as a Junior Actuary and Business Support to Managing Director at an insurance firm in Jamaica. I started the CFA preparation sooner than I initially planned to help with the business analysis part of my job. The FSA designation will help in the actuarial portion of my job as it will show that my recommendations to the different business stakeholders can be trusted and are dependable.
Currently, I have sat six (of seven) Associate of SOA (ASA) examinations and so I will obtain my Associateship designation soon, after which (sometime next year) I will start on the FSA exams. I am projected to sit CFA Level I in November of this year.
Holding the CFA designation will certainly help me to establish myself as a well-respected professional in Jamaica, which is a big dream of mine.
What is your biggest dream in relation to earning your charter?
My biggest dream of becoming a CFA charterholder is really to make myself, my family, and my mentors super impressed and proud. In Jamaica, the CFA designation garners more recognition than the actuarial-related ones as the actuarial profession is still in its developing stages in the region. So, holding the CFA designation will certainly help me to establish myself as a well-respected professional, which is a big dream of mine.
What obstacles have you had to overcome already in earning your charter?
So far, in my CFA pursuit, I have encountered two main struggles. The first is balancing ASA and CFA exam preparations. My plan is to study in the mornings for CFA and in the nights, I prepare for the actuarial exam. The second struggle is the cost of the CFA exams and study materials. I was elated to find out (through Instagram) that Salt Solutions was giving CFA Level I free access! Of course, I seized the opportunity, so now I only have the registration fee to focus on, so a big thank you to you folks.
I was elated to find out Salt Solutions was giving CFA Level I free access! Of course, I seized the opportunity.
What are you liking about Salt Solutions so far?
Coming from Coaching Actuaries to Salt Solutions was a bit intimidating because of the numerous distinctive features available on the platform, but once I got the hang of it, it was seamless to maneuver. What I like about the platform is that it gives the users the option to change the theme of the material from "light" to "dark" (as simple as a click on a toggle button present on each screen). This feature caters to different users with their reading preferences.
What's your favorite feature of the platform?
My favorite feature is the weekly CheckPoints goal tracker! With this feature, I can do a lot of studying in a specific week and take the following week off to do something else, while being reassured that I am staying on track. I enjoy ticking off things on my to-do list, so seeing the real-time progress on the goal tracker when using the platform does give me a good dopamine release. I tend to front-load when preparing for exams which often results in me having a lot of time nearer to the exam date than what is recommended, so with this feature, I’m able to pace myself better.
With CheckPoints, I can do a lot of studying in a specific week and take the following week off to do something else, while being reassured that I am staying on track.
How are you keeping pace with your ambitious goals?
Studying for both the actuarial and CFA exams is really intense, especially when coupled with the fact that I have other responsibilities. I attend the gym at night to expel the built-up tension so I can sleep properly. We are social beings, so socialization is important to our overall health, and it does help me from being overwhelmed with all the studies.
So, I do have my days when I would go out with friends (aspiring actuaries and other financial professionals), and we would have our chats about shared interests and speculate what the future holds for us. I find that I can do this more frequently now than before, especially given the fact that I can now pace myself more efficiently using the weekly CheckPoints goal tracker on Salt Solutions.
We're grateful to Michael for sharing his story of hard work, perseverance, and strategic planning! Pursuing both CFA and FSA designations is undoubtedly challenging, but Michael's on his way. We wish him all the best in his studies and can't wait to hear more about his successes.