The CFA exam is a lot of things and is done by a very broad range of candidates. For some, spending $500 on the exam, buying books, even a few courses does not represent much. Why? Because many are already employed and either have their employer paying some or even all of these costs or in other cases, they are already making very good salaries and paying for the CFA does not represent much. But for many others, just registering for the exam is a significant investment and they think twice about any additional investment.
Your biggest investment
Before you even think about the $500-$1000 you are spending on registration and your official CFA books, think about the time investment you are making. No matter how much you value your time, it is probably worth much more than the fees that you spend to sign up. How much more? If you intend on spending 150-200 hours studying (less than the average according to the CFA institute), you are talking about $3000-$4000 at a $20/hour rate. Even at half of that rate, it still represents much more than the signing up cost of your exam. Why does it matter? Because if you are already spending $500 for your registration and $3000 in time, you will think very differently about spending $500 for summaries, courses, etc.
Return on Investment
It’s difficult to put all of this in terms of numbers, but if you could increase your chances of passing the exam by 20-30% by spending 500$ on some extra material, wouldn’t it be worth it?
Think about it…Does…
500$> 0.25% (Time Investment + Registration Fees + 6 months of waiting to redo the exam + psychological benefits, etc, etc)
To me, it’s a no brainer. If something will give you additional chances of passing the CFA exams either through extra knowledge, motivation or anything else, it is worth it in almost all cases.
If ever for some reason you fail the exam by the slightest of margins, how will you feel about that $100 that you saved? Honestly. I know, you want to avoid “wasting money.” I think that wasting money is spending it if you know that it will not have any impact on your chances of passing. Why? For example, there’s no point in buying practice exams that you will not be able to actually do (lack of time). But if you are able to do them, it’s usually a good idea to buy them.