How I Cleared CA Exams in Less Than 3 Months, Took a Career Break and Bounced Back

  • Hi, I am Rohit Agarwal, a Chartered Accountant from India.
  • I was born and raised in Jharkhand (India) and cleared the CA Final exams after preparing for only 2.5 months.
  • Here is my story of How I quit my job to study further, How he budgeted his expenses when he was jobless for a year and also managed his family.

MY JOURNEY

I was born in Jharia, a town in Dhanbad District of Jharkhand (India).

We had a family business of grocery dealing. We lived in a joint family. Our family business was doing good, however, the shop owned by my Dad was not doing well.

So, we had super hard days growing up and at times we had to depend on other family members for money.

I completed my Class 10 from Saraswati Vidya Mandir, Jharia in vernacular medium.

While in class 12 I switched to an English medium school and at the same time, I also chose to pursue Chartered Accountancy course from The ICAI. 

I prepared for CPT (1st level CA exam from ICAI) and cleared it in my 1st attempt.

After that, I came to Kolkata to start with my internship in a Chartered Accounting firm.

This was in the year 2007.

I was also pursuing B.Com simultaneously from The University of Calcutta. 

I started my article ship with a very modest stipend. Surviving with such a low stipend in a big city like Kolkata was really difficult. My Dad was doing his best to send me money but it was a struggle for him as well.

I was lucky to have friends like Rahul Goyal and Gaurav Singh who let me stay in their hostel room as a guest. Actually, the charges for guests were very negligible which helped me greatly.

Then came PCC (now known as IPC. It is the 2nd level of CA exam from ICAI). I cleared my PCC exam in 2009 June in the first attempt. As soon as I cleared I shifted to another Accounting firm on secondment. This firm was a  good mid-sized Accounting firm.

At this new firm, my stipend was way more  INR 3,500 per month ($55 roughly). It was still difficult to manage but better than my previous stipend.

MY CA FINAL JOURNEY

It was 15 August’10 when my junior trainee came over to my desk and informed me that we could appear for CA Final Exams (last level CA exams from ICAI) 6 months prior to the completion of our articles.

I immediately went to my manager's desk and told her about the new rule by ICAI.

I explained to her and told her as per the new rule I am allowed me to give my exams 6 months earlier.

So technically my CA Final exam would have been in May’11 but because of this new rule, I was eligible to give the CA Final exams in Nov’10 (CA Final exams are conducted twice a year – May and Nov).

I told her that I would like to take advantage of this and wanted to prepare for the exams.

In short, I wanted to go on study leave from the very next day.

She asked me to think over as I had only 2.5 months left until the CA Final Exams (14th Aug’10 – Nov’10).

I told her that - I was clear in my decision and was ready to give my best in these 2.5 months.

Now honestly I had not attended much of my tuitions as I was busy with my internship.

I was only well versed in Financial Management (SFM). I bought all the books which I had to refer for the exam (my father somehow managed to send INR 7 k for books) and I started my CA Final preparation.

I first made a study strategy (not a time table, a strategy). I was lucky to have the support of 3 of my friends - Sanjay Mittal, Anshu Singhania, and Himanshu Kumar.

Also, support from Ankit Agarwal who gave me accommodation in his house.

They became my teachers and helped me understanding - Indirect Taxation, Costing, and Accountancy. They also shared their tuition notes with me.

My strategy was as follows:

  • I divided all the 8 subjects as - Scoring subjects and Time-consuming subjects.
  • Then accordingly I allocated time (nos of hours) to cover them at least 2 times before the exam.
  • I studied hard - Sometimes 14 hours, sometimes 16 hours but never less than 12 hours a day.
  • I followed a strict and disciplined routine.

Now very few of my friends knew that I took advantage of the new rule and started preparing for CA Final exams.

Somehow I managed to give my best and all my exams went well.

I was content.

After the exams were over I met a few friends and told them I gave the exams earlier as per the new rule.

They all started laughing and called me  - Silly, an idiot, over smart and I became a laughing stock.

In my mind - I was so glad I did not tell any of my friends (other than my 3 close friends) about my decision else they would have demotivated me.

Days went by and the CA Final results were out and guess what were the results – I PASSED.

Yes, I cleared my exams and was - A Qualified Chartered Accountant.

LIFE AFTER QUALIFYING AS A CHARTERED ACCOUNTANT

Post qualification, I joined a Big 4 Accounting Firm – EY, Bangalore. However, after 2 years, I left the job to pursue my dream.

I wanted to be an IAS and thus wanted to prepare for UPSC Exams. I moved from Bangalore to Delhi to pursue my IAS dream.

Now while in Delhi, I joined a coaching class and started preparing for my UPSC exams. I also joined KASG & Co, a Chartered Accounting firm in Delhi on a part-time basis.

I used to work for a modest number of hours in a month. This helped me make some money while studying (I made very little money here in fact).

Luckily I had a money fund that helped me and my family survive. Let us discuss this later! Unfortunately, I did not clear the UPSC Exams.

I surely have no regret of failing as I did give it a shot and learned so much in this span of time.

Post that I got back to an Auditing role at - Walker Chandiok and Co LLP, Bangalore. 

IMPORTANCE OF SOUND FINANCIAL STRATEGY

When I quit EY to pursue my UPSC Exams a lot of people told me that - It was a BIG MISTAKE.

They were all concerned that my being jobless would create great financial stress for my family.

But they did not know - That I was saving for this for a really long time.

I had - A sound Finance strategy + Proper Budgeting + Savings + No Repayment Liability on my shoulders.

This Finance strategy gave me the liberty to sustain my family's needs.

Yes, I could not overspend on luxury but these small sacrifices are okay.

A Few Tips for a Sound Financial Strategy

  • Prepare a BUDGET for all your needs for at least a 3 years period based on your current need.
  • Keep updating this budget whenever something changes.
  • Save a portion of money in debt fund for retirement (20%), a good portion in the fixed deposit which can be withdrawn at short notice (35%) and ensure that interest accumulates there only. This 35% will help you in managing in bad times.
  • The balance you can spend prudently on monthly expenses.
  • Must ensure we have life and health insurance for yourself and all your dependents.
  • In May 2018 my mom met with an accident and I had a huge bill but thanks to health insurance I did not have to bother much.

TO CONCLUDE...

If I look back and see I have lagged by 3 years in my career in terms of where I could have been and where I am today but I am at peace with no regrets at least I explored the areas I wanted to!

  • I work better under pressure, this is what I have realized.
  • I end up trusting someone too quickly. This can be good or bad. So now I take a while before I trust someone.
  • Being SOCIAL is very important. It helps you network and connect to people. So now I try meeting new people.
  • I used to be rigid in thinking. So now I am open to discussing new ideas.
  • I have realized that my strength -  I am excellent in adjusting to situations and learning from them.

My advice to all is:

  • Network
  • Be flexible
  • Keep very wise people around you especially those who are Older to you/ more experienced for advice and discussion (this is very important).
  • If you need to take a break to pursue a dream for it but plan accordingly.
  • Always remember - For Luck To Work, You Need To Work And Your Work Needs A Strategy

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