Tragedy & Loss: My 10 Year Journey to PASS the CPA Exam

05 Feb 2014

NINJA Hall of Fame

David is a NINJA CPA Blogger.

It's over!!!!

10:45 am. October 2, 2002. A phone call that would change my life forever, and alter my CPA path for a very long time.

I had been studying for the exam for about three months–back when it was paper based, 4 exams in two days, only in November and May. The call was from my brother, telling me my mother had suddenly passed away in a tragic car accident.

I was dumbfounded, shocked and in utter disbelief. I was a total mommy's boy, and spoke to her at least two times a day for as long as I can remember. She helped me through college. Through my extra 30 hours. She was my life and my CPA motivation. She believed in me.

I was stunned and in a literal state of shock for years (and still am). I ceased my studying to deal with the loss and the arrangements. Two days before the exam, I realized I had already paid for it and might as well take a shot at it despite my lack of studying. I failed all 4 parts miserably.

I lost all motivation. All desire for the exam, and in life. I sunk into a deep depression. Needless to say, the exam was the last thing on my mind. I forgot about it. And used my depression as an excuse not to re-take it. I ended up getting out of public accounting and became a Controller at a private VC firm.

Time moved on. I got married to the woman whom my mom spoke her last words to. We had two beautiful kids. Passing the CPA exam was nowhere in my plans. My position never required it, so I didn't care.

Fast forward a number of years to when I lost my job in late 2011. I had no idea what to do. Then my wife said, “you have time now … You need to get your license. Your mom believed you could do it. You owe it to her memory and to our family. Why get this far and not even attempt it?”

So I got back on the train in December 2011 and started studying … And studying. And spending time away from my family. One section at a time.

My wife's grandfather paid for my first retake in 10 years. Then he passed away on February 3, 2012, before I received my first passing score. But I passed the one (REG) that he paid for. Now I was determined. I owed it to me, my mother, my wife's grandfather and my family.

The third attempt at BEC finally gave me my second pass, but I had to pass FAR and AUD in the same window to prevent REG from expiring. All while having to go through heart surgery (not open heart, but an ablation on 5 faulty heart nerves) during that window. 83 on AUD, 74 on FAR. Lost REG, Ugh.

And then I lost my job. Another Ughhh. Free time, but had to use half of it to find another position, while studying. So I retook FAR first, since the info was still somewhat fresh in my head. Another 74. Yet another Ughhh. So I switched to REG in the same window and fortunately passed my retake right away.

So I now had about a year to pass FAR to be done. I didn't want to wait that long. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to land a job with a Fortune 20 company, which pushed my motivation into overdrive. I needed to pass FAR so I could start focusing on my new job.

I got the FAR NINJA Notes, and befriended Mints on the Forum, and started following her journey. She was at the same point as I was … 3 down, and a FAR retake, due to the dreaded 74. Her posts motivated me.

Fast forward to February 3, 2014. Score release day: 80 on FAR. I'm done. On the anniversary of the death of the wonderful man who paid for my first retake.

It's been a long post, but the bottom line is this: I've been through hell and back during this 10 year journey. The death of two incredible family members who believed in me and this CPA trek. Depression. Heart surgery. My marriage. The birth of two beautiful children. Employment and unemployment. Lack of study time. But I did it.

Finally. It's over. I don't think it's a coincidence I passed two years to the day that my wife's grandfather passed away. He and my mom are smiling down on me now.

For all those out there still going through this journey … Keep your eye on the prize. If I can do it, you can. It takes determination and self examination.

Thank you to my mom, Pop Pop, wife and kids, Jeff, Mints, Baxter, and all others who have contributed to my motivation and my ultimate success.

By the way, my forum name is Gatorbates. I'm sure a few of you have met me by now. Best of luck to all of you!! This journey is worth it!!

Read more NINJA CPA Exam Success Stories on the Blog and Forum.

Leave a Reply


KC 10 years ago

Inspirational. Congratulations!

E Sass 10 years ago

WOW! Not sure if there were ever a time when Congratulations just seems so totally inadequate. But CONGRATULATIONS indeed! I am not sure what state you reside - but I would love to see you get plugged into the State Society of CPA's and be a resource of encouragement to others.

John Stevens 10 years ago

Congratulations and way to stick with it. Would you mind sharing what study materials you found worked for you?? God bless you in all your endeavors.

Mel 10 years ago

Absolutely AMAZING story! A failed attempt at a section always makes me try harder, respect the license, and want a pass even more - it's my motivation. Motivation so I don't have to tell my friends, family and colleagues that yet again I failed that same section. Congratulations on passing - you've definitely earned every single letter to the C.P.A.!

Allison Stadler Hendrix 10 years ago

Love this story David and am extremely proud of you. You have shown great determination and I know your mama is proud.

David 10 years ago

Becker Self Study for FAR and AUD. Ninja notes with FAR as well. For BEC and REG, I used a $50 Bisk book, a spiral notebook, the library and my butt. That's it.

Shanin 10 years ago

If this isn't motivation then I don't know what is!? Sometimes we take things for granted and don't realize how many people out there don't have it as good as we do. If David can get through it with all he went through, so can we! Congratulations David, what an amazing accomplishment! I aspire to have your determination in my final hours before I sit for REG on Monday (2/17/14)! Fingers crossed....

futureCPA 10 years ago

Congratulations, David. Very inspiring. All the best!

Becky 10 years ago

Congratulations! And chance always give someone who are preparing sth.

Dawn Brolin 10 years ago

I just got chills all up and down my spine. Congratulations David! Words couldn't say enough to you. LOVE IT!

BaxterCPA 10 years ago

This is so wonderful! Congratulations, David! *singing badly* "Ain't no stoppin' us now...we're on the move" Woo hooo!! So happy to read this post!

Nina 10 years ago

Excellent! My situation is little different, but it takes me 8 years to finish my Bachelors degree. So did you use any of the review program? They cost a lot of $$. Can Anyone have an idea or suggestion about the review course?

Misty 10 years ago

What a great story! There is nothing easy about the CPA exam, what it requires, and the amount of sacrifice that goes into obtaining that license. It's inspiring to hear someone stepping up and owning it even though life was trying its hardest to get in your way. I have no doubt this story will kick a reader into motion towards taking the exam. Thank you for sharing!