Obtaining My CPA at 32

by Timothy Torres, CPA, MAcc, WilkinGuttenplan | February 25, 2020

If self-doubts, inaction, or the desire to put your social life at the forefront resonates with you and your progress towards becoming a CPA my story may be for you.

My journey towards becoming a CPA has spanned a third of my life, which means most of my adulthood was spent, in part, working towards this goal. This length of time is not representative of my attempts at taking the actual CPA Exam, rather it represents the time it took me to overcome the mental hurdles and self-doubt prior to sitting for one of our country’s hardest professional certification exams.

Over the length of my career thus far I have been surrounded with incredible mentors. They all shared the same sentiment: the longer I waited to take the CPA Exam the harder it would be as responsibilities at work and at home would grow. The first time I was on the receiving end of this insight I distinctly remember feeling a rush of misplaced pride that outright rejected their cautionary tale. In reality, the “pride” I felt was insecurity bubbling to the surface. Deep down, I knew they were right; however, I made the decision to ignore them. I decided, out of fear, to sacrifice future growth for current comfort and allowed self-doubt to root.

By 2013 I found myself interested in my work but remained uninspired to tackle the academic mountain which is the CPA Exam. In order to reinvigorate my passion for learning I enrolled in my alma mater’s Master of Accountancy program. I graduated December of 2014 with a refreshed outlook and revamped skillset to take on the exam. Before I dove head-first, I told myself, “I deserve a break before busy season.”

That was January of 2015.

Over the next four years, I transitioned into my current firm, WilkinGuttenplan; moved to an entirely new city; proposed to my girlfriend (now wife), Becky; and celebrated the awesome personal and professional milestones of my friends and family. Throughout all of that what remained absent was additional progress towards the CPA. I had positioned myself in a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure through inaction. I could hear my mentors, past and present, saying, “I told you so”.

By July 2018, after a series of meetings with my tax partner/coach the first section was scheduled. Passing this particular section wasn’t a high priority. What took precedent was the act of simply starting the process. I had to learn to face the fear and self-doubt I had let fester within and take my best shot.

What I learned throughout the following year’s successes and failures is simple; the CPA Exam is a war of mental attrition where the persistent and dedicated are rewarded. Paramount to my success was the support structure that built up my confidence to start the process and to hold me up through the setbacks. With the support of my wife, partner group, family and friends, exactly a year to the day of finding out I passed my first section, I had passed the final section at the ripe age of 32.

My final message to anyone procrastinating: Stop putting it off. You can do this!

Timothy I. Torres

Timothy I. Torres

Timothy Torres, CPA, MAcc, is a supervisor at WilkinGuttenplan. He can be reached at ttorres@wgcpas.com.

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