Licensed International Financial Analyst (LIFA) Definition

Written by True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

Reviewed by Subject Matter Experts

Updated on January 30, 2024

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The Licensed International Financial Analyst (LIFA) is a professional designation for finance and investment professionals administered by the International Research Association.

It is similar to the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and is intended for the same target audience. However, the IRA terms its designation a “CFA exam disruptor” because the exam differs from its more popular counterpart in several ways.

  • First, the organizers issue refunds to candidates who cannot appear on exam day.
  • Second, exam fees are deducted from the credit card on file only after the candidate has passed the exam. Finally, LIFA exam candidates cannot appear for the exam more than three times.

This is unlike CFA, which allows candidates to make unlimited attempts to pass the exam.

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What Is a Licensed International Financial Analyst (LIFA)?

In terms of scope, the Licensed International Financial Analyst is similar to the Chartered Financial Analyst.

Candidates appearing for the exam are expected to learn about and understand capital markets, finance and investment, meaning they should know about topics such as risk management and returns, investment policies, taxation, and accounting.

Candidates appearing for the exam should have earned a U.S. Bachelor's Degree or be scheduled to appear for their final exam for the degree by December 31st of that year. Just like CFA, the LIFA exam also consists of three levels.

Each successive level tests the candidate's understanding of subjects related to finance and investment. Level III is a consolidation and application of topics covered in Level I and II.

The list of topics covered in the last level includes financial statements analysis, international markets, and economics.

After Level III, candidates are required to submit an investment report detailing an investment pick and their reasons for putting funds into the selected pick.

LIFA exam fees can range from between $450 to $1,000. Registration fees for 2024 are $750. An annual fee of $275 is required to maintain a certificate of good standing. LIFA also touts the flexibility of its fee structure.

For example, candidates are not required to pay exam fees until they actually take it. The site's registration process, however, does require them to share credit card details for registration and materials related to the certification.

LIFA has a pass rate that is lower than the CFA, meaning fewer candidates pass their exam. Statistics regarding their pass rates are available on their website.

The LIFA program began development in 2001 and its first exam was held in 2005.

During its inaugural year, the program temporarily allowed Ph.Ds, qualified investment professionals, CPAs, and equivalent accounting designations, and those with sufficient work experience to skip the first two levels of the exam and immediately appear for Level III.

Duties of a Licensed International Financial Analyst (LIFA)

Because of the similarities in their course content and study materials, the duties of a Licensed International Financial Analyst are similar to those for a CFA.

A LIFA-certified individual is expected to be equipped with the same skill sets as a CFA, allowing them to perform identical functions. For example, they should be able to analyze a company's financial filings.

They should be able to analyze taxation and accounting issues pertaining to retirement and investment planning. They should be able to analyze the implications of government policies on financial instruments. And so on.

Licensed International Financial Analyst (LIFA) FAQs

About the Author

True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

True Tamplin is a published author, public speaker, CEO of UpDigital, and founder of Finance Strategists.

True is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®), author of The Handy Financial Ratios Guide, a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, contributes to his financial education site, Finance Strategists, and has spoken to various financial communities such as the CFA Institute, as well as university students like his Alma mater, Biola University, where he received a bachelor of science in business and data analytics.

To learn more about True, visit his personal website or view his author profiles on Amazon, Nasdaq and Forbes.

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