Belicia CespedesNext profile
International Environmental Corp.
Canyon Country, CAMy Day My Bio
By age 25, Mozart had composed more than 35 symphonies and 14 operas. A 21-year-old Steve Jobs co-founded Apple. And at just 17, Belicia Cespedes successfully completed all four sections of the CPA Exam, becoming one of the youngest CPAs in the world.
She is the second oldest of five sisters born to her parents, Jan and Vicki, whose families immigrated to California from Cuba and Mexico, respectively. Belicia, along with her sisters, completed the majority of her education at home, working at her own pace and graduating from high school at 13.
“Every time we moved up a grade,” Belicia says, “we’d get to go out for ice cream.”
A course in QuickBooks sparked her interest in accounting, for which she decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree. With support and encouragement from her parents, she enrolled in community college at age 14, earning some of the top scores in her classes.
She says, “I benefited greatly from taking my foundational accounting courses at College of the Canyons in a classroom setting with a professor. Due to my age, and issues of cost and efficiency, I decided to take a non-conventional approach to earning my bachelor’s degree.”
She finished her degree taking online courses from Thomas Edison State College. “This pathway allowed me much flexibility as well as the ability to use many modes of education simultaneously for maximum efficiency and affordability,” she says.
Since many of Belicia’s credits were earned either online or via credit by examination, she had limited interaction with classmates and professors, “but I did what I could to create opportunities where possible and to make the most of my education,” she says.
One of those opportunities was working part-time with an accountant who had previously worked with her father. “Starting my internship at age 15 was one practical way of continuous mentorship in the real world of accounting,” Belicia says.
This professionalism and experience in business settings makes it hard to believe she’s younger than most college freshmen.
Half way through her undergraduate studies, Belicia says it was her parents who encouraged her to “shoot high and go all the way”—all the way to earning her CPA license. “Even from a young age, I knew that the license was a very reputable designation because of the difficulty and advanced professionalism of accounting,” she says.
At that point, she says, “I made the decision to devote the next four to five years of my life to graduating, finishing the 30 extra credits, earning my general accounting hours, and passing the CPA Exam. Little did I know it would only be two years later when I could call myself a CPA.”
When it came time to prepare for the CPA Exam, it was Belicia’s years of independent studying as a home-school student that she claims helped her keep her focus. She spent roughly one month getting ready for each section of the exam, using an online review course, answering practice questions and flipping through flash cards. She viewed this time as an opportunity to become better at her profession, not just learn skills to pass a test.
Like the ice cream reward she received for advancing through her studies, Vicki treated her daughter to Cheesecake Factory and a movie to celebrate the completion of each section of the exam. Belicia says she found the tests to be long and mentally draining. But she didn’t get discouraged—even when she failed two of the parts on her first attempt. She held on to the belief that she would eventually pass.
“When I failed those two parts,” she says, “it was almost more of an encouragement than a disappointment.” She looked at her first time taking each section as a practice session, and left knowing what subjects she needed to “hone in on to push me over that 75 mark.” Her advice for exam takers? “Go into each session with a mindset of experience rather than expectation.”
Now as a fully licensed CPA, Belicia works as an accountant for her parents’ landscaping and construction company, International Environmental Corp., as well as at Anthony Bonenfant and Company—where, incidentally, she earned her experience hours for licensure.
Since Belicia is only 17, she’s still weighing her options for her future career path. She says she is considering law school and would also like to someday provide financial planning services within her community. “I’m really grateful for the opportunity to use my CPA license to help others,” she says.
“When I first was able to say, ‘I’m Belicia Cespedes, CPA,’ I couldn’t honestly believe it.”
Time to catch up to Belicia. Head over to the CPA Exam & Licensure Center to get started on your path to CPA.
In my beautifully soft bed.
What can I say? A teenager needs her rest!
I get my day going right by grabbing a quick smoothie, do some reading, and then go for a run in the hills.
We take an hour to discuss daily to dos as well as short term goals for IEC. I explain and update Dad on the financial state of the company as a whole, as well as individual transactions that had taken place the day before.
Trying to avoid the awful traffic on Interstate 405!
I review the work I completed the day before, then receive my assignments for the current day (which usually includes tax return preparation or financial accounting projects). Tony always takes the time to explain new concepts to me and walk me through ways I can improve.
I spend the day working on a variety of current and ongoing projects for Tony including (but not limited to) tax return preparation and forensic accounting projects.
I spend some time on accounts payable maintenance, updating clients' books, and filing forms and statements for clients.
Mr. Bonenfant has been such a great mentor and teacher to me. I get to learn directly from him and his wealth of knowledge and experience.
Time to take off my accounting hat, and transition to the musician’s cap. I have a great time singing and producing music with some of my best friends.
I love playing my favorite hobby with friends and family. I can be an extremely competitive player, but it never gets too serious.
I grab some food with friends, then thank God for a great day and head to bed around 10 p.m. to get some rest for the next one!