On my first CFA Chicago event I found there are more student and/or candidate members than I thought. And then I got a brochure about candidate membership, learned that many things comes with the $175/yr fee. It looks like a deal! There is a comparison matrix on this page, but that table does not mean everything, really.
It is easier to understand by putting monetary values together:
Programs: $90 value
CFA Chicago holds so many events in one year. What surprises me is not the length of event schedule, but how frequently it is updated, how many new things are "Just Announced" (such notices are very handy), and how diversify it is. For example: the most recent weekly update received today contains 17 events (and 3 to 4 related activities), among which are about 4 "Last Call" events, 2 "Just Announced" ones. There are forums, discussions, luncheon speaks, networking happy hour, and so on. Those events are not free, many are not public. Most events cost about $45. Choosing two events in one year is something really hard to do, because they all look very interesting.
Exam preparation: $49+ value
This refers to the free Kaplan Schweser online mock exam. I took the live mock exam -- not the online one, to be honest. But any mock exam is very helpful. This page lists other discounts from Kaplan. I have no say over them, since I haven't had a trial (what is in the $300 discount Premium+ package?) The other part of exam preparation is the study groups. From what I read from cfaspace and bbs, many candidates want to join others during preparation. It takes some time to communicate and exchange ideas, especially for someone too shy like me. Without study groups, eventually candidates can figure out difficult items themselves -- thanks to the curriculum authors and editors for the clear and in-depth text and selected practice questions. But a study group lead by volunteers who are already CFA charterholders, or work closely with them, would be great. I don't know the form of study group yet -- guess it would be one or two sessions each one hour before exam date, have people answer some questions or make some discussions.
Apply for the Scholarship
The scholarship, named "Kimberly Paige Memorial Study Scholarship", covers study materials. Other scholarships from the CFAI (Access Scholarship and Awareness Scholarship) covers exam enrollment/registration and/or curriculum e-books. The "Access Scholarship" is about $500 reduction. Unfortunately, application must be submitted before Aug 15. Thanks to my employer (Morningstar), I have reimbursed the enrollment/registration fees. But for other people, students or who is under stress, this benefit can be quite useful.
This is how CFA Chicago works: many advisor groups are there behind those events. Here is a list of the advisor groups. Usually CFA Chicago staff will join them, but the advisor groups are lead and run by volunteers. Sounds familiar? It is just like the Fedora Project, where we have board, technical committee and SIGs, all run by volunteers as well as Red Hat employees. The meetings are held monthly or bi-monthly. Every one is encouraged to join one or two groups. I attended one meeting but could barely catch up what people were talking about. The meeting started by reviewing previous meeting minutes, then went on to explain the agenda. Discussions and brainstorming took most of the time. I think this also is how Fedora people have meetings in IRC. Some Zodbot-like person will keep logs and record action items. I don't have much idea to contribute, but still feel good. Normally one does not have this chance to get involved.
The bottom line: a candidate membership requires an active candidate number, so it is not limited to who have enrolled in the exam.