Some Things Never Change
Walter C. Wright
Has the public's recognition of our profession improved much in the last 25 years? Decide for yourself based on this extract from Ted Zubulake's "Random Sampler" from February 1981. Has much changed?
Recently I returned to my high school for a reunion dinner. I learned how difficult it can be to explain the actuarial profession. Here is a typical example, within plus or minus epsilon, of what I encountered at my reunion:
Classmate: So, what do you do for a living?
Me: I'm an actuary.
Classmate: An actuary?
Me: Yes, I work for an insurance company.
Classmate (holding up hands): Oh, well, you see I've got all the life insurance I need right now. Me: No, you've got me all wrong. I'm not an agent. I'm an actuary. An actuary is that professional who is trained in evaluating the current financial implications of future contingent events.
Me: Look, I'm the guy who figures out how much you should pay for your insurance.
Classmate: How much would you charge me for a $30,000 policy with…
Me: No, I'm a casualty actuary.
Classmate: Oh, I'm sorry to hear that. When was the accident?
Me: No, you don't understand. Casualty actuaries deal with automobile, homeowners, and…
Classmate (grabbing my neck): So, it's because of you that I have to pay $1,200 a year for my car insurance. You've got some nerve. I…
Me: No, I deal with homeowners insurance. You've go to be at least 6'2" and 200 pounds to work the auto line.
Classmate: How do you become an actuary?
Me: Well, you've got to pass ten examinations. It took me five years.
Classmate: Can't you take and pass them all at the same time?
Me: Only if you're a Longley-Cook.
Classmate: What does that make you, a short order cook? What else do actuaries do?
Me: They also handle the reserves.
Classmate: What branch?
Me: No, you don't understand. They calculate the IBNR.
Me: It stands for incurred but not reported.
Classmate (raising eyebrows and smiling): You try to hide things from the IRS?
Me: Never mind. Next week I'm being transferred to our Commercial area.
Classmate: Hey, now that sounds exiting. I saw one on T.V. the other day that really broke me up. It…
Me: I think I need another drink.