I’m 32 and I passed FM; if I can do it, you can too!

Written by Terrence Byrne: DSC_2811-head1

Life is a crazy journey that takes you to many unexpected places. It helps to know how others got to where they are, and what challenges they overcame along the way. It is in that spirit that I write this post.

At 29, I had just finished my first bachelor’s at the University of Maryland, a B.A. in music with a minor in Chinese. My path up to that point had been fairly irregular, initially attending college, then dropping out to join the military, and then living abroad for a year. Thanks to the GI-bill, I was able to return to school to finish what I started.

After graduating, I began to search for meaningful employment. But this was 2011; the economy had tanked, and good jobs weren’t exactly falling from the sky. This was right around the time of the Occupy Wall Street movement, if that helps paint the picture.

After searching for a while, the only regular-paying job I could find was a job loading bags over at Dulles International. I did that for nine months, and then made the decision to return to school and study something that would open a few more doors. As far as deciding what to study, a brief survey online showed me that economics was the way to go.

As part of the economics course requirements, I had to complete a few semesters of calculus. And there was the hitch; for my first degree, since I had done so well on my SAT’s, I wasn’t required to take any math classes. In fact, the last mathematics class I had taken was trigonometry/precalculus back in my junior year of high school. A full 13 years had elapsed since then. I was intimidated by the prospect.

So there I was at 30 years old, taking my first calculus class. And I found I loved it! I loved the challenge, the puzzle, and I was fascinated by the interconnection of numbers. I enjoyed it so much, that I added math as a minor and thus upped-the-ante on my degree requirements.

A few months after that calculus class, I attended an information session about the actuarial career path. I had no idea what an actuary was, just that any info session where they have pizza is worth checking out. It was a presentation by two guys from Tower Watson talking about what they do as actuaries.

And thus was planted the seed. A few months after that, I saw an announcement for a summer internship at the Office of the Actuaries inside the Office of Personnel Management in Washington, DC. One thing leads to another, and before you know it – well, two years later, actually – I have a nice bit of experience on my resume, as well as having passed both ‘P’ and ‘FM.’

I should mention that I failed exam ‘P’ on the first go-around; Adapt helped me over the hump for the second try. For ‘FM,’ I set a goal of passing on the first try. Thanks again to Coaching Actuaries, I was able to make that happen.

But here’s what I want you to take away from this:

I went from 30 years old and “I’ve never taken a calculus class,” to (almost) 33 years old and “I passed both exam ‘P’ and ‘FM.’”

If I can do it, you can too! No excuses! Get on that horse, start studying, and make your dreams happen! There are great tools which you can use to help you over the top. So go do it!