This morning when I was showering, I started thinking about the reality of being an actuary. Just recently I painted my first picture since grade school (with great help from my cousin Jill!). I’m sure it wasn’t anything special as far as paintings go, but I felt good about it considering my complete lack of experience and perceived skill. I was encouraged to have several people compliment me on the painting, further increasing my satisfaction.
Then, I put my actuarial hat on and did some analysis. I had invested about 7 hours in this painting (which included 4 hour commute). I recently estimated that I had invested about 7 thousand hours studying for actuarial exams. Then add 29 years of actuarial experience including 20 years starting and running an actuarial consulting company. I’d like to think that my investment in the actuarial profession far outweighs my contribution to society than my painting. But, I received compliments from people regarding the painting that have never thought twice (or once probably) about my actuarial contributions.
The purpose for me sharing this is not to create a pity party. The purpose is understanding and communicating that actuarial service will largely go unnoticed and unappreciated by society. I’m sure actuaries don’t have “the corner on this market”. But, speaking to any actuaries or future actuaries, I think it is safe to assume that your work will largely go unnoticed and unappreciated by most. That is a shame. I’m not ranking actuaries’ contribution to doctors. But, actuaries solve difficult financial problems. Really difficult. The type that has no right answer but are of the utmost importance. Actuaries answer questions others can’t, or won’t, answer.
Ironically, as I was thinking about this during my morning shower, I slowly brought my mind back to current day reality, it hit me that tomorrow is Thanksgiving. So, even though my day is full, I thought I needed to share these thoughts today because inspirations and perfect timing don’t occur frequently. So, here are the main points:
If you know an actuary whose work you value, thank them. If you know specifics, be specific. If not, a general thanks will do.
If you are thinking about becoming an actuary or are just starting practicing as an actuary, realize that most of your achievements will not be recognized. But, don’t let the lack of positive feedback diminish confidence in your contributions. It’s important to develop a close network whom you can share experiences. The communication works both ways. Make sure to appreciate your close colleagues and communicate to them your appreciation. Likewise, give them enough windows into your work so they understand you and provide useful feedback. Life is short. Actuaries need to make sure they connect well at a human level with those that matter most.