How to Take Vacations, Receive Bonuses, and Be a Better Actuary

Piggy Bank on beach vacation

Successful vacation planning

Taking vacations sounds easy and simple, but rarely is. I’ll just focus on how to manage communication at work. First, make sure you know your company policy on who you need to inform. Managers, HR etc. are likely on the list. They likely have a plan to make sure that it is properly approved, recorded, and communicated. Our company has an “Out of Office (OOO)” calendar. We have a process established so the OOO is updated and everyone can see in one place who is out for the day.

My main advice on vacations, however, is to properly communicate your workflow projects to your teammates. First, don’t assume your teammates and colleagues know you are OOO. Communicate with them directly as your vacation approaches. Their needs to be agreement as to what projects should be finished before leaving and what projects can be put on hold. It is frustrating to hopefully complete a project only to discover a key team member just left for vacation. In this case, the person leaving needs to communicate so everyone can agree together what can wait. If it can’t wait but there’s not time to complete it, then find someone else as a “substitute” during the absence. But, in order for that to work, there usually needs to be communication with the substitute. I know this may seem like a lot of “work” and “communication”. However, it is part of being a professional and taking responsibility for your work. With practice, it becomes quite natural and not a big deal.

Receiving bonuses in style

OK – a more pleasant topic is receiving bonuses. I’m assuming you were informed what was your “bonus”. This may be in actual dollar terms or % of salary. Regardless, it likely was communicated in gross income terms. Of course, taxes and other deductions will be subtracted. So, your “job” in receiving bonuses is to review your paycheck to make sure all the accounting is correct. Was the gross amount correct? Did they deduct the correct taxes? Your state and federal withholding for bonuses are often a higher % than normal. Calculate the % to understand what % is withheld and how that compares to your normal withholding. If it is unclear whether the withholding was correct, contact HR or accounting. If you have other benefits tied to gross income, were they impacted? Perhaps you have a 3% of gross salary contributed to an IRA and a company 3% match. Did this get implemented correctly. In short, don’t assume there were not human errors. Also, it is good to understand how the accounting works for your personal education.

Become a better actuary

This leads to the last goal: How to be a better actuary. The first tip on managing vacations is a good start. Now, think about the second tip: understanding bonus calculations but reverse rolls. It is likely part of your job to perform calculations that impact others. Think about their perspective: what do they need to understand to become comfortable your calculations were correct? Just like you want enough information to know your bonuses were calculated correctly, the people who receive your work want to make sure your calculations were correct. So, just delivering the “final answer” is rarely sufficient. Rather, you need to think what parts of your calculations you should communicate so they are comfortable your results are reasonable. That decision varies by audience, volume of data etc. But, the concept is the same as in school: “show your work”!

Enjoy your vacation & bonuses. Become a better actuary so those benefits repeat next year! To help spread the word, consider if others would benefit from this advice and share this article with them.  Thanks!