Putting a Price Tag on Risk

I struggle when asked what I do for a living. Sometimes I outright fib when asked the question. It’s not because I don’t like what I do, it just sounds technical and boring. Recently, I’ve worked up an explanation of what an actuary is and, specifically what I do, so I can practice being more honest when asked the question.

Any place where there is future financial risk you can find an actuary. Actuaries put a price tag on risk. They determine the price you pay for car insurance, for life insurance, for health insurance, and for annuities, just to name a few. The most interesting area I have seen actuaries is in major league salary negotiations!

You find actuaries in all walks of life, although most people associate actuaries with insurance and the probability of dying. I specialize in retirement plans, so I work with companies that sponsor retirement plans, or want to sponsor retirement plans for their employees. I help them establish their risk tolerance for benefit plans and determine how much money they need to fund those benefits.

Don’t get me wrong, it sounds boring, but really, my job is part math, part legal, part accounting, part teaching, and most importantly part getting to know my clients and their business. I could not function with a job sitting behind a desk and crunching numbers. I need people, constant learning and the ability to help others solve problems to feel happy in a job. Luckily, I have found that balance.

I’m curious if others have found this question as challenging as I have either in the actuarial profession or other areas. What’s your answer to “what do you do”?

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