Super Pie

I've been reading a few excel blogs lately, including a few that focus on making charts look better and easier to interpret. I admit, the handy pie chart has always looked a little cluttered, and it required a long explanation of what the various components were when I first posted it. To some extent it still does, because most (all?) of my audience is unfamiliar with the pathway to the ASA credential. But the new improved Super Pie Chart should be a little more visitor friendly.

Pie chart of Jack's progress toward ASA.

The major categories of the requirements are grouped by color—blue for exams, red for VEE credits, green for the FAP modules, and purple for the APC—and each color region is labeled. Darker wedges in each range show completed requirements (all of the VEEs are complete) while lighter wedges represent outstanding requirements. The text for each wedge fits in place (except for the APC, which floats above), removing the clutter of all those leader lines on the old chart.

The only new progress on this incarnation is the addition of Module 1 from the FAP modules, which I completed earlier this summer. At the moment I am studying for Exam C, which I will take in early November, and I will start working on the FAP modules again while I wait for my result.


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New route to ASA?

As those of you who still visit the blog know, there's basically only one reason to check in these days: updates to the handy pie chart (actually my submission for the first FAP module was graded and I passed so I do need to update it, but that will come later). When I introduced the pie chart I ran through the overall structure of the path to ASA and concluded:

The nice thing about this whole process is that it is well defined within the profession and each additional accomplishment generally is rewarded with raises and increased employment opportunities.

Well, that may change. Specifically the well defined part, but in the long run I can see the raises and increased employment opportunities being reduced as a result.

On the afternoon of Friday, August 14th, the SOA, CAS, and CIA jointly released a letter and accompanying FAQ about a major change to the credentialing process for future actuaries. The proposal, called the Future Education Methods (FEM), would allow students at certain universities to earn exemptions from preliminary actuarial exams based on their grades in certain classes as long as they pass Exam P/1 while they are in school.

This proposal would allow many students to graduate near-ASA, with only the FAP modules and the APC remaining for an actuarial credential. In fact, without the other preliminary exams to study for as an undergrad, I wouldn't be surprised to see many more students completing the FAP and possibly studying for FSA exams before graduating and thereby creating a steady flow of entry level ASAs and near-FSAs.

I feel such a move devalues the ASA in particular, along with the FSA, ACAS, and FCAS. I don't feel that the universities that would be accredited for the FEM would be able to consistently and satisfactorily provide the rigor that the preliminary exams currently provide, and over time confidence in the knowledge level and professionalism of actuaries would begin to drop.

The proposal includes a request that comments be sent to fem@actuarialdirectory.org, but the deadline to submit comments is September 10, 2009. It is expected that this proposal will be considered and possibly enacted by a vote of the SOA and CAS boards at their Fall 2009 meetings, without a vote by SOA or CAS members. Therefore, it is very important that any concerns or objections to the FEM proposal be raised during the exposure period. If no major objections are raised it is expected that the SOA board will approve this alternative route to recognition of early actuarial education.

This past week I put together a letter stating my main objections to the proposal, which you can view as a PDF. Other actuaries are also sharing their letters on the Actuarial Outpost. If you are in the actuarial profession or know anyone else who is I encourage you to get informed and make sure that your voice is heard by the Boards of Directors before the fall meetings.


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Some progress

I finally finished the first module in the Fundamentals of Actuarial Practice (FAP) this week, about two months after I started. The official estimate is that the modules should take about a month each but we've been busy and there were things about the final project that I had to mull for a while. I had a couple of eureka moments but in the end it's nothing so great that it has to be shared. Someone on the Actuarial Outpost has a quote about how things seem easy in retrospect but it is the challenge of looking at them prospectively and getting to the point of retrospection that is the hard part. I feel like that's the case here. It will eventually get graded and don't expect any problems, but since it's my first work in this format who knows.

Unfortunately, I took too long on the first module to realistically have a chance at completing the second one before I need to turn my attention to Exam C for the fall, so I've started studying for my exam about two weeks ahead of my original planned study schedule. Hopefully that will give me enough leeway to finish when I had planned to finish and be ready for the exam. So far so good but I've only been studying for two days and I've only done 10 sample problems. I'm trying to watch a video lesson each day and do about 5 problems afterwards to maintain a steady pace. When I tried getting ready for the exam in May I kept having bursts of progress followed by lulls when I didn't get anywhere, and by the time the registration deadline arrived I knew I wouldn't be ready to take the exam. So it goes. With my current schedule I should be done in mid-late September and then I can focus on my weak areas and work practice problems until I'm sick of them.

After my exam in November I will return my attention to the FAP modules for a few more months and try to get one or two more finished before February, when things will get a lot busier and I'll probably have to take a break. But I've got a good reason to pause, so that's ok.


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Some reading, anyone?

I got my books for the FAP modules on Monday. Fortunately I don't have to read every page of each one, but right now I'm not exactly sure how much reading from each book will be required. When you get to the appropriate point in the slides it tells you to read from a certain book before continuing. In addition to the books, there are an unknown number of slides per unit, as well as 350 PDFs that I downloaded last week when I first signed up, and on one slide we've had links to articles on the web, so who knows how much this whole thing will entail. I didn't expect the FAP to be easy, but I didn't realize the extent of the time commitment just due to reading.

So far it is going pretty well. The unit I am in is about the profession of being an actuary, and while it started off as a pep rally for actuaries, the tone has shifted. There are new areas of business, such as enterprise risk management, that actuaries would be well suited to work in, but because many employers outside of the insurance industry don't know much about actuaries they often aren't looking for actuaries to fill those roles, instead preferring MBA types. ERM is an area that I am interested in learning more about, and if you notice I've got a book about the topic in my stack. If I decide it's an area I want to pursue I may have additional challenges convincing an employer to hire me compared to traditional areas, but as I have learned, many of the areas that are now considered traditional for actuarial practice were new frontiers not too long ago.






Change of pace

Last time I wrote about the exams I had just passed Exam MFE and was champing at the bit to dig into my 1,250 page study guide for Exam C. For planning purposes I usually estimate that I can cover 50 pages per week, even though I often struggle to do so and have to revise my study schedule multiple times as I have studied for most of my exams. In this case, by the time I was able and ready to order the study guide I estimated that I would finish the study guide about three weeks after the exam date. Not so good.

A few days later I chickened out and instead signed up for an online video seminar from The Infinite Actuary. The sample study schedule for the TIA seminar said I would be done about March 25th, which would leave me with six weeks to work on practice problems and get on top of my game for the exam. But, I started about a week behind their study schedule and managed to get further and further behind on that too. So instead of taking the exam in May when I know I won't be truly prepared, I am switching gears and starting the Fundamentals of Actuarial Practice (FAP) online modules.

The FAP is a self-paced online course that deals with the business practice of being an actuary, whereas the exams I have been taking so far have been geared toward technical math skill and knowledge. It involves more writing to communicate the results and implications of the calculations and less emphasis on learning how to do the calculations themselves. Hopefully I can complete two or three of the modules before I switch back to studying for Exam C in July.

The good news for me is that if I can get a few modules out of the way and then get ready for C in November I have a good chance of being finished with my ASA by next Spring. The good news for you guys is that I should be filling in more of the pie chart sooner rather than later.


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Reasons 30 is Awesome (so far)

Yesterday I turned 30 and I had a great day, in no small part because of Erica's efforts to make sure I had as good a day as possible. But so many good things happened I had to share a few.

  • Kent and Erica gave me my presents first thing in the morning. They were wrapped in custom Kent-painted wrapping paper. It was awesome :)
  • My mom emailed me a quick note about the day I was born. Something I probably knew at some point but had forgotten: my father was the first person to hold me after I was delivered. Now that I'm a dad this means even more to me than it might have before Kent.
  • Speaking of Kent, I had a great surprise waiting in my email box when I got to work yesterday morning: R Kent Angert, Actuarial Assistant Reporting for Duty!
  • I got phone calls from my parents and my sister wishing a happy birthday, in addition to several emails, a text from Granny and Uncle Mark, and a coworker that I hardly know wishing a happy birthday (guess he checked the birthday list; I didn't advertise that it was happening at all).
  • Erica and Kent came to meet me for lunch and we sat outside on a nice spring day at one of our favorite downtown restaurants.
  • Erica made an excellent Queen of Sheba cake based on my sister's suggestion. She even made the cardamom strawberries to put on top. Yum!


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Math, anyone?

The top three careers according to JobsRated.com's ranking of 200 jobs:

  1. Mathematician
  2. Actuary
  3. Statistician

Examining the study's methodologies for bias flaws is an exercise left for the reader.






New Year, New Pie

In the awesome news department, I found out today that I passed the actuarial exam that I took back in November. That means I only have one preliminary exam left to go, Exam C, which is, well, awesome. However, if you pay close attention you might notice that Exam C is the biggest wedge on the Handy Pie Chart. The study guide I'm using weighs in at 1,250 pages (there is one study guide that is approximately 4,700 pages but I do have a wife and kid so I'm not going near it). So on Monday (while I'm at jury duty) I'll see if I can get the folks at work to order my study guide so that I can get working on it. May 14th is coming quick. After May 14th I will start working on all of the Module wedges on the left side of the pie. Best case scenario has me finishing sometime early to mid next year, but there's still a long way to go, so who knows. Here's the current edition of the Handy Pie Chart—no more updates for a while:

As far as the New Year, I'm not one for resolutions, but I do have two goals for this coming year. First, I'm going to try to keep track of our personal finances for the entire year. I've tried a few times and run out of steam after a month or two, but I think it will help with my second goal, which is getting rid of the rest of our credit card debt. I keep thinking it'll be gone in a year or two and it's still hanging around. I've reached the point where I'm tired of dealing with it and hopefully I'm financially aware and focused enough to make it go away. For good. I'll revisit this post in a year to see how I did.

Wishing a happy year to you and yours,


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Goodbye VEE credits, roof

Today I took and passed the macroeconomics CLEP exam. I did slightly better on it than I had on the microeconomics exam despite not having quite as intuitive a grasp of the topic. As with the micro exam, I learned some material from a book and supplemented from a series of narrated powerpoint lectures. The micro lectures were pretty well targeted to the same kind of information that they wanted us to know for the CLEP exams, but the macro lectures were based on a historical look at macroeconomic theory and how it has evolved. It was interesting to watch but there were a few details that I only picked up after missing some of the sample questions. Of course, I was also trying to watch the lectures over our Thanksgiving trip to Atlanta while Kent was napping or in the hotel in the evenings, so there may be other reasons I missed a few things here and there.

At any rate, I am finished with my VEE requirements and now I'll move on to the Fundamentals of Actuarial Practice (FAP)—which makes up the left side of the pie chart—between exams. If I get really lucky I will have passed the exam I took in November and will pass my final preliminary exam in May. If that's the case I'll be able to focus on FAP the rest of the year and maybe even finish around this time next year, but that scenario would require a lot going right for me and the preliminary exams still have pass rates between 40 and 50 percent so I'm not going to hold my breath. The next step is waiting for the results from November, which should be released on January 2nd. The updated pie chart looks like this:

In other news, we had some roof damage during Hurricane Gustav, but it was relatively minor, no water was coming in, and I figured we might be able to get it fixed for less than our insurance deductible, so I didn't contact our insurance company right away.

In any case, we were doing much better than some of our neighbors:

After getting three estimates that ranged from $175 to $8,000, I decided that maybe we should contact the insurance company anyway and see what they thought. To my surprise, our adjuster took a look at the roof and said it should be replaced, and today we picked a contractor to do the work.

When we moved in the kitchen appliances, light fixtures, fans, and floors were all new. Since then we've replaced the heat pump, the water heater, and now the roof. All we need to do is the windows and the siding and we'll have a completely different house than the one we saw on our first visit. Crazy.


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The last two weeks I've been learning microeconomics in order to fulfill part of my final VEE credit, and on Thursday I passed the Principles of Microeconomics CLEP exam pretty easily. The CLEP exams are multiple choice tests designed to cover the content of a basic college course. They are similar to the AP exams except there aren't essays (at least not for the economics exams), you can schedule the exam whenever you feel like you are ready, and since it is given on a computer you get your score as soon as you are finished.

I'm a little surprised I managed to learn the equivalent of a semester of microeconomics in two weeks. It makes me wonder why I didn't do better on my AP exams in high school until I remember that I never studied for anything in high school. That's not an option for the actuarial exams and so when it came time to study for this relatively easy test I guess things just came together quickly.

In two more weeks I plan to take the Principles of Macroeconomics CLEP exam to finish off my VEEs once and for all. In the meantime, here's my updated pie chart:


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Crazy day

I got up this morning and stood in line for a relatively short hour to cast my vote. I'm glad to see that the rest of the country seems to agree that Obama was the better choice in this election, and I am excited to have a thoughtful, open, forward looking President in office again.

After I voted I took my actuarial exam. I feel like I probably came up a little short of passing, though passing isn't impossible. It's hard to say for sure because I didn't get a chance to try and remember my answers for comparison with other folks who took the exam. I'll find out for sure in January, but the other two times I felt like this after an exam I got 5's (6 is passing), so I'm going to assume I've got another 5 coming my way. So it goes. On the bright side, I do feel like the exam was fair and that I could have passed given a little more time; I was trying to solve problems right up until the proctor told us to stop working.

I'll try to get my economics credit out of the way by the end of the year and bid a fond farewell to the VEE requirements. After that I'll review my study manual to work on solidifying the few topics that I'm still a little fuzzy on and try to make sure that I can solve problems quickly. If I have to take it again in May I want to be sure to pass.


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Ten days to go

until my actuarial exam. Oh, you thought I meant the election? Yeah, the SOA scheduled my exam for 2PM on election day. So it goes.

I took a practice exam today and did really well, which was a little heartening because some of the problems I've been working on lately have been throwing me pretty bad. However, the exam I just took is from the first time this exam was ever offered and the questions were softballs. I don't expect my upcoming exam to be anywhere near as easy.

In any case, I won't find out how I did until January so I'll try to fill in some more pie pieces while I wait, either studying for another exam (my final preliminary exam!) if I feel like I passed or getting my economics requirements out of the way if I feel like I didn't. There's not an overwhelming amount of material on this one so I think I can get up to speed pretty easily if I have to take it again in May. But hopefully I can find enough problems that I know how to answer that I can get through this time around. We'll see...


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Doing the actuarial tables

In a recent interview Matt Damon, of all people, said of John McCain: "You do the actuary tables, there's a one out of three chance, if not more, that McCain doesn't survive his first term." Of course, when non-actuaries start invoking actuarial tables there's often some controversy in actuarial circles. I thought I'd address the issue here since the statistic seems to have been misquoted, as well as possibly misapplied.

First of all, using actuarial tables to predict the probability of death for an individual is a tenuous exercise at best. The tables are built from mortality data collected from multiple life insurance companies, and the mortality factors need to be applied to a large group of people in order to be properly utilized. They do not purport to predict the demise of any individual, but on the aggregate, for a group of policy holders, they attempt to quantify life expectancy. Some folks will die sooner than the tables suggest, some folks will die later, and in the end, with a sufficiently large group of insureds, the company hopes that their actual experience is as good or better than the mortality tables that they use.

In short, even with a lifetime of studying and work in the field, I'll never be able to tell anyone when they are going to die.

Secondly, there is the issue of population selection. The population of insured lives is not the same as the population of the United States; some folks don't have life insurance. So the data that the companies are compiling doesn't necessarily represent the mortality of a randomly selected person out of the general population. Some individuals can't get life insurance because the companies deem them too high a risk, and some choose not to buy life insurance. Since the insured population is not the same as the total population, there is bound to be some bias in the mortality data. However, this is a smaller concern than you might think because of the next point.

The standard mortality tables that insurance companies use do not show the actual observed mortality of the insured population. Instead they are padded with margins for profit and conservatism. The profit makes the companies happy. The conservatism makes the insurance regulators happy; we would rather a company hold a little too much money to pay a future death benefit than too little and risk going out of business and leaving other policy holders with no protection.

Finally, there is a question of which mortality table should be applied, and what adjustments, if any need to be made to it. The earliest standard mortality table currently in use is called the American Experience (AE) table, and it was compiled in 1898. It is still used by some insurance companies who sell what is known as industrial insurance. The policies written on the AE table usually have small face amounts, typically less than $1,000, and are written to pay for burial expenses. Since 1898 there have been several industrial insurance tables adopted, including the 1941 Standard Industrial table and the 1961 Commissioner's Standard Industrial (CSI) table. Since the health and longevity of the US population has improved, these subsequent tables generate higher life expectancies than the AE table.

Most people today buy what is known as ordinary insurance. This is what you see advertised on TV with $500,000 policies and the like, which are meant to provide income replacement instead of just covering burial expenses. The consumer who needed this much coverage was generally healthier and lived longer than their industrial counterparts who only wanted $500 policies to pay for a funeral (back when they cost that much). So the expected mortality for the ordinary insurance is much better than the expected mortality for industrial insurance. This also makes the insurance more affordable; since the company expects to be able to collect and invest premiums for a longer period of time before a death benefit is payable, they don't have to charge as much per year or month to provide the coverage to you. There are several Commissioner's Standard Ordinary (CSO) tables, but the two that are most prevalently used today are the 1980 CSO, which was the first to provide separate tables for smokers and non-smokers, and the 2001 CSO, which was the first table to take mortality factors all the way to age 120 (most other tables stop at 100, and the AE table stops at age 96). I believe I heard that there will be a 2007 CSO as well, but if so it will probably not be in use for several more years.

In addition, there are other mortality tables in use besides the life insurance tables I have been talking about, but since this post is already long I'll spare you the details. Suffice it to say, depending on which table you pick you can get different answers, as you'll see below.

Back to McCain. Now we have to decide which table is most likely to reflect his actual mortality. It's complicated further by the fact that we know he has had skin cancer several times. Even if you picked, say, the 1980 CSO, you might want to adjust it a little for that knowledge. I don't have any experience making those sorts of adjustments to mortality tables, and I doubt Matt Damon does either, so we're just going to use straight life insurance mortality tables. Here we go:

Mortality BasisProb of Surviving 4 Years from Age 72Prob of Surviving 8 Years from Age 72
American Experience70.4%42.9%
1980 CSO Male Nonsmoker ANB81.3%59.5%
2001 CSO Nonsmoker Male Ult ANB86.8%70.1%

Using standard life insurance tables I've tried to show the worst case scenario, the best case scenario, and what I view as the likely scenario that generated the statistic that Matt Damon misquoted. Using the 1980 CSO table, the life expectancy for McCain over two terms in office is slightly worse than 60%. Using this table also makes sense to me because the 1980 CSO table is still more widely used than the 2001 CSO, and so if someone wanted to run "industry standard" numbers they'd be more likely to select that table. As far as one term versus two, I have to believe that Matt Damon didn't accurately quote the statistic he had heard, since the numbers match better for two terms and even the AE table doesn't give McCain as low of a life expectancy as Damon claimed.

However, as a fellow actuary suggested, perhaps the truth lies more along these lines:

Will Hunting is just baiting us. We disagree and then, "Of course that's your contention, you just passed Exam 3 and read Actuarial Mathematics. Next year you're going to be in here talking about loading for Cancer and Family History. Do you just look at the tables or do you have any thoughts of your own on the matta? The sad thing is, you just dropped $15 grand of your company's money on exam fees and materials that you could've gotten for a $1.50 in late cha-ges at the Drake University library. How do you like THEM apples?"


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Quick turnaround

I finished my corporate finance exam at around 4PM on Thursday and they sent me an email telling me that I passed at around 7PM on Friday. If only the SOA could get results out so quickly! This is likely the last update on the handy pie chart until November or so, but here's the current incarnation:

Meanwhile, Erica is heading back out of town on Tuesday to visit her mom's parents for a few days in West Virginia. I get to stay in Baton Rouge and work and try to make up some of my lost study time.

Finally, Kent's sleep revolution appears to be over, as he has not done well with the roll-him-over method the last two nights but has done ok with walking. So it goes.


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More pie?

We have returned from our summer jaunt to New Hampshire, which you can read about on Erica's blog.

I had to spend some of the trip studying because we got back on Tuesday and I had a corporate finance exam today. I think it went well, but I haven't ever taken an exam like it before and I'm not sure how flexible they are if you don't type their particular phrases when answering a question. All of the questions were free response, so no guessing C to try for extra points after you've answered all of the questions that you knew. The material wasn't as hard as for an actuarial exam but there were a lot of lists to learn and I haven't been exposed to much corporate finance before.

At the end of the exam they said that I'd get results in two to four weeks so there will be a little wait to find out if I passed, but in the meantime I am going to plow headfirst into studying for the next actuarial exam, MFE, which I will take on election day. I'm already over a month behind my proposed study schedule, but they are changing the syllabus in 2009 so I will do my best to pass now instead of having to take it again next May. In the meantime I've updated the handy pie chart below:


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Green is good

The Society of Actuaries, in their infinite wisdom, decided to release the results from the May exams today, more than a week earlier than I had expected. I'm not going to argue, especially since my candidate number was listed among the other fortunate passers. Next up, my corporate finance VEE, which I will try to pass in the next two to three weeks. Then Exam MFE in November, which threw people for a serious loop this time around. It could be treacherous. But, then again, they all are in one way or another. I've updated the handy pie chart below:


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Actuarial Progress: The Handy Pie Chart

Ok folks, listen up. Since people often ask me "how many exams" I have left, I have created this handy pie chart for your reference and edification. Here is what I've done and what I still have to do to become an Associate of the Society of Actuaries (ASA): Green slices are completed, grey are pending results, and blue are yet to be accomplished. There's still a lot of blue.

The requirements include 5 Preliminary Exams (Exam P through Exam C), 5 Validation by Educational Experience (VEE) subjects (Microeconomics through Time Series Analysis), an 8 part professional development course called the Fundamentals of Actuarial Practice (FAP) that includes two high stakes assessments, and the Associateship Professionalism Course, which is a half day seminar where they tell us the legal and ethical responsibilities of being an actuary; once we are ASAs we can sign actuarial opinions, which is why they pay us the big bucks.

The preliminary exams that I still have ahead of me are only offered twice a year. They are difficult, with pass rates usually between 35-50%. So far I've completed two and have just taken a third (results available around July 11th, so stay tuned).

The VEE credits are given for topics that the Society of Actuaries feel are important to know but do not lend themselves well to a preliminary exam. So far I've completed two of the topics and am about to start studying for a test that will take care of the corporate finance requirement. People going through college now can get their VEEs through undergraduate courses, and the other methods I am using to fulfill the requirements are supposed to be equivalent to passing such a course. I hope to be finished with the VEE requirements by the end of the year.

The FAP modules are designed to take about a month each to complete and require submissions at the end of each module. At the end of module 5 there is a comprehensive Interim Assessment (IA). No one knows much about the IA because the folks that have taken it aren't allowed to talk about it; Erica thinks there is some sort of hazing involved. We have 30 days to complete the IA once we download it. At the end of module 8 there is a more comprehensive Final Assessment (FA), which is apparently a huge case study that requires us to analyze a situation and write some professional memos with supporting evidence for our positions. We have 96 hours to complete the FA once we download it, and we have to be supervised during that time to ensure no one provides outside assistance. To answer your question, I don't think my boss will follow me into the bathroom. I hope. The FAP replaced two preliminary exams and is supposed to be more applicable to day-to-day actuarial work than they were.

If all goes well (a significant assumption based on the pass rates for the preliminary exams) I could be an ASA by sometime in 2010. Then I'll start working toward FSA (Fellow of the Society of Actuaries) but since they keep changing the educational requirements, they do not appear in my handy pie chart, and I am not going to worry about exactly what's involved until I am getting ready to start that process...

The nice thing about this whole process is that it is well defined within the profession and each additional accomplishment generally is rewarded with raises and increased employment opportunities.

Watch for periodic handy pie chart updates as I make my way through the process.


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I took my actuarial exam this morning. The weather was really bad and my proctor ended up being late, but I was the only one taking the exam at my location and I didn't have to go to work today, so I didn't mind too much. The exam started with a nice softball and then it quickly moved into some really difficult questions. When I realized I had skipped more questions than I had answered in the first 45 minutes of the three hour exam I started to panic, thinking I would fail again. But, as I got further into the exam booklet I found some questions that I could answer correctly and once I started getting them right I got on a roll, at one point knocking out 9 of 10 questions. With my newly restored confidence I went back and answered several more that I had previously skipped, and I only ended up outright guessing on four out of 30. This bodes well.

Results don't come out until July, I'm guessing July 11th, but I am cautiously optimistic.

Next up, a professional course in corporate finance to satisfy another (easier) requirement, and in a month or so I'll order study materials for the next actuarial exam so I can start getting ready for November.


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In 37.5 hours I will be done...

Hopefully Thursday will be the last time I have to take this particular actuarial exam. I've been feeling pretty good about stuff but tonight I hit a long rough patch in the published practice problems. I've only got 14 left to work on tomorrow and then I'll be ready. I hope.


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I've missed the vast majority of the problems I've attempted since my last post, and none of them have been due to silly arithmetic errors. I am glad there is still a month to prepare.


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Batten = Win!

We are back from Atlanta. Over 6.5 days (52 hours) I took about 100 pages of notes. I am full of math. I think in math. I dream about math. I do math while I drive. I get most of the problems correct (silly arithmetic errors!). Nearly every old exam problem looks easy. I am looking forward to May 15.


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Is anyone still out there?

If so, you'll be happy to see that there's a new photo gallery on Kent's website, covering the span from mid November to the end of February. Kent is 8 months old now, believe it or not. Crazy eh?

Since I last wrote I took and passed an online course in applied statistics (the final exam was on my birthday). It wasn't as difficult as one of the actuarial exams, but there are three college course credits I have to get so it's nice to get one out of the way. I'll be trying to get another one, maybe two, done in May after my exam. I'll be headed to Atlanta for that seminar I mentioned in less than a month, so there's lots of studying to do between now and then so that I can soak up what's being said rather than trying to learn it on the fly.

And, it's spring, so hope returns along with baseball (and lawn mowing, which I haven't gotten to quite yet). We're about a third of the way through the draft for my actuary league, where I will try to better last year's middle of the pack finish. The Queen City Fantasy League starts drafting in a little over a week, and the Baton Rouge Dirty Diapers will have the pleasure of defending last year's title.

Finally, my sister has started her own blog and I have been enjoying it. I have quite the crafty sibling!


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Missed it by this much...

Well, the results are out and I got a 5 on my exam, which means I missed passing by one or two questions. I can think of one or two questions that I should have gotten, but in the end I ran out of time and didn't get to revisit them. So now I get to start studying for the same exam again, which will next be offered in May. Since I'm already comfortable with the bread and butter topics, I'll have plenty of time to work on the detailed stuff that was giving me trouble in November. And, I'm most likely going to attend an exam preparation seminar in Atlanta with one of the most respected professors of actuarial science. All in all, I should be in good shape when the exam day comes around next time.


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There's always next year...

After I left the exam room I felt like it was a coin flip; I didn't attempt all of the questions but I felt pretty good about the number I had been able to do. Now that I've had a chance to discuss the exam with some other folks who took it, it looks like I might not have passed. I don't remember all of my answers so it's hard to say for sure. Out of the ones I remember, I probably got between 13-15 correct. There are four that I can't remember my answers for. If I got them all, I will probably pass. If not, I'll be trying to answer questions about when people die again in May.

The results don't come out until January. Until then I've got an online course in statistics to take, and I'll be doing practice problems for this exam so that all of my knowledge doesn't trickle out of my ears. So it goes...


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T minus 12 hours

Well, 11 and a half really, but in half a day I will be taking an actuarial exam on life contingencies. When a maths professor in Belfast first suggested studying actuarial science to me, I replied "Those are the guys that figure out when people die? I'm not interested in doing that." This is the exam about figuring out when people die. And, although the material on the exam is difficult, I generally like it. Go figure.


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Catching up with Jack

It's been a while since I talked about what's going on, so here's some disjoint discussion of what you've been missing out on:

I was mowing this morning with my electric mower, hopefully for the last time until February, when two kids about ten years old tentatively approached me. "Is that your lawn mower?" "Yes." (One to the other) "I told you so!" (To me) "Where did you get it?" "I had to order it online." Surprised looks. "It runs on batteries instead of gas." "OK." And then they walked off. It was really easy to mow most of our lawn this morning, partly because the weather is finally getting nicer (mid 80s, low humidity, a hint of fall when the breeze blows), and partly because the grass isn't growing as quickly these days.

I'm happy to report that the Abita Springs Turbodogs won the QCFL, marking my second victory in three years. The team changed names to the Baton Rouge Dirty Diapers mid-July for obvious reasons. Unlike the last time I won, this season I had several teams step up and challenge for the lead, including a big push at the end from BJ's Charleston Chew. However, when it was all said and done, our new mascot carried the team to another victory and bought himself a sling carrier with some of the earnings. Watch for photos of his new accoutrements coming soon to a gallery near you. In the actuary league I joined this year, I had a middle of the pack finish, but I will have the third overall draft pick next year, so maybe I can have a better showing in 2008.

The next actuarial exam is coming up in about two and a half weeks, so I've been trying to study a bit more. This past week I finally finished the study guide I got to help me prepare for the exam. I've been studying for this exam since around Christmas last year so it would be really nice to pass and move on to something else, but I feel like it's a toss-up right now. Maybe I'll be studying for six more months... There's still time to do a lot of practice problems and get the concepts solidified in my mind but I would have preferred to have more time between finishing the study guide and exam day to woodshed, but it's harder to study in the evenings than it used to be. We'll see what happens.

There are some non-exam requirements to becoming an actuary that most students now would be able to complete in college, but since I didn't know I wanted to do this back then (and they weren't requirements at the time regardless), I have to take online classes and the like to get the credits. I'm taking an applied statistics course starting after the exam in November so that I can get one of those out of the way. I'm looking forward to it, in large part because the class will include learning a new programming language. Yep, I'm a nerd.

Kent is awesome as always :) He is on the brink of rolling over and he likes to laugh all the time now, not just when he's subjected to the tickle monster treatment. He's got great neck control now and I've started carrying him around in a Superman pose. I don't know if he likes it yet, but he doesn't seem upset so I guess it can't be too terrible for him. He's not sitting up by himself yet but if we sit him up on the couch he'll stay there for a little bit, looking like a more grown up version of himself. Earlier this week I tried putting him up on my shoulders, which he seemed to like pretty well, but he grabbed fistfuls of my hair with both hands so it was hard to get him back down. There's a great photo that my dad took of us when I was little (though bigger than Kent is now) where I'm sitting on his shoulders and he's in front of a mirror with the camera. I'm looking forward to repeating that shot with Kent :)


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Impending Male Progeny

We went to the hospital today for the second ultrasound and found out that we're having a boy! In the past week or so I had started to think of our child as a "he" but I didn't really have any reason to do so. I doubt I have prophetic powers, but evidently my dad knew I would be a boy before my parents found out too, so maybe there's something going on...

We're working on our 17-point plan to get ready for the kid, and soon our office will be a nursery, our dining room will double as an office, and the guest room... Well, the guest room closet will get the rest of what's in the office closet but it'll still be a guest room, so there will be space for folks to stay if they want to visit. Just saying. At any rate, it's almost time to enlist the help of some friends with strong arms to help move furniture :)

In other news, the weather has cleared up and I'm feeling just fine. Funny how that works :) I'm still behind on my study schedule for the next exam but that'll work itself out. I hope.


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After checking the website last night around midnight, this morning around 6AM, and then periodically throughout the day, I found out this afternoon that I passed the second actuarial exam :) I felt pretty good about it when I took it but it's nice to know that it wasn't a false sense of confidence. You can find my freshly updated resume over on the left-hand side of the page.

This is my first time getting an exam raise since I started doing actuarial work, and I wasn't sure what to expect because my employer doesn't have any written student guidelines—I think the last time someone passed an exam was in 2002. But, when I spoke to my boss today after the passing candidates were posted online, I was pleasantly surprised to find out what "We'll make it worth your while" really meant!

Only 10 more steps to my ASA. If I pass everything the first time I try, I should be done with my Associateship in late 2009 or early 2010. But since the pass rate on the exams is generally 35-40%, I'm not counting on that happening. The exams behind me are supposedly the easiest, and even though I've just started studying for the next one I can definitely see that being the case. I'll do my best and we'll see what happens.


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