Day in the Life
Ask several actuaries what they do all day, and their responses start to sound similar. Each will tell you in their own way, “It’s never the same!”
Actuaries’ work varies by practice area and by role. "In-house" actuaries focus on a single company and its customers. They may commute to the same office daily. Consulting actuaries may work across several industries. Extensive travel may be a requisite part of their job.
Variety comes at an individual level, too. From hour to hour and day to day, actuaries use a diverse array of skills. Take a glimpse into several actuaries daily work and lives. Ask these same actuaries if they enjoy their work, and they will answer in unison: “Yes!” The actuarial profession consistently ranks high on lists of desirable jobs.
- Senior Consulting Actuary, Consulting Firm, Chicago IL
- Actuarial Analyst, Insurance Company, Jacksonville FL
- Associate Actuary, Insurance/Financial Services Firm, Toronto ON
- Actuarial Analyst, Reinsurance Company, Beijing, China
Senior Consulting Actuary, Consulting Firm, Chicago, IL
6:30 - Run for 45 minutes on my treadmill, shower, dress, eat breakfast and hustle out the door.
8:00 - Scan email while commuting on the train. A few I answer from my phone; others I flag for later, when I can focus on writing a professional response. One I forward to the two analysts who busted their butts yesterday, simplifying complex data into a one-pager our client could share with her board of directors; based on our analysis, the board approved her project!
8:45 - Settle in at my desk to review presentation and notes for tomorrow’s meeting with a prospective client. We’re one of three finalists bidding for a $1.2 million assignment with an energy company. I’m co-presenting with our senior business developer.
9:15 - Respond to voice message from a client asking if we could analyze another funding option for their new retirement plan. Of course. I check calendars and schedule a meeting to discuss in more detail on Monday.
9:30 - Meet with internal project team to review work in progress on costing models for another client. We all agree the new software makes it possible to calculate more options more quickly, but no one feels proficient with it yet. Actuarial associate offers to get up to speed and share learning with us next week. Great initiative!
11:30 - Join a former co-worker for lunch. He left consulting to help start an e-commerce business. Our jobs are so different, but we’re still both actuaries (and Cubs fans).
12:45 - Help a colleague troubleshoot an error in a calculation. Sometimes you just need a second set of eyes.
1:00 - Block out all distractions and answer those emails I flagged this morning.
1:30 - Pick up where I left off yesterday, creating a new profit-sharing plan design for a consumer products company.
2:45 - Stop by HR manager’s desk to give feedback on 37 candidate resumes. I’ve narrowed the field to three we’ll interview.
3:00 - Run through tomorrow’s presentation with business developer.
6:45 - Meet my fiancé in the lobby of her office building, and then grab a cab to have dinner with friends at our favorite Thai place.
9:30 - Arrive home. Pack for tomorrow’s trip to Houston to make that new business presentation. Grab a beer and watch TV for a couple hours before going to bed.
Actuarial Analyst, Insurance Company, Jacksonville, FL
6:00 - Wake, start coffee, bathe, drink coffee, dress, drink coffee. Flip coin to see who has to change the baby. Husband wins. He wakes the twins while I change and feed the baby. Eventually, we’re all clicked into our seats, ready to go.
7:20 - Run back into the house for travel mugs. Coffee!
7:30 - Drop the kids at daycare and drive to the office. Early arrival means prime parking spot. Kiss husband before we go into the building. We work on different floors.
8:30 - Join teammates for weekly meeting. After reviewing status on priority projects, we listen to an IT colleague explain next week’s systems upgrade. Looks like I’ll be adjusting a couple work plans to accommodate system down time.
10:00 - Sip coffee while reviewing Q2 claims data. Make notes to share with manager. We’ll need to adjust the annual forecast.
12:00 - Eat a quick lunch with friends in the cafeteria. Walk around the block to get some fresh air. Head back up to my desk to sort through email.
1:15 - Launch actuarial software to start a project. In an hour, I can make a good start on setting up a new model for analyzing claims.
2:30 - Discuss Q2 claims data with manager. He tells me to adjust the annual forecast and prepare a couple slides to explain the changes and trends. Better yet, he invites me to join him in presenting that information to the executive team. Great exposure!
3:15 - Meet with a couple co-workers to brainstorm ideas for our office-wide continuous learning program. Generate a solid list of topics and guest speakers.
4:30 - Pack up and head for the lobby to meet spouse for the commute home. While he drives, I read an article about legislation changes that will affect our company’s plans, circling points to discuss with manager tomorrow.
6:05 - Pick up the kids and return home to make dinner and enjoy family time in the back yard.
8:00 - Tuck in the little ones, lay out clothes for tomorrow, and join spouse on the sofa for ice cream and some TV.
Associate Actuary, Insurance/Financial Services Firm, Toronto, ON
6:45 - Put the kettle on, have hot water with lemon, and wash up. Catch up on some YouTubers (love Heidi Somers) while straightening hair and getting dressed.
8:20 - Slowly walk to work (mindfully), getting peace and quiet before starting off the crazy day. Pick up a medium steeped tea at Tim Hortons before getting into the office.
9:00 - Greet coworkers, catch up on people's evenings from the night before (sharing pictures of tasty dinners we had had), and settle in to the workstation.
9:10 - Go through emails and respond accordingly. Pull out digital agenda and add/revise tasks to be done on my end and for others. Glance at the calendar for the next two days and assess which meetings have pre-reading material and work to be done beforehand. Plan out the day.
10:00 - Campus recruitment committee meetings - figure out which coops/interns are returning next term and what headcount we still need to fill. Finalize which universities we'll be going to conduct interviews at. Get updates on the current students' mid-term evaluations from managers. Send invites to them for the next social event coming up (billiards downtown).
11:00 - Smile when I remember I don't have a back-to-back meeting right now. Go back to desk and deal with emails or calls that came while in the 10 a.m. meeting. Get more steeped tea (small size this time because lunch is soon).
11:30 - Bi-weekly status update with boss. Let him know the progress on long-term projects, short-term projects, and outstanding issues from before. Fill him in on progress of resources that are assisting with various tasks. Discuss any changes that OSFi recently made to Canadian capital requirements. Make our guesses on which will have a large impact to our capital position this quarter. Delegate testing and conduct an impact analysis, making a formal memo if amounts are material.
12:30 - Message workplace-bestie on company's internal messaging platform and decide what to eat. Catch up and vent about our day and upcoming meetings and what we're each doing for dinner at night. Bug him to go out less and to study more. I try and keep everyone disciplined on the FSA pursuit. Plan what time to go for Starbucks in the afternoon.
1:30 - Catch up on emails, send out agenda for my 3 p.m. meeting that I have to chair, and call different people to get answers to outstanding issues related to upcoming meetings. Drink a bottle of water because I don't do that enough. #StayHydrated
2:00 - Get status updates from resources on their projects and tasks. Revise/update digital agenda accordingly.
3:00 - Meet with Canadian business unit to discuss how to handle capital requirements for business they newly acquired. Figure out what can be harmonized and how the accounting treatment will differ. Get estimates on the capital impact from this. Discuss how much should be done now in light of the changing capital requirements in 2018 (LICAT).
4:00 - Starbucks. Grande iced coffee with a splash of soy milk and sugar-free vanilla syrup. Talk to workplace-bestie about weekend plans even though it's only Tuesday. Tell him to cancel his weekend plans and to study instead. I'm a good friend.
4:30 - Ponder why the week has so many meetings; figure out which ones I can get out of or delegate. Less desk time => less can get done. Run to meet my mentee for our monthly mentorship meeting. Help him plan out the timing of his next few actuarial exams and how to make the most of his remaining time as a coop/intern. Remind him to bring in treats for passing his recent exam, and also for when his term ends. Treats are warranted for any occasion imo. Also good opportunity to network with coworkers.
6:10 - Favorite part of the day - gym time. Warm up on the treadmill and hit the weights for another intense leg day. Quads, hams, glutes— can't get enough.
7:30 - End off with yoga and five minutes of meditation to relax the mind. Shower and get dressed and get an Uber to Joey's restaurant for dinner.
8:00 - Discuss life, work, relationships, and future travel plans over a glass of red wine and a tasty vegetarian dish. Make plans to have brunch at Insomnia on Saturday because they're Eggs Benedict is insanely drool-worthy.
9:30 - Arrive home, kick off heels and put water in the kettle. Start up the work laptop to see if any emails came within the last few hours (it happens). Make some herbal tea to calm the stomach post-dinner.
10:00 - Wash hair and watch Scandal while blow-drying. Olivia Pope is a goddess. So is her fashion sense. Get ideas for new outfits to buy.
11:00 - Watch Suits because Suits > sleep, and have some dark chocolate to satisfy the sweet tooth.
12:00 a.m. - Instagram, Buzzfeed cute animals, look at WhatsApp messages and find out that Moody's is acquiring GGY Axis. Interesting. Message friend at GGY to see if/how they'll be affected and what will change.
12:15 a.m. - Do some deep breathing and a little meditation before bed. Sleep like a baby.
Actuarial Analyst, Reinsurance Company, Beijing, China
6:30 – Wake up, wash face, brush teeth, start to prepare a well-balanced breakfast (low cabs, high protein) with milk or coffee (depends on the mood). Dress up and ready to go.
7:15 – Get on subway, read few pages from Kindle, and news from phone apps.
8:00 – Arrive at the office, get the gym bag and go to the fitness center at the 3rd floor of the building. Weight training + HIIT Cardio for 1 hour, then take shower and get changed.
9:30 – Sit at my desk and start with the Outlook. Flag important emails need further actions. Beware the meetings I have for today.
10:00 – Problem solving with other functional teams: work closely with the L&H Underwriters to measure the impact of Major Critical Illness definition changes to our current pricing assumptions.
11:15 – Urgent request from client manager for an Accidental Death & Dismemberment (AD&D) quote. Push to send out the reference rates by the end of the day. In the high growing market like China, quick turnaround is the key value to compete.
12:00 - Eat a quick lunch with colleague in the cafeteria or the restaurant near the office.
12:30 – Stick to my study plan for the life valuation 5 hours written exam. Listen online seminars and play with the flash cards.
13:30 – Keep work on the AD&D quote. Setting up the model, assumptions and document the whole costing process sufficiently.
14:30 – Follow up on the ongoing medical business experience study project, call client to discuss the findings from the sample data. We strive to provide value added service to our client.
15:30 – Quick update the client phone call with my manager.
16:00 – Finish up the AD&D quote and send out for peer review.
17:45 – Modify our analysis plan based on the quality of their data. Set up an update meeting to all project related colleagues.
18:45 – Review for AD&D quote is done. Send out the reference rates to the client manager.
19:00 – Update the To Do List for tomorrow.
19:15 – Grab a sandwich and listen to my favorite relaxing music on the way back home.
20:00 – Eat the sandwich for dinner and prepare myself a yogurt and some fruit for dessert. Take a rest after the dinner and switch my brain from work to study.
21:00 – Study time. Review lessons, read new materials, listen online seminar, remember flash cards. Well planned ahead, and stick to the plan is the key to success.
23:00 – Fun time, watch NBA game recaps before sleep. Can only watch whole games on weekends (12 hours' time difference).