Welcome to the holiday edition of The Actuary!

By the time you read this, Halloween and Thanksgiving will be long gone and Christmas and New Year will be looming ahead. However, as I write this, a very long, hot Indian summer has just come to an end here in the Midwest and my family and I are all looking forward to Halloween. So, a few weekends ago, as I was shopping at Lowes, I was pretty stunned to see the Christmas displays up. This was in September. I was wearing shorts. It was very weird. But, of course, Lowe's was not alone in the rush to spread the cheer. Christmas displays popped up in stores all over town that weekend.

Now, I like Christmas. A lot. But when Christmas displays come out before third quarter valuation data comes out, I have to protest. I'm not going to rant about the crass commercialization of the holiday—I'm afraid I'm going to be in the trenches whipping out the plastic with the best of them. I'm not going to point out that spending 25 percent of the year getting ready for a one day holiday is probably not healthy—I'm afraid that I'm closely related to people who are already finished with their shopping and who have their holiday cards all printed out, signed and ready to go. Right now, they're just waiting for the post office to come out with the holidays stamps.

No, my beef with Christmas promotions in September is a very personal, very actuarial beef. Because, with Christmas, comes New Years; and with New Years, comes year–end. So, for me, Christmas has that "last week of summer vacation" feel to it. You're really trying to enjoy yourself, but you know the fun is coming to an abrupt halt very soon. Seeing Christmas displays in September is kind of like seeing signs for "Back to School" sales before Memorial Day. And that's just wrong.

Anyway, by the time this copy of The Actuary hits your desk, it really is going to be the holiday season and all you valuation actuaries out there really are going to be noticing the end of the year creeping up on you. So, while you still have the time, kick back and enjoy our year–end edition. Then go out, celebrate, and enjoy the holidays with all your friends and family—in spite of the year–end crunch. Who knows, old St. Nick might be able to loan you one of his magic helpers...

Happy Holidays!