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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

It’s a miserable life

George the student actuary stood on the bridge in the rain. In his hand was a crumpled piece of paper bearing the stark inscription ‘FA’. A large tear rolled down his face, mingling with the rain, and plopped into the river below.It was Christmas Eve.‘I’ve had enough of this’, wailed George, ‘I’m sick of studying for all these horrid exams with no end in sight. I’m going to quit the profession. I wish I’d never become an actuary!’At this there was a crack of lightning and lo, standing in front of George was Sienna Miller wearing a pair of Ugg boots. And nothing else.‘Wow, Sienna Miller!’‘No, George, I am your study mentor Clarence Goodbody. I have just chosen to take on a form that you can relate to. I am here to show you that it’s worth persevering with your exams. I’m going to show you what the world would be like if you had never become an actuary.’There was a crack of thunder and suddenly George wasn’t on the bridge any more – he was outside a rickety little house he knew well – his grandparents lived there.He peered in through the window and saw his grandmother sitting in the rocking chair he used to climb as a child to receive a sweet, sweet Werther’s Original from his kindly grandfather’s knee. But why was his grandmother crying – why was she alone at Christmas?He was aware of Clarence at his shoulder. ‘Without you to monitor the ongoing position of your grandfather’s pension scheme, George, it was woefully underfunded when the company failed and he got laid off with only the benefits he received from the PPF. He couldn’t afford to pay the heating bills and froze to death last Christmas Eve.’‘Gosh, no – it can’t be true!’‘It is, George, and there’s more. Your grandfather’s life assurance company collapsed too because no one was around to calculate the reserves, leaving your grandmother with nothing. ‘Oh, and your mother’s homeless too and selling matches on the street after a flood washed away her house because her insurance company went bust after writing too much loss-making business. Your father ran off with the loss assessor. And it’s all because of you, George, it’s all because of you.’‘I can’t take this any more!’, George was frantic now, ‘But what’s happened to me? Where was I when all this was happening?’The pathetic scene faded out and was replaced by joyful noise. George saw himself as he was now. He was standing alone in a corner at a Christmas party, holding a plastic cup of punch and wearing a very bad suit.‘You see George’, said Clarence, ‘in this life you chose to become an accountant because it seemed easier. Now you have no money and no one wants to talk to you.’‘Where’s Mary?’ cried George, thinking of his beautiful girlfriend who only a few weeks ago had dazzled everyone at the SIAS dinner. He then saw her on the other side of the room, kissing an awkward-looking man under the mistletoe.‘Mary and you never got together George. She only goes for successful, risk-averse emotionally detached men. You never stood a chance.’This was the final blow for George. ‘Clarence, Clarence. Help me get back! I want to be an actuary, I really do. I want to live again!’There was a flash and there George was, back on the bridge, still with the failure notice in his hand. But he had never felt better in his life. He ran wildly back to his office, joyfully snatching up his study binders, intending to spend Christmas the way he had spent every other Christmas.‘Hello study notes! Hello vanished weekends! Merry Christmas failure notices! Happy New Year to this crummy little profession!’And in the distance, he could hear the sweet ringing of the Lloyd’s bell. And he knew that one day he would make it, for every time the Lloyd’s bell rings, an actuary gets their wings.