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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Another Christmas Carol

It was Christmas Eve and all in the office was quiet. Everyone had gone home except for Archie, who was busy studying. Archie had been going at the actuarial exams for years now and only had three left to go before he qualified. He was determined to pass the remaining exams in his next sitting – he didn’t want to have to go through the rigmarole of enduring yet another change of exam format. He didn’t want to know anything about the new format – he was going to pass before it came to that.Archie suddenly shivered and realised the window in the office was open. He went to close it and as he turned around he was shocked to see a man clothed in robes sitting in his place. ‘Who are you?’ asked Archie. ‘I am the ghost of Christmas past, Archie, and I’m here to show you your past mistakes.’ Before Archie could say another word the projector on the table lit up and his previous life started playing before him on the screen in front of him. Pictures of Archie studying for his A1 exam flashed in front of them. Every so often Archie would get distracted from his studies and wander over to the television and then back again. ‘OK, OK, so maybe I didn’t have quite the level of concentration I should have had back then but I don’t do stuff like that anymore’. ‘That’s as may be, Archie, but maybe you’ve gone too much the other way…’ replied the ghost, and with that he disappeared.Archie stood there for a minute in disbelief at what had just happened. He shivered again and decided the air-conditioning could do with turning down. After adjusting it he turned round to go back to his chair and yet another strange man was sitting in his place. ‘Not again’, said Archie, ‘Come on then – tell me who you are’. ‘I am the ghost of Christmas present’, said the ghost, ‘and I’m here to show you your current mistakes’. With that Archie’s laptop whirred into action. Pictures of Archie studying ten minutes earlier played in front of them followed by scenes of Archie’s girlfriend, Annie, confiding in her friends about how she was fed up with not seeing Archie anymore. He wouldn’t even see her on Christmas Eve – she was going to put a stop to their relationship as soon as Christmas was over. ‘Annie and I will be all right – she loves me – she’d never dump me. I’ll explain to her – she’ll understand. Especially when I pass all my exams.’ ‘But Archie, have you thought about the fact that you might not pass?’ ‘How can I not pass with all this work I’m putting in?’ said Archie, gazing out of the window. As he turned round the ghost had gone.After a few seconds a breeze came through the office. Archie went over to close the door. Before Archie looked back towards the desk he said, ‘Don’t tell me – ghost of Christmas future?’ ‘Bingo – got it in one’, replied his third visitor. ‘And you’re here to show me my future mistakes?’ said Archie, turning round. ‘Right again’, replied the ghost. With that the TV in the corner of the office switched on and showed scenes of Archie sitting his specialist applications paper in 2005. ‘Specialist applications? What on earth is that?’ said Archie. ‘If you’d have bothered to listen during that talk a few months ago you’d know and it’s not nearly as scary as you think it is’, replied the ghost. ‘But I’ll have qualified by then – surely?’ whined Archie. ‘Not if you keep going on the way you are’ said the ghost. ‘Have you thought that you might be doing too much? Yes, you’re doing a lot of work for these exams but sometimes the approach should be slow and steady. You can qualify by 2005 easily, but if you carry on the way you’re doing, you won’t. You need to make time for yourself, Archie. These exams are important but don’t let them be to the detriment of everything else in your life.’ With that, the ghost disappeared and Archie was left alone.Archie thought about what each of the ghosts had said. Maybe they were right, perhaps he did need to sit back and think about what he was doing. He had thrown himself head first into these exams since he’d come so close to qualifying.Archie sat down to his computer and logged on to the Institute’s website. After reading up all about the new exam format, he sent an email to his study tutor explaining that he had, after all, decided that two 300 exams and the fellowship paper were too much for one sitting. Archie switched off his computer, turned off the lights to the office, and went home to Annie.