Pension Actuaries

Inspired by a (presumably joking) comment in the badge thread.

Having worked in pensions, then health, and now pension risk transfer (so on the carrier side), I still don’t get it…why do pension actuaries get so much flak?

Pension actuaries continue to be some of the smartest actuaries I know and the amount of legislation required to be memorized seems unmatched in insurance.

Is it just that we all chose a dying field to dedicate our careers to?


Because public pensions continue to use the assumed rate of return for budgeting/funding valuations and have a (semi) large contingent that continue to argue for it and against FE?

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Public pensions are certainly a mess, but most pension actuaries don’t work in that area, and that’s not what I see them/us getting crap for.

Yea, I just saw the comment and the implication there was a lack of “real” work. I would guess pension actuaries have more work to do comparatively because the large majority are in consulting so billable hours are the driving factor. No idea what SL was referring to.

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When I started working for a carrier some actuaries were surprised I was half as smart as they were given I spent a decade in pensions. I don’t get where that mentality comes from.

It was meant to be some good natured ribbing. Nothing more intended. Hopefully they don’t start in on what I do for a living.

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Oh, I’m not offended, it just reminded me of a question I’ve had in the back of my mind for a while. I’ve always wondered where that joke originated, as I saw it on the AO, too.

Well I’m not even an actuary in this crowd lol.

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Clearly the smartest one in the room :wink:

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I was told 30 years ago that it was a dying field. :woman_shrugging:

There’s still more than enough work out there.

More than half of what I do is in the public sector. None of the plans I work on are a mess. They just don’t make the news.

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sounds like bias

When I give pension actuaries flak, it’s 100% about public pension and the level of unprofessionalism from actuaries that is required to have allowed them to get so bad.

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Shoot, I was aiming for the grain.

Probably the same reason you think pension actuaries are (some of) the smartest actuaries. Nobody knows what any other actuary does in other fields.


When I moved into insurance, I had convinced myself that insurance actuaries were by nature smarter than pension actuaries. Took a while for me to realize that really wasn’t the case. They were smarter in what they were experts in, I was smarter in what I knew, and the work I was doing I was better at than they could be without my experience, so it all worked out.

And when I started volunteering professionally, I realized there are a lot of under-qualified people attempting to get credentials in every field.

I give good advice. I can’t make people take it. :woman_shrugging:

Not that there aren’t unscrupulous pension actuaries out there, but I’d put much more of the blame on public plan board members with competing interests and a kick-the-can-down-the-road mentality. Ymmv


I don’t think any field is smarter (other than those life actuaries who are basically cavepeople :wink:).

I just think public pension actuaries, as a field, haven’t done anywhere near enough to call attention to the fact that we have basically robbed future generation of trillions of wealth through unfunded liabilities.


I will say that while I haven’t met very many unethical actuaries, the only ones I HAVE known have worked in pensions.

And that is likely a byproduct of the nature of the work and its stakeholders (juggling client relationships and volatile costs and all that) and the fact that I worked more closely with pension actuaries on projects where I could identify something unethical. Everything in insurance feels so siloed that I don’t know if I could call out unethical behavior of someone I work adjacent with, like valuation or investments.

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Don’t mind me.

Just getting a drink.


you don’t say