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22yo seeking career advice (any actuaries here?)
Old 06-02-2016, 05:54 PM   #1
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22yo seeking career advice (any actuaries here?)

Hi, I am a single 22yo recent college grad trying to set myself up to RE. After graduating in December with an economics degree from a state school I found it hard to find a good job and ended up taking a job as an insurance agent at one of the bigger P&C insurance companies.

here are some current stats 6 months after graduation:

Salary ~45k w/commission
Student loans- $32,000 (@4.2%)
Taxable savings- $9,200
401k- $4,000
Roth IRA- $2,200

I currently have a fortunate setup living in my parents basement, as it is rent free and they cover most of my expenses. I of course don't want to live in their basement forever but at the moment I am able to save 93% of my salary until I have to start paying off student loans soon.
I currently put 25% of my salary in my 401k and then max out a Roth IRA after tax, leaving the rest of my paycheck in a savings account until I have a 25% downpayment for a duplex which I plan to rent out the other half. I have most of my investments in index funds mimicking the S&P 500 and plan to keep an aggressive approach through my 20's and 30's.

My main concerns aren't about saving or investing as I love to manage and watch my accounts grow, and im not the type to try to keep up with my peers buying boats and etc. What worries me is that I have a job that I don't like and don't see a lot of potential to develop a successful career. I find the insurance industry incredibly interesting and am currently finishing up studying for the first actuary exam because I believe I would enjoy something more analytical and mentally challenging, but from what I hear it's nearly impossible to get an entry level actuary job right now with how saturated the market is. If the actuary thing doesn't pan out I don't have a clue what direction to take and am struggling finding what I want to be doing for the next 20-40yrs (hopefully 20). I just really want to get started down a career that will eventually give me the financial independence that I am looking for.


If anyone here has had a successful career in insurance outside of sales I would really appreciate any guidance on different rewarding career paths I could take.

Also if there are any actuaries on this board or people with knowledge of the career I also have a couple other questions:
-does it hurt my chances getting an actuarial job starting in sales?
-is it really that hard to get an entry level actuarial job in this market?
-what would you look for in a resume for a competitive entry level actuary candidate?

Of course advice regarding any of my information or plans outside of just the career questions are greatly appreciated.

Thank you all for taking the time to read this
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Old 06-02-2016, 06:01 PM   #2
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I recently met a guy your age with your major. He graduated a couple weeks ago and started a job as a statistical analyst in a hospital. He also plans to try to go the actuary route but is happy where he is for now. Have you thought about an analyst job?
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Old 06-02-2016, 06:03 PM   #3
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Welcome.

You are off to a great start, when I was 22 I had a more useless degree and a $200 car.

Hopefully someone else knows the answers for you.
I recall when I did work in ins. the actuarial folks were highly regarded and well paid.
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Old 06-02-2016, 06:33 PM   #4
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aaronc879- thank you for the reply and the statistical analyst route is actually what I was hoping to do out of school, and I even had a few phone interviews for similar roles. Unfortunately I was shown very little interest after they would ask my programming/SQL experience which is next to none. At the university I attended even in my stats classes I was hardly introduced to programming or statistical software which seems to be highly desired.
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Old 06-02-2016, 06:50 PM   #5
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I work with some actuarial firms that do retirement plan design, but most of the work is done by lesser mortals in their offices.

Have you considered the CFP or CFA? There are CFPs who deal almost exclusively in evaluating insurance policies, IIRC, there is a guy in Florida who does just that. Heard about him years ago on the Steve Pomeranz podcast, I think.

The CFA is brutally hard to pass, but it is the gold standard for analysts in the investing world. If you have an interest, aptitude, and the time, I would definitely look into that.

Insurance by itself is not one of my interests, but I did spend 6 months learning about it for my CFP.

My cousin got his degree in insurance and now works for a bank, selling commercial lines. That would be more appealing than individual or group stuff to me.

I wish you luck, and welcome!
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Old 06-02-2016, 07:24 PM   #6
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I hate to tell you, but if you wanted to be an actuary you're about 4 years late. And universities with actuary programs are very rare.

My close friend went to the University of Texas to be an actuary and he's done very well. Actuaries are very bright people, but very few people have the math background and skills to pass a series of tests to be an actuary.

Being an actuary requires 6 months of very tough studies followed by a very difficult week or two seminar and passing a test. Then they go through another 6 months of hard studies followed by another seminar and test. I don't know how many years you go through this routine, but eventually you can call yourself an actuary. Then they go on for additional studies, seminars and tests for years. In the Southeast U.S., actuary studies are made through Emory University in Atlanta.

Being an actuary s probably the dullest profession in the history of the world. I can only compare it to being a CLU--requiring years of hard studies and tough tests.

My best friend is in venture capital, was one of the first CFA's. He has a MBA in Finance from Wharton and is very bright.

I had a high school friend that was a CLU and an established State Farm agent. Let me just say that he was a very high income person.
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Old 06-02-2016, 08:06 PM   #7
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Being an actuary s probably the dullest profession in the history of the world.

To each his own! I'm a retired casualty actuary and loved my work 95% of the time. It took me to places like London, Zurich, Munich and India and allowed me to support myself and my son very well after I divorced, and I'm thoroughly enjoying retirement, which happened 2 years ago when I was 61.

First, I think your agency background is highly relevant. It also means you're extroverted and can sell, both VERY valuable in consulting. Check out BeAnActuary.org for lots of info on the profession. Good discussion boards at actuarialoutpost.com although they get testy if you post questions already answered in previous threads.

You'll undoubtedly need to pass a couple of exams to get hired.
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Old 06-02-2016, 08:12 PM   #8
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What's the main undergrad program for actuaries? stats?
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Old 06-02-2016, 08:21 PM   #9
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Unfortunately I was shown very little interest after they would ask my programming/SQL experience which is next to none. At the university I attended even in my stats classes I was hardly introduced to programming or statistical software which seems to be highly desired.
If you want to become a statistical analyst you will absolutely need programming and SQL experience as you note. It's possible to learn this on your own. I didn't learn SQL until well into my career.

In fact, even if you had taken a CS or engineering program they frequently don't have any courses on just programming and you are expected to learn this on your own.

A bigger issue would be how much modeling experience do you have (which is hard to come by without doing some basic programming).

If you do want to go down this route, there are lots of online resources. There are also a number of masters programs geared towards folks with general STEM backgrounds that wouldn't have much programming background.
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Old 06-02-2016, 08:29 PM   #10
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Honestly if you can get the professional letters your career path would be pretty much taken care of I would guess. I majored in Accounting back in 2012 and the differences in career success for those who sucked it up and finished the CPA versus ignored it are already starting to show an impressive divide...

Landing my first job outside of college took tons of random applications to basically anywhere. But once you nab 2 years of experience things get much easier. Nowadays I'm getting annoyed that recruiters are calling my work phone weekly whereas a fresh college grad I couldn't get anyone to give me the time of day
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Old 06-02-2016, 09:41 PM   #11
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What's the main undergrad program for actuaries? stats?


All over the map, which makes us interesting. Math, Stats, Engineering, Economics, Actuarial Science, Finance, a Ph.D in Topology. I've also seen double majors in Math or Actuarial Science and Linguistics, Classics, Music and Theology.
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Old 06-03-2016, 07:48 AM   #12
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I worked in the actuarial field for 23 years before I ERed back in 2008. I'll tell you how I got started in it but that was back in the mid-1980s and things were a lot different back then.


Like you, REdreamer, I majored in economics and graduated with zero actuarial exams passed but took and passed Part 1 after I received my one job offer but before I began working. (In fact, I got a raise on my first day of working because that is when the exam results came out. Nice way to start, huh?)


My company was looking for someone who had a strong computer programming background who could be a pioneer in my division by automating functions which had been done with pen and paper. That was me. Remember, this was the mid-1980s when mainframe programming languages were in vogue and PCs used DOS, not Windows (yet).


I did pass actuarial exams Part 1 and Part 2 (I had learned that material in college) but knew at the time I would never pass Part 3. Having to learn totally new material while working full-time was too tiring for me and undesirable. But because I had my foot in the door at my company, they were very willing to keep me on. I was doing a lot of fun programming work along with actuarial work. Also, in the late 1980s, there was a lot of turnover at my company (and the industry as a whole), so keeping experienced people, even someone with only 2 years in, was important.


Not taking the actuarial exams any more would stunt my job growth but I still got good raises and eventually got promoted to supervisor. I saw new hires coming in with one or more exams so I saw how important it was for college grads to already have passed them when they applied - they often wouldn't interview anyone who had no exams. But I had become a "big fish in a small pond," a good career situation.


As for you, REdreamer, I would suggest you study for and pass exam Part 1. Does your company have a job posting program where you can apply internally for an actuarial position? This would give you an edge over an outsider because the company would know you are a reliable employee.
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Old 06-03-2016, 08:03 AM   #13
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Remember, this was the mid-1980s when mainframe programming languages were in vogue and PCs used DOS, not Windows (yet).
I started in the field in 1971 and later told the newbies that back in those days we had to chisel our Fortran code onto stone tablets.
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Old 06-03-2016, 08:03 AM   #14
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I worked in a Fortune 100 Insurance company in IT and worked with many actuaries - the lines are getting blurred - data scientist overlaps with your work. You could move around to IT or Underwriting down the road - if you have an interest like Aviation you can specialize in that area and if you are good - the job offers will flow. Dont be surprised if they mention working in a non-us office to get some experience - do your time and then come back - or not!
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Old 06-03-2016, 08:34 AM   #15
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I started in the field in 1971 and later told the newbies that back in those days we had to chisel our Fortran code onto stone tablets.
Fortran 66, to be accurate.

Speaking of stone tablets, one prank we used to play was to jam a chip back into one of the holes in the Hollerith card. Of course the program wouldn't compile, but you couldn't tell by reading the top of the (properly punched) card. The card might go the card reader 4 or 5 times before it fell out.

Who will tell all these stories after all the old-school programmers retire?
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Old 06-03-2016, 08:41 AM   #16
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All over the map, which makes us interesting. Math, Stats, Engineering, Economics, Actuarial Science, Finance, a Ph.D in Topology. I've also seen double majors in Math or Actuarial Science and Linguistics, Classics, Music and Theology.
Thanks. This is way more heterogeneous than I would have thought given that it's a licensed profession.

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My company was looking for someone who had a strong computer programming background who could be a pioneer in my division by automating functions which had been done with pen and paper. That was me.
Out of curiosity, which languages/programs are typically used by actuaries?
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Old 06-03-2016, 09:00 AM   #17
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Out of curiosity, which languages/programs are typically used by actuaries?
For most of the 23 years I worked, I used SAS, a very user-friendly business programming language. I didn't know the language when I began working but was sent to one-week class to learn it. I found it similar to PL/I, a language I had learned in college. I had been writing some clunky COBOL programs but when I was able to rewrite one of my 500-line COBOL programs as a 50-line SAS program in 15 minutes, I never wrote another COBOL program again. My COBOL experience came in handy when I worked with programmer/analysts as an end-user tester - I could still read and understand COBOL code.

I dabbled with SYNCSORT, a powerful but user-unfriendly language which could perform sorts/sums of large databases more quickly and efficiently than SAS. I also dabbled with DYL-280, another language which more efficiently handled sorts/sums than SAS but was less user-friendly to write code in.
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Old 06-03-2016, 09:07 AM   #18
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First of all big props for saving so significantly so early. In general I would say to keep living at home and saving money as long as possible. On the other hand you only live once and I do look back fondly at my 20's. Yes it involved wasting money at times... but many years later I still smile at those expenditures. So save but don't forget to live a little.

Second, I know a lot of very successful insurance salespeople. If you are with the right company, work hard, do things the right way, you can make a very good career. Check the exit options. That is, with some companies you own your book and some they own the book. By starting young you can build a significant book of business so you need to be in a company where you own your book so you can sell it when you want to retire.

Third, I mentioned it above but I'll repeat and clarify... do things the right way. Build your business foundation (your database, your name in the community, etc...), do things the right way (ethics matter so much in life) and do not cut corners!

Oh ya, and you are clearly a planner but you should plan that things won't work out like you plan that they will.

Good luck!
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Old 06-03-2016, 09:42 AM   #19
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What's an actuary? Is that where they bury actors?
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Old 06-03-2016, 10:01 AM   #20
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Being an actuary s probably the dullest profession in the history of the world.
dull all the way to the bank

https://www.dwsimpson.com/salary

yeah the exams are very difficult, but you get paid to study and raises and bonuses when you pass

I don't think starting out in sales will be a negative. if you have a 3.5 gpa and two exams you should be able to get an entry level job easily

I'd suggest going the consulting route - a good (i.e. actuarial and people skills) consulting actuary can make bank
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