On Thursday, my husband will be sitting for the Construction And Evaluation Of Actuarial Models Exam C. The who, the what? Yeah, I know.
At one time, we were happily rolling along with him working in finance at a local natural gas company. It was a good job, but not very exciting or challenging. O.K. so actuarial work has a reputation for being purposefully UN-exciting, but as for the challenging part: most definitely.
Well, about four years ago, my husband realized that all signs were pointing to the fact that the gas company he was working at was ripe for a buy out. Thankfully, he saw this about six months before the word became official. This gave us time to think about what he would do in case of said buy out.
As my husband pondered the possibilities, he started talking about doing something I had never heard of. He wanted to become an actuary. He told me that this idea had always been in the back of his mind. He had sometimes wondered if he should have pursued this. But he had a math professor in college that made him promise he wouldn't go any further in the field of math as he wasn't the ideal math student. So, being the 'rule follower' that he is, he figured he had given his word and that door was closed. Not so much, it turns out. After all, he married me and (especially after I turned 30) something in me just yearns to break the rules. So, as soon as I knew that he had a dream to try something other than what he was currently doing, it was on, baby! (Besides, maybe he doesn't churn out math like a machine, but he was a Math and English double major at an Ivy League school. So he's no slouch.)
Once the decision was made, my husband quickly moved into a position at a property casualty insurance company and began the process of working through actuarial exams. To say that these exams are difficult is an understatement. There are nine of them, each requiring at least 300 hours of study. Only a small number of people ever bother to even try taking these suckers. And among those who do take the tests, the pass rate is about 30-40% for each one. So in essence, if you can pass about one a year, you're golden. This is what is expected for the industry, as many people are weeded out along the way. So far so good, my husband has been at this for about four years and is on his fourth exam.
Now hang in here with me just a little bit longer. This is where it gets interesting. Over time, the two of us have realized some key ingredients in a much better pass rate for my husband. (So he doesn't have to take each exam more than once.) These things are not what we would have expected. It doesn't seem to matter how many extra hours he studies. It doesn't matter which study aids he uses- flash cards, books, study guides. The big surprising key is this: It matters that I stay interested and present in this process with him. We have found that although I do not understand math or statistics at the level he must perform at, I do know how to keep my husband's spirit up and positive. I know what it takes for him to focus, but not burn out. If I just leave him to study and 'put in the hours', the hours don't add up to nearly as much learning and true understanding of the subject for my husband. There's more than just the sum of all the parts going on here. Some of the parts carry more weight than others. And the cool part is that I get to be an integral part of all of this. The end result is going to mean more because we are in this together.
So, to get through this process, we've made a bit of a deal. We both give up some time and energy for the total cause and in the end we'll both reap the benefits of a lot of hard work. This really isn't anything new. Families do this sort of thing all the time. I just never saw myself with a stopwatch and an answer key that looks like Greek to me...