13Oct2011
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Profile of a retirement actuary: Anna Rappaport

A profile of retirement actuary Anna Rappaport.

Anna Rappaport[1]

The Profile of an Actuary Series details the background, careers and inspirations of participants of the 2011 Society of Actuaries Annual Meeting, to be held between October 16 and 19 in Chicago. If you would like to pose any questions for the participants prior to the meeting, leave a comment below.

What originally inspired you to study to become an actuary?

When I started my career, actuarial sciences presented unique opportunities for women. This was in the late 1950s and the acceptance of women into professional jobs was, well, let’s say “less than what it is now.” I dropped out of college after two years to attend to personal matters. But what I did have was significant math education. These circumstances together made actuarial credentials look quite appealing. After studying hard and passing a number of exams, I became a career woman, or put more specifically, an actuary.

 

How would you describe the general skill set of an actuary?

Actuaries rely on mathematics, and broadly the quantitative disciplines, to evaluate long-term risks and solve problems.  The skill set requires a combination of strong technical skills, good business sense and advanced problem solving thinking.  And good writing does not hurt.  It is much better if one is a big picture thinker, but it is not mandatory.

What industry do you call home and what is the role actuaries play in that industry?

I would call working on retirement security home for me.  Actuaries play a variety of roles with different stakeholders.  For employers who sponsor benefit plans, actuaries help them design and manage their benefits.  For defined benefit plans, they perform actuarial valuations.  For defined contribution plans, they help them think about how to get a better result for the participants.  They also provide services for other parts of the retirement package, including health and long term care benefits.

For financial service companies that offer products and support services, actuaries design and price the products, and value the reserves.  Many advise their clients/employers about which are best and some advise about marketing. For policymakers, actuaries help provide insight about different strategies. Some serve as regulators. Some actuaries also support individuals as they plan for retirement or work with software developers to build support tools for various products.

Could you describe a moment, after a project or deliverable, where you thought “this profession can do pretty amazing things?”

Several years ago, after the release of the 2007 Risks and Process of Retirement Survey, we were quoted in more than 300 publications.  We had been working on this research agenda in various ways for a decade, and I felt that finally we had acceptance on a much larger scale. I was thrilled.

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