A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from December 05, 2010
“An actuary is a someone who wanted to be an accountant, but didn’t have the personality for it”

"An actuary is a someone who wanted to be an accountant, but didn’t have the personality for it” is an old joke about the actuarial profession. The reverse is also told: “An accountant is someone who wanted to be an actuary, but didn’t have the personality for it.”

The joke “actuaries—people, some wits say, without enough personality to become accountants” has been cited in print since 1973.


Wikipedia: Actuary
An actuary is a business professional who deals with the financial impact of risk and uncertainty. Actuaries provide expert assessments of financial security systems, with a focus on their complexity, their mathematics, and their mechanisms (Trowbridge 1989, p. 7).

Actuaries mathematically evaluate the likelihood of events and quantify the contingent outcomes in order to minimize losses, both emotional and financial, associated with uncertain undesirable events. Since many events, such as death, cannot be avoided, it is helpful to take measures to minimize their financial impact when they occur. These risks can affect both sides of the balance sheet, and require asset management, liability management, and valuation skills. Analytical skills, business knowledge and understanding of human behavior and the vagaries of information systems are required to design and manage programs that control risk (BeAnActuary 2005a).

In 2010, a study published by job search website CareerCast ranked actuary as the #1 job in the United States (Needleman 2010). The study used five key criteria to rank jobs: environment, income, employment outlook, physical demands and stress. A similar study by U.S. News & World Report in 2006 included actuaries among the 25 Best Professions that it expects will be in great demand in the future (Nemko 2006).

Actuarial Jokes
1. Actuary talking: “a. There are three kinds of actuaries. Those that can count. And those that can’t.” (Attributed to Fred Kilbourne) b. There are 10 kinds of actuaries, those who understand binary numbers and those who don’t. Combining a and b: c. There are 11 kinds of actuaries, those who can count with binary numbers and those who cannot. (Attributed to Esko Kivisaari at )
2. An actuary is someone who wanted to be an accountant, but didn’t have the personality for it.
3. An accountant is someone who wanted to be an actuary, but didn’t have the personality for it.

Google Books
6 May 1973, Palm Beach (FL) Post-Times, “A Short Trip Into the Mysterious World of Bonds” by Robert D. Hershey, Jr. (New York Times), pg. FF1, col. 2:
Bond men probably rank in the public imagination on a par with actuaries—people, some wits say, without enough personality to become accountants.

Google Books
The Proceedings
Conference of Actuaries in Public Practice. Meeting
Volume 30
Chicago, IL: The Conference
1980 (Google Books date of 1976 appears incorrect—ed.)
Pg. 334:
At breakfast this morning Greg said he was going to avoid any actuary/accounting jokes. However, I think that he said an accountant is a person who really wanted to become an actuary but did not have the personality to make it.

Google Books
Merchants of fear:
An investigation of Canada’s insurance industry

By James MacLean Fleming
Markham, ON Viking
1986
Pp. 373-374:
There is a joke in insurance circles that goes like this: “What’s the definition of an actuary?” Answer: “An actuary is someone who didn’t have enough personality to make it as an accountant.”

New York (NY) Times
WASHINGTON TALK: OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET; In Making National Policy, the Buck Starts Here
By ROBERT D. HERSHEY Jr., Special to the New York Times
Published: November 28, 1988
WASHINGTON, Nov. 27— To the uninitiated, the Office of Management and Budget may call to mind Government bean counters, gimlet-eyed naysayers, actuaries who lack the personality to become accountants.

Google Books
Writing About Business:
The new Columbia Knight-Bagehot guide to economics and business journalism

By Terri Thompson
New York, NY: Columbia University Press
2000
Pg. 277:
“A lot of them are actuaries. And you know the old joke, actuaries are accountants without the personality.”

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityBanking/Finance/Insurance • (1) Comments • Sunday, December 05, 2010 • Permalink


Heh, my sister is a CPA [Can’t Pass Actuarial exams] and I’m an FSA [Full of .... Actuary]. We rag each other all the time....

Posted by meep  on  12/07  at  09:30 AM

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