On July 13, 2018 the New York Times reported, “Jeremy Gold, an actuary who more than 25 years ago warned of the financial debacles now slowly playing out among the cities and states that sponsor pension plans for their teachers, police officers, bus drivers and other workers, died on July 6 in Manhattan.” Mr. Gold was one of the first actuaries to work on Wall Street. He started there in 1985, the time of corporate raiders and few restraints. These raiders went after pension funds, where Mr. Gold focused his attention. They believed the funds had more money than they needed so they took the surplus and used it to fund takeovers. When reality set in, the money was gone and worker’s retirement security with it. Mr. Gold had big questions about the advice actuaries gave employers on how to run their pension plans and embarked on a 30-year mission, “to save my profession.”
The state and local pension debacles of the ‘80s were partially responsible for the ongoing reduction in pension plans in the business world as well as government. An SOA blog by Paul Richmond on the Personal Actuary: A New Star in the Universe of Financial Advisors reported, “The need for pension actuaries has diminished substantially over the past decade as corporate retirement plans have been converted from defined benefit to defined contribution. The average pension actuary is well over age 50.” Mr. Richmond also posits that “Over the next 10 to 20 years, the need for qualified financial counselors and investment planners will expand rapidly. Considerable opportunities exist for ethical people, with a high degree of analytic ability, to perform these services, proving a valuable public service, while at the same time being rewarded handsomely.” He believes actuaries can fill this void.
An actuary and research scholar at the Stanford Center for Longevity, Steve Vernon, has entered into this financial advisor void. He focuses on helping older workers navigate the critical decision they need to make as they transition from employment to retirement. A financial advisor typically tells clients they need 70-80% of pre-retirement income for retirement. This is a focus on income generation. Vernon believes a more careful analysis of living expenses needed in retirement would change this analysis. He matches up these expenses with what he calls retirement paychecks and provides insights on how to manages those “paychecks.” He addresses social security, pensions, annuities and reverse mortgages and timing for all of the above and savings. Will other actuaries follow him in this much-needed application of their skills as a financial advisor?