September 11th & The Mathematics of Death
Seeing as it’s one of those days, it seems appropriate to address it head on, but from my vantage point as just a normal American going to a normal college class that morning.
I sat down at my 8:30am Interest Theory class, which was the prerequisite class you had to do well in if you wanted to be an Actuary, and was tapped on the shoulder with the information that a plane had crashed into one of the towers.
Being an Actuary means you have to study and understand quantum physics level mathematics applied to the monetary impact of risk. That, coupled with the Life Contingencies class, and you’ve got yourself the probability of someone’s death and the amount of annual retirement or insurance payment that person should receive until then. This is why I went to the University of Iowa in the first place, because it’s one of the best Actuarial Science schools in the nation.
Now that you know what I was studying that day and what I wanted to do with my life at that point, you might start to understand how chilling that day turned out to be.
A funny thing happened as I was about to graduate, which is after working for two premiere Actuarial Consulting firms, one a startup spin-off of PriceWaterhouse Coopers, I realized I didn’t want to do that for the rest of my life. I don’t know if it was because of that day, but I did know that I wanted to do something that helped people lead a more fulfilling life, but also leave behind a legacy, and simply performing the calculations wasn’t going to cut it.
So when I gave away everything I owned last month, including nearly all the books I’ve bought and read since I was a kid, I kept 3 very important books. One of those was Interest Theory, shown above, so I could remember not just that day 11 years ago, but what has driven me ever since.
Life is short, hold those you care about close and find something you love to do.