Where Would We Be Without our Beloved Listserv?

By Matt Beaurain, EA, MSPA • March 15, 2016 • 0 Comments
We work in an industry that seems have an infinite amount of rules and regulations. Unless you’ve written the regulations yourself, or have been in the retirement industry since the beginning of time, odds are that you will run into a situation where you need a colleague’s advice. Prior to the advent of the Internet, this most likely required hours and hours of digging, reading, phone calls and even perhaps (gasp)… waiting for a face-to-face get-together.

In a world where time was becoming less of a right and more of a commodity, something had to change. Lucky for us, Al Gore came along and invented the Internet. And with it came immediate breaking news, live sports updates, 2-day shipping, tweeting and, most importantly, the ACOPA listserv. 

If you are unaware, the ACOPA listserv is an email group to which all ACOPA members are given access. It gives us the ability to communicate openly, without fear or judgment, from the comfort of our own home, office or anywhere that has cell phone reception. If you are working on a plan and run into an actuarial dilemma, ask away. If you see an email come through to which you know the answer, you can help out a fellow actuary. Or, if you are budding young actuary with a mind like a sponge, feel free to sit back, relax, and read about any actuarial topic that your heart desires. It is essentially an actively growing encyclopedia for actuarial topics.

As a Millennial actuary, it cannot be said enough how much the ACOPA listserv, and all of its contributing members, has helped me in my quest to become a better, more informed actuary. The listserv is an amazing, supportive community in which I can find clarity in my day-to-day actuarial questions. I have asked quite a few questions on the listserv, almost always receiving a response within a few minutes. I have never felt judged for asking a question that I “should have known,” nor have I ever felt any uneasiness for asking my question.

Over the course of my 10-year career in the actuarial field, my supervisors have always been dependable actuaries who I could go to with questions when I was stumped. Though some were more knowledgeable than others, we were always able to discuss the issue and find a solution together. Well, what happens when you decide that the time is right to go off on your own and you realize that your support system will no longer be readily available? That was one of the primary questions I had when I was contemplating starting my own firm. I wondered, “Who will I go to with questions and advice, and where can I continue expanding my knowledge?” 

At the time of my transition to start my firm, I had been an ACOPA member for more than a year, and realized that I didn’t need to worry about a lack of an actuarial mentor: I had a plethora of actuaries, with more combined knowledge than any one actuary could ever have, right at my fingertips. These actuaries are willing to take time out of their busy days to help out in any way they can, and even if half of them are taking the day off to watch the World Cup finals, there’s still the other half who might be around and willing to help. I cannot stress how reassuring this was for me, and how much it eased my mind during my transition.

Odds are that you are not the first one to have your specific question or scenario. Instead of asking the same questions over and over again, another extremely useful feature of the ACOPA listserv is the ability to search through all prior email chains to see if your issue has already been discussed. Using the search feature has not only enabled me to find answers to my questions at hand, but I’ve also found myself reading up on new topics, expanding my horizon and improving my knowledge. 

Just to be clear, you should rarely, if ever, take advice and opinions given through the ACOPA listserv as fact without doing your due diligence. It is always a good idea to double-check the regulations and read them for yourself to make sure you agree with the responding actuary. Not only could some of the information you read on the listserv be misleading, but it could also be outdated. With what seems to be a constantly changing regulatory environment, you should always make sure that what you read is still applicable today. Not only that, but it would be very hard to explain to an auditor that your plan design is non-discriminatory because you read it on the listserv. Though I’ve never tried it, that probably wouldn’t hold under audit.

So on behalf of all of the newer generation of actuaries, I’d like to finish by just saying thank you to all of the contributors on the listserv, whether a one-time contributor or a serial contributor. Thank you for showing us that no matter how long you work in the retirement industry, there is always more to learn. Thank you for sharing your time, your wisdom, your expertise and your opinions with the actuarial community. And finally, thank you for giving the next generation of actuaries an additional ambition of hope that, one day, we will have the knowledge to pass down our expertise to the Generation Z actuaries who will look up to us for our help.