President’s Message MARY D. MILLER
Academy’s Aging Initiative Tackles Big Problems of the Day
“You are not defined by your past. You are prepared by your past.”
WE COULD EASILY IMAGINE the unknown author of this simple truth to be an actuary. From a psychological perspective, the past is a memory that is retrieved in the present, and the future is a cognition
made from one’s current vantage point in time. While we personally experience things from the position of
“now,” the future and the risks it holds are very real—the fact of which we, as actuaries, are keenly aware
and prepared to address.
In addition to our individual practice, much of our work
through the Academy centers on informing others who are
responsible for developing public policy about patterns of the
past and the risks they suggest for the future. The costs of not
accounting for those risks can be high. No one wants to outlive
his or her income or be the subject of a security breach that
compromises sensitive personal data. Actuaries of every practice
area can provide plentiful, detailed examples of such risks, and
the Academy is routinely called upon by policymakers to do so.
The passage of time affects everyone. The signs of aging surround us, ranging from physical changes in a bridge you cross
to get to work, to intangible changes in the value of personal or
company financial assets, to changes in one’s own body. We all
see the effects of aging, but the risks that emerge in aging systems can be more obscure. Some risks are clear-cut and obvious,
such as a loss in asset value, but others are much less so - the
slow decay of an unmaintained bridge, or imperceptibly progressive loss of bone or muscle in an aging body.
Aging is a universal and accessible phenomenon, and therefore
a good springboard for discussing risks with others. It is hard to
imagine a single theme that more effectively allows us to engage
broadly in public policy discussions about how to address risks
in the public interest. The Academy’s aging initiative provides a
single umbrella under which to inform the public, policymakers,
and other stakeholders of the Academy’s compendium of work on
significant societal challenges. Those challenges include:
■ ■ Recognizing the risks posed by the deterioration of an aging
physical infrastructure, including preventable property and
■ ■ Raising awareness of lifetime income options. Our ongoing
Lifetime Income initiative provides support for this part of
the aging initiative aimed at increasing retirement security
■ ■ Recognizing the effect of changing demographics on key public programs like Social Security and Medicare and taking
necessary steps to ensure they are sustainable.
■ ■ Exploring solutions to provide for affordable long-term care
financing, and addressing caregiver needs and concerns
through public and/or private programs.
■ ■ Assessing the ability of Medicare and other public and private
programs to meet the health needs of older Americans and
those with disabilities.
■ ■ Evaluating and addressing the risk of retirement-income systems not providing expected income into old age, especially
in light of increasing longevity. The Academy’s Retirement for
the AGES initiative will support this effort through the release
of a second round of grades of private and public retirement
systems, and public policy proposals.
■ ■ Framing these issues together is an effective way to raise awareness of the Academy’s work in these critical areas, especially
as policymakers’ attention is turned toward aging issues during the ongoing, decennial White House Conference on Aging.
Our world, present and future, is full of risk. It is important
that we share our knowledge so policymakers can develop solutions to mitigate risk from a position of being fully informed.
Through our aging initiative, the Academy is committed to