The actuarial profession has been one of the top 10 best jobs in the world for the past decade and weirdly enough hasn’t been portrayed that much in popular culture despite this. Even though actuaries have been mentioned or featured in certain films or on TV; in some films they are portrayed as having vague jobs that their character friends don’t really know about. In other films/TV shows however, there are some characters than shine a different light on how actuaries are usually portrayed. Here, we have compiled a list of our favourite actuaries in pop culture.
Actuaries in Popular Culture
For those who aren’t sure exactly what an actuary is, here is a brief summary. Actuaries work traditionally in insurance where they work consists of risk management. Actuaries predict and measure emerging risks to help reduce those risks by putting financial safeguards in place. They do this by analysing past and present data to solve problems that may arises in businesses.
For more information on the actuarial profession check out our Careers Advice page here.
There are many famous movies that feature actuaries or just mention actuaries in the movie. From animations to comedies and even drama, here is a list of actuaries in movies.
About Schmidt, released in 2002, is one of the most notable films that feature an actuary as the main character. Warren Schmidt (played by Jack Nicholson) retires from working as an actuary at Woodmen of the World; a life insurance company in Nebraska. After retiring Schmidt feels like he doesn’t have a purpose anymore. So he decides to sponsor a child in Tanzania named Ndugo Umbo; where he sends him letters about his life as well financial support.
Later on, after buying a new motor home, his wife suddenly dies and Warren goes into seclusion; which leads to his loneliness. The movie takes you on a journey of Warren finding his purpose again and motivation to move on with life after his retirement and as a widow and make use of his life which he realised he has wasted during this lifetime. It’s a great feel good comedy and is one of the only popular films to portray an actuary as the main character.
Along came Polly
Along cam Polly, released in 2004, is a film about Reuben Feffer (portrayed by Ben Stiller) a life insurance risk analyst who meets Jennifer Aniston’s character, Polly, and slowly learns to do more activities in life that he has once thought were ‘too risky’ to do. This romantic comedy does play on the idea that people who work in insurance are kind of ‘boring’ but it is a great movie that shows a different side to the main character despite this. Compared to About Schmidt, the main character Reuben, isn’t exactly an actuary but he is on our list since he is technically in the same field of work in risk management.
This vibrant fun animation has a cute reference to actuaries where one of the minor characters, Jaguar, expresses his desire to be an actuary and work in tax. In Zootopia, Jaguar, says “I don’t have to be a lonely hunter anymore. Today I can hunt for tax exemptions; I’m going to be an actuary!” Although this is a minor mention of actuaries in a movie compared to the first two; it’s nice to see the positive mindset of a character aspiring to be an actuary.
The actuarial reference in this movie is quite small but it’s still a reference nonetheless because it relates to an actual retired actuary in real life. Boyhood, released in 2014, follows the life of a young boy called Mason from childhood to his college years. In the film, Mason’s father, played by Ethan Hawke, mentions that he has passed two actuarial exams and goes on to speak about this which is fitting since Hawke’s actual father is a retired actuary!
In the comic book and film, Ben Daimio, a mysterious member of the BPRD has stated once that he was once an actuary and used to assess risk before he died adding an extra layer of mystery to his character.
Even though there are many representations of actuaries in TV, there are a few which we have compiled below.
Hot in Cleveland
In the episode, How I met your mother on the American TV show, Hot in Cleveland, there is a very brief mention of an actuary amidst the drama. One of the main characters, Joy, meets her son; who explains that he works in Insurance which later specifies he’s an actuary. Joy then mentions later on in the show that she still doesn’t know what exactly an actuary is; which kind of perpetuates the stereotype that an actuarial career is quite vague and unknown in pop culture.
A well-known mention of an actuary is in the kid’s TV series, Kim Possible where Ron’s dad, Mr Stoppable, is an actuary. Although he does not make a lot of appearances on the show; it is mentioned on the show in a joke where his dad is referred to as ‘The Number Cruncher’. He also mentions that he can work anywhere as an actuary when Ron’s family decide to move to Norway. The role Ron’s dad does can be seen influencing Ron as he becomes obsessed with calculating the risks involved in Kim’s activities during the series.
One of the episodes on the 2004 supernatural show, The Collector, is called The Actuary which is about an actuary who has gotten involved with the mob. In the episode he uses the Devil’s powers to predict the whereabouts, circumstances and exact lifespan; this is to help the mob against their competition. The episode is quite interesting and does actually represent what actuaries can do with their skills in any circumstance.
That’s our roundup of representations of actuaries in popular culture. If you are interested in this career path and not sure if you want to become an actuary, check out our article on the top reasons to become an actuary here.