Carol Sears was awarded the 2019 Wynn Kent Public Communication Award. This award recognizes members of the actuarial profession who have contributed to the public's understanding of financial risk through literature, speeches, work with the media, and volunteering or representing the profession in areas outside the actuarial profession.
She is now retired, however Carol served as an actuary for over 40 years in the employee benefits consulting field. As a member of CCA, Carol has served as a member of the Board of Directors, Professionalism Committee and more. Additionally, she has been a speaker at CCA meetings and on webinars.
For those who don’t know you, could you tell us all about yourself and how you got in to the actuarial profession?
My high school counselor suggested I look into it. I did and it stuck! I attended Univ of Illinois in Urbana/Champaign and loved their actuarial and finance programs. ERISA was just passed just as I entered college. I helped my finance professor insert ERISA into his textbook. That’s how I learned about and ultimately became a pension actuary.
If you had not pursued a career as a consulting actuary, what else might you have done?
I might have tried some obscure math related job of the time…like big data analysis perhaps.
What’s your best ‘day in the life of an actuary’ story?
I was walking down a corridor at an annual conference and a young actuary passed by and said, “Oh my goodness, you are Carol Sears!” and I felt like all the years of volunteering/speaking might have made some small difference.
If you could choose, what would you like for your legacy to be?
I would like to be known for championing volunteering as a means to be a part of improving our profession as well as a means to improve oneself.
What does the Wynn Kent Public Communications Award mean to you?
Teaching lay people how to incorporate actuarial concepts into their own personal analysis needs has long been a passion. Of course, I don’t use the words “actuarial concepts” when teaching.
I believe that actuarial concepts are a huge part of financial literacy and builds personal financial confidence. We need to get rid of the smoke and mirrors surrounding financial topics that a lot of lay people feel exist.
To be recognized as a leader in such promotion and initiatives for lay people is incredibly meaningful to me.
In your opinion, what is the most important contribution (or contributions) you’ve made to the actuarial consulting profession?
Helping compose texts and exams for what was then ASPA during a period of program transformation.
Testifying on behalf of our profession before a subcommittee of House Ways and Means while ASPA President.
Serving on ABCD, including a year as Chair, and becoming known for speaking about our profession’s professionalism structure/issues.
Helping CCA as a board member and especially with several conferences and webcasts.
Supporting The Actuarial Foundation as a trustee and spokesperson.
Do you have anything specific you’d like to accomplish next?
I am currently working with The Actuarial Foundation as an Emeritus Trustee to help design and organize community-based delivery of our suite of programs.
I hope to continue with this initiative once underway. Hopefully, I can be involved as a financial literacy tutor or mentor.
Why do you feel that volunteering is important?
Networking expands personal horizons. Volunteering leads to networking. As a volunteer, you can contribute so much more than as an individual.
What does it mean to you to be a member of the CCA?
Learning and expanding my own ideas from networking with the diverse members has made me a much better actuary and person.
What do you believe is the most pressing issue facing the actuarial community today; and, if you happen to have an approach to a solution, what would it be?
Staying relevant. [We could] Use our combined talents and perspectives to influence current pertinent social issues so that actuarially reasonable outcomes occur.
What do you like to do for fun?
Is there anything you would like to add?
I believe that actuaries can and should be a part of leading this country to logical/workable/reasonable financial conclusions/programs/changes, etc. Finance consists of 3 components: banks, investments, insurances. Actuaries can help within their own locale to eliminate the “smoke and mirrors” that their friends and neighbors feel exist about all 3 areas of finance. Teaching financial literacy starting in kindergarten will ultimately create a populace that understands finance and will drive our combined financial future appropriately.