June 23, 2009

Demographic shifts: Is your data-mining approach as well?

Actuaries are some of the most successful analytics practitioners when it comes to predicting future events in very specific or individual ways, so this article describing the difficulties many actuaries are having given demographic shifts and the mercurial economic climate reminds me that my own analytics ideas, whether “standard” for all projects or custom tailored to a specific model, should be reviewed and where necessary revised.

Many models I have built have excluded age as a discreet or continuous independent over concerns regarding sensitivity to outliers (sometimes it is however include with grad decade as a proxy). This article presents some interesting information that while I already knew, had never considered in respect to my work: U.S. population is working longer, pushing retirement age higher and higher.

The implications I believe are both explicit and implicit. Directly, the trend towards working longer may necessitate a change in traditional assumptions of major gift work. Often there are general demographic “sweet spots” in age, relatively consistent from institution to institution. Certainly donors in their 70’s and 80’s have different giving behavior than those in their 30’s and 40’s. You may consider these “stages” in a donor’s life where they may have different attitudes towards making a major gift, or a planned gift, etc.

I have not observed a “rule of thumb” regarding major gifts and retirement age. Some individuals like to give while still working full time, others wait until retirement “settles in”, and some even use a major gift as a “kick off” to their transition from employment to retirement. American’s working longer on average impacts all three phenomenons.

Less directly, it may be important to consider the effect of older Americans working longer on younger generations of the American work force. Certainly with a glut of highly experienced employees choosing to remain past the average age for retirement, it may be suppressing the career growth opportunities of younger generations. The boomers will retire however, and this may also produce a vacuum effect of leadership and experience. Younger generations, who may have felt stalled by the logjam “at the top” may suddenly find themselves advancing at a rate greater than predecessors.

Maybe its time I reconsider how to use this most consistent and measureable longitudinal variables in my work.

Demographic Shifts Present Actuaries With Challenges And Opportunities
New Orleans, LA – Demographic changes are impacting the underwriting and pricing of many insurance products and the implications of these changes are creating new challenges and opportunities for property/casualty insurers, a panel of experts told attendees at the Casualty Actuarial Society’s 2009 Spring Meeting.

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