The Bintel Brief

My Parents Want Me To Be an Actuary; I Want To Run a Casino

By Lenore Skenazy

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Dear Bintel Brief:

I’m 18 and reside on Long Island. My parents want me to be an actuary. (I don’t even know what that is; I think it has to do with birds.) But I want to attend Tulane University, enroll in their Casino Management program.

My mother (I love her dearly) hasn’t been to Las Vegas since the 1950s; she still calls Las Vegas “Zind [Sin] City.” I call it “The Entertainment Capital of the World.”

Yes, I know that many casino employees have seen their jobs eliminated in recent months because people are gambling less in this recession, but I’m convinced that the employment market will improve by the time I finish my coursework. Help!

A FRUSTRATED STUDENT

Dear Frustrated Student:

I totally get it. It must be VERY frustrating when your parents don’t take one single second to understand what kind of career might interest you. It’s like they’re PROUD of their ignorance.

Now go look up the word “actuary.”

Oh my! Nothing at all to do with birds, is it?

How dare you suggest that your parents don’t care about your deepest desires when you’ve never even bothered to look up the career they’re suggesting? You haven’t even GOOGLED “actuary.” And according to the second entry there — not too hard to find — an actuary is an expert in:

•Evaluating the likelihood of future events •Designing creative ways to reduce the likelihood of undesirable events •Decreasing the impact of undesirable events that do occur.

In other words (mine, not Google’s): AN ACTUARY IS SOMEONE WHO GETS PAID TO THINK LIKE A POKER PLAYER!!

Imagine that — your parents have been thinking deeply about your interests and skills and they even came up with a way you could use them to make a pile of money!

Back to Google, buddy. A simple search of “Casino manager, average salary,” finds that folks in the career you want to pursue start out at about $49,000 a year, and end up making an average of $60,000. Actuaries start out at $51,000–$61,000 a year, and end up making an average of $90,000. That’s an extra $30,000 a year you could save for a house or retirement or just go blow on the slots! What?

No one would be stupid enough to spend all their savings on slot machines since everyone knows the house always wins? Well, folks will be doing exactly that if you’re really good at “casino management.” Your job is to encourage them come lose their money.

See, I happen to agree with your mom: Gambling is a zind. That’s why the machers in your chosen field took a couple of consonants out of the industry’s name and started calling it “gaming” instead of “gambling.” They know that “gambling” has a long, sad history of sending optimistic folks home broke. They want us to think of it as something more along the lines of Monopoly: good, clean fun. (Not that I ever found Monopoly much fun at all. But still.)

What does it take to join this illustrious brotherhood? The “Casino Management” program at Tulane seems to consist mostly of hospitality management classes, statistics, economics and accounting. Seeing as how casino managers also find themselves in a field that has traditionally attracted shysters, mobsters, cheaters and hookers, there are also classes in legality. And there’s one class that comes “recommended” — on ethics. See above for why.

So it seems it’s not just your parents who are worried about the bed you want to lie down in. Tulane is, too.

But there is one more big factor we have not discussed yet — the ace of spades, as it were — and that is your age: 18. No matter how much your parents love you and vice versa, you are a young man now, not a child, and what you do with your life is up to you. So it really doesn’t matter if your parents approve of your major or not.

Who will pay for your schooling? Ah, that may depend on the career you decide to pursue. But that’s okay. You’re willing to take a gamble. Right?


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