By: Mark Glennnon*
Jeremy Gold lost his long fight with leukemia earlier this month.
Regular readers here will recognize his name from national pension stories and his occasional comments on this site. He was the leading figure in the effort to bring more honesty to actuarial reporting on pensions.
I didn’t know Jeremy aside from a few email exchanges, but that was enough to see that he was whip smart and totally devoted to his cause. Both the New York Times and Wall Street Journal have nice stories about his life.
One actuary I know who worked closely with him told me his life was “nonlinear.” (Actuaries talk that way, you know.) It was indeed. A child of the sixties, he initially flunked out of MIT, favoring instead the game of pool and a red sports car, according to the Wall Street Journal.
He eventually returned to math, at which he excelled, ultimately becoming an actuary and applying it in a successful career on Wall Street at Morgan Stanley.
But his life turned again, and he devoted his last two decades to a crusade warning about the pension crisis and trying to reform the profession of which he had been part. He earned a doctorate from Wharton while in his fifties. His application there included the stated goal of “improving pension actuarial practice through research and intelligent criticism.”
“Where are the screaming actuaries yelling in these burning theaters?” he asked in a 2015 speech.
Much of his work focused on the matter of pension discount rates — the rates of returned pensions assume in reporting their health — which are often manipulated and usually inflated to hide problems. Think about that as you see Chicago bragging about the progress it has supposedly made on its pensions. Read our story on it linked here. It’s an illustration of the worst of what Gold fought against.
It’s a shame he didn’t live to see his crusade fully completed, but his impact was huge. He broke the table, as they say in the game of pool that he loved.
*Mark Glennon is founder and executive editor of Wirepoints.
Updated 7/16/18 to add the link to the Chicago story.