Tag Archives: Institute and Faculty of Actuaries

The Wealth of Households and Existential Threats

Among the plethora of statistics put out by governments around the world, numbers on household wealth are relatively rare. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) in the U.K., however, is an exception through its publication of a detailed household wealth survey. Moreover, the survey size is such that we are able to get a sense of the household wealth of the British nation as a whole.

The lessons that can be drawn from this survey are not limited to the U.K. In short, the survey highlights the link between economic growth and individual wealth worldwide.

And here is the result. Aggregate total household wealth in the U.K. was £10.3 trillion (click for larger image, original report can be found here) for the most recent survey period.

Aggregate Total Wealth jpg

Interestingly, the greatest component of household wealth today is pensions rather than property (click for larger image).

Breakdown of Aggregate Wealth jpg

The Institute of Actuaries and the Club of Rome

I recently blogged on one of the most durable of myths surrounding resource depletion. It can be encapsulated in the rhetorical question: “Didn’t the Club of Rome predict back in the 1970s that we would already have run out of oil?”

Being a rhetorical question, the speaker is using the question for effect—safe in the knowledge that the audience knows the answer is “yes”. Except, of course, the answer is “no”, the Club of Rome never said that. I have posted the relevant pages from “The Limits to Growth: A Report for Club of Rome’s Project on the Predicament of Mankind” showing what was actually said back in 1972 here. Better still, read the original book which can be bought here.

Nonetheless, the Club of Rome is still a source of mild ridicule. So then imagine my surprise when I discovered the most unlikely supporter of the Club of Rome’s “Limits to Growth” report: the U.K. Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFA). Actuaries are professionals who specialise in the financial impacts of risk and uncertainty. The professional exams required to join the institute have a fearsome reputation with respect to their difficulty. Further, my image of an actuary is of a stolid quant who would dismiss the idea of resource depletion out of hand.

However, in a report entitled “Resource Constraints: Sharing a Finite World“, we see this statement:

The Limits to Growth report attracted significant controversy and rejection of its scenarios, however the data available to the present day agrees worryingly well with the projections, as figure 1 below illustrates.

And this chart (click for larger image):

Actuary and Limits to Growth copy

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