Film Noir and Actuary Tables

Last night, Mr. W. And I watched a film noir called Double Indemnity that took place in 1938.  It used to be that life insurance policies called “accident insurance” would pay double for unlikely accidents like dying whilst riding a train.  

The rapid-fire dialogue was hysterical and might make you want to put on closed-captioning.

Double Indemnity clauses fell out of favor because, well, murder.

There’s a great scene with Edward G Robinson as Mr. Barton Keys, whose gut never fails him.  He talks about actuarial tables that predict age of death based upon a myriad of factors:

[Norton, Keyes’s boss, has just tried, unsuccessfully, to convince a client that her husband’s death was a suicide] 

In rapid-fire, Bugs Bunny talk:

Barton Keyes: “You know, you, uh, oughta take a look at the statistics on suicide some time. You might learn a little something about the insurance business.”

Edward S. Norton: “Mister Keyes, I was RAISED in the insurance business.”

Barton Keyes: …”Come now, you’ve never read an actuarial table in your life, have you? Why they’ve got ten volumes on suicide alone….”

“Suicide by race, by color, by occupation, by sex, by seasons of the year, by time of day…

“Suicide, how committed: by poison, by firearms, by drowning, by leaps. Suicide by poison, subdivided by *types* of poison, 

such as corrosive, irritant, systemic, gaseous, narcotic, alkaloid, protein, and so forth; 

suicide by leaps, subdivided by leaps from high places, under the wheels of trains, under the wheels of trucks, under the feet of horses, from *steamboats*. 

But, Mr. Norton, of all the cases on record, there’s not one single case of suicide by leap from the rear end of a moving train. 

And you know how fast that train was going at the point where the body was found? Fifteen miles an hour. 

Now how can anybody jump off a slow-moving train like that with any kind of expectation that he would kill himself? No. No soap, Mr. Norton. We’re sunk, and we’ll have to pay through the nose, and you know it.”

So, I imagine that there are updates algorithms to create these actuarial tables for 2017. These are used by insurance companies and by companies that still do pensions to calculate how long they’ll have to pay you if you have no choice but to take the pension as an annuity (monthly amount they give you until your death).

The question they’re asking is “ugh! How much LONGER do we have to PAY her? (In my case, I have to take my pension as an annuity instead of a lump sum, because I didn’t have a long enough service time.  And I need to wait to age 65, because that’s their “normal” retirement age.

Let’s have a look an actuarial table for women in 2017. I’m almost 49 and my expected death is 82 and 6 months. I have 33 years left to live. 33 years is a long time.

There are more sophisticated calculators that ask questions like are you a smoker or scuba diver and so on.

Social security has me living anywhere from age 85-88 depending upon how long I live.  If I make it to 70, then I live to 88. And so on.

Northwestern Mutual has an interactive calculator based upon outdated info like BMI and eating fruit. I lift weights, so will weigh more, plus it keeps the PET (Patulous Eustachein Tube) roaring tinnitus at bay.  Also, I’m insulin resistant and fruit and most veg are poison for 1/3 of us.

This calculator which is the most modern, has me living to 101 but there was no question about serious chronic illness like endo in there. 

What do you think?
Double Indemnity. 1944. Paramount Pictures.


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