Friday, April 23, 2010

Occupational Risk

Yesterday, I went to see my bank consultant to get advice on my pension perspective, or rather absence thereof. Side-effect of constant moving and short-term contracts, I am presently eligible for a pension of 3 cents per month from the State of Arizona, which is a nice gesture but doesn't even pay the parmesan on the spaghetti. While the banker was at it, he also tried to talk me into a life-insurance.

After entering age, gender and marital status to calculate the rate, he asked what I do for a living. I'm a physicist, I told him. It then appeared a submenu with a refined job description, astrophysicist, atomic and molecular physics, etc. Lacking high energy physics, I opted for nuclear physics. Hey, is what it says on my door sign: "Assistant Professor, Sabine Hossenfelder, High Energy and Nuclear Physics." So the bankman enters nuclear physicist, and on the screen appears a warning that the occupational risk has to be assessed by a specialist. Well, I say, the only health risk that my occupation brings is that I accidentally poke out my eye with a pencil. And the highest occupational risk of a high energy physicist is probably ending up as a banker. Who wrote that software?

I finally opted against the life-insurance, but I'm now signed up for a pension plan. If I pay in for the next three decades I might then actually be able to afford the parmesan. Unless there's some major disaster, like Central Europe being 1 m below sea level by 2041 or so, I actually have a parmesan guarantee. I feel very grown-up now. At some point I'll have to figure out what to do about the spaghetti. And maybe I should make sure there's no fuel rods in my desk drawer, one never knows.


  1. "The highest occupational risk of a high energy physicist is probably ending up as a banker."


  2. I am presently eligible for a pension of 3 cents per month from the State of Arizona That would be before taxes and currency conversion fees.

    About the pencil... Constance Holden was the editor of Science "Random Samples" for 20 years, with nearly 20 years as a Science writer before that. She was killed by US military security forces as she rode her bicycle to a Washington, DC nuclear summit meeting 12 April. Check for helmets and riot batons before you sharpen that pencil.

  3. Garrett wrote:
    "The highest occupational risk of a high energy physicist is probably ending up as a banker."


    Why ... "Ha!"? Should she have written highest occupational reward, as in financial? Hmm?

    Well, look at me talking at you. You actually know QFT mathematically and all manners of E8, Distler or no Distler, and that's cool. And girls in Maui. Lahaina roads, much? No man can diss that.

    Fact straight up though is there is NO money in Science, with the occasional exception like Gordon Moore. We do what we do because we love it, in spite of all economical sense. But since Economics (especially Macro) makes no sense anyway, where's the problem? :-p

    Bee wrote:
    the only health risk that my occupation brings is that I accidentally poke out my eye with a pencil.

    Not quite, there's always paper cuts.

  4. Hi Bee,

    Well after the financial meltdown I’ve determined all retirement plans were unreliable, so I decided to assure the future for myself with the aid of science and math. It has been calculated that you have a fourteen times better chance of being struck by lightning then winning the lottery. Therefore I’ve initiated a plan where every time there is a lightning storm to seek high ground while holding up a lightening rod. The way I have it figured is after being hit fourteen times I should be due for a win. I thought at first to use a Many Worlds approach by shooting myself in the head until becoming a winner, yet realized I couldn’t afford the ammunition:-)



  5. With all the bankruptcies in my industry, the one savior is the idea of investing in lower interest ventures like bonds, that are just ahead of inflation, so that the loss is not substantial as it had been through that current issue for those taking lager risks for the greater payback.

    Under bankruptcy laws your pension money is not protected depending on the business and group plan you are in. We are fighting the government to make sure these plans are protected as well as governmental pension for old age and Canada pension provide for sustenance as well.

    As you rise in age it is natural to take lower risks. Of course self directed you can chose yourself the size of the portfolio according to the risk you want to take, or let others do that for you.

    The other thing is that a plan under a group has to be vested meaning that the money already exists for it to be doled out to those who are retired and future retirees.


  6. You can choose what you shall invest your money in terms of pension investment?

    Do you have an agenda about the world community?

    Maybe it is this one?

    One can try to press the point so as to support that agenda. Is it a humane one, or is it driven by profit? :)

  7. Hi Plato,

    I actually thought about some investment fund (I would probably take one of the "green" ones), but despite the higher risk it would have been a worse choice. We couldn't really figure out why (the banker wasn't particularly enlightening either), but with the investment fund instead of a standard insurance option, the total capital expectation (after some time) would have been the same, but the monthly rate that would be paid out would have been lower.

    These pension funds usually leave you two options after you've paid in for some decades: you either take it all at once (called the "capital option" at least in German), or you take a monthly rate till you die (or as they nicely put it: till the end of life). I was looking for a monthly rate. If I want to invest in some fund, why do I need a pension plan for that? In any case, I might do that some other time. One other problem I have is that my finances have a tendency to spread over the globe, another side-effect of the constant moving. This isn't only annoying with regards to taxes and currency conversion, but it's also easy to lose track. (Add to this that part of the account statements, information leaflets and forms I signed I can't read because I still don't speak Swedish, and you see why my finances are more or less a disaster.) Best,


  8. Hello Bee,
    Is this a "occupational risc" to
    You or to elephants:


  9. See, even the elephants know that bees have to be taken seriously...

    Clearly it's more risky for the elephant to step on a bee than it is for the bee ;-)


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