Reading is Continuing Education

By the time this magazine goes to press, we will be well into the year 2023. Many of us will have made New Year’s resolutions, and likely some of us will have already broken some. I am sharing one of mine with you, and I’ll update it with my progress just before this goes to press.

Hopefully, you completed and attested to the 30 hours of continuing education required to keep your actuarial credentials active. The hardest job for me is not getting the hours, it is making sure I enter them into TRACE. If you aren’t using TRACE, I suggest you take a look at it for continuing education recordkeeping.


Recently, my grandson Antony and I were playing a card game. You draw a card, and it asks a question, like “What is your favorite song?” There is no winner or loser; the game is a way to get to know the other players better. When the card that read, “What did you used to do that you no longer do, that you would like to get back to doing?” came up, Anton answered, “I used to create a certain type of Lego structure/creature but haven’t for a while.” I answered, “I used to read a lot but haven’t read much outside of work these days.”

Business leaders are often known as prolific readers and often for the number of books they read. I regularly see on the web “the-10-books-some-famous-person-read-last-year-and-recommends-you-read-as-well” list. Many professions require their credentialed members to attain a specified level of continuing education, ours included. But lately, I have only finished one or two books a year. I would like to get back to reading more books.


What would be a reasonable number of books for me to read in a year? My wife Diane reads 30-50 books a year and has for many years. This is in addition to having read the Bible, in its entirety, for the past 38 or so years. Her level of reading is way beyond mine. Our two sons work and read about 35-45 books a year. That seemed more in the range I might eventually seek to attain. Eventually!

Finishing one book every other week seemed like a reachable challenge for me, so I went with that number. As a test, I wanted to know how much time that would take.

The average book contains 50,000 to 100,000 words, per some searches on the internet. For comparison purposes, the Bible has over 783,000 words, but it is much larger than the typical book I would read in my book list. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill has about 44,000 words, and it seems to be on the lower end of word counts — it is a rather quick read. I did a quick estimate for Against the Gods by Peter L. Bernstein and came up with 136,000 words. Passing It On by Myles Munroe has about 87,500 words, per quick estimate. I picked 90,000 words for the typical book I will read this year, based (unscientifically) on the thickness of Passing It On and the thickness of other books already in my reading queue.

If I read at 250 words per minute, a 90,000-word book will take me about six hours to complete. Over a two-week period, that will require a commitment but would not be an undue burden. If I were to schedule 30 minutes a day to read, Monday through Saturday, I would have the needed six hours in two weeks. I think I can set aside 30 minutes a day to read.

For my initial year, I decided to go with 26 books. Knowing some weeks I could read more, other weeks less, that count of one every two weeks felt right.


What I should read was harder to decide, so I started with classifications. I produced the following, all of which are separate from my professional continuing education requirements:

  • Financial and financial forecasting.
  • Political/social/current national and world events.
  • Religious (excluding the Bible, which I read daily).
  • General business.
  • Classics.

Unlike our professional continuing ed, I haven’t pre-assigned any number of hours or books for each category.


I usually highlight and underline most of my books. Years ago, I started transferring the highlighted and underlined portions of the books I read to a Word document. It is not a book report, just a copy of those phrases and sentences that were worth noting. Now I can read those papers to get the essence of the book without re-reading it.

Those papers have long languished, so I also started to organize and re-read them. I was surprised to find I have over 100 of these papers! My plan is to read one each weekday, allowing me to get through all of them in a year. I also plan to create such a document for most of the books I read this year.

Another important category

One of the other cards my grandson drew in the game I mentioned before asked, “What are the most important subjects in school that will help you in life?” My grandson answered, “Math and English,” an excellent response. I answered “recess” and explained: “Recess teaches how to get along with other people, how to play and communicate with them, and sometimes resolve conflicts.” He thought about it for a few seconds and then his eyes lit up, and he said, “So, we are learning all the time we are at school after all!”

And so I added the category “getting along with and communicating with, others” to my list of book topics.

I went on to tell him that in my current job, math and English are especially important, and I use them every day.


Many professions require its practitioners to maintain their skills with continuing education. Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, referred to it as “sharpening the saw.”

We should also apply the concept of continuing education to business skills and other, non-professional aspects of our life.


January and February are very busy months for most consultants, and I am no exception. So far, I have only read two books and re-read no summaries, and I have not created summaries for the two books that I did read. I look forward to getting on track once things slow down at work.