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Administrative Genius

A few years ago, behavioral economics took the world by storm. It helped us think critically about the influence of nudges on outcomes. For example, when a company's 401(k) plan changed to automatic enrollment with an opt-out choice rather than its converse, enrollment of new employees jumped by 25%. These employees end up saving far more, likely barely noticing the difference in take-home pay that many take for granted. Unfortunately, left to our own devices in this busy world, we let a lot of important tasks fall through the cracks unless we are forced to act. But what to do when our benevolent overlords don't bother to engineer an environment that makes it easy to succeed? It's hero time for administrative genius. Placing an emphasis on administrative diligence pays dividends in spades. But to receive their benefits, you have to orient your life to handle these tasks instead of treating them as a nuisance. Welcome these little tasks with open arms and treat them right. Do you have a system that reminds you of what needs to be done? Do you have a time and place to get personal tasks done? If not, why? These "simple" tasks accumulate into an easier, more functional life in spite of one’s individual organizational skills or Virgo placements. You’ll be reminded when it's your best friend's birthday and have the time to mail a card rather than simply sending a text. You’ll schedule doctor's appointments in advance and your worrisome friends and family can relax.


Administrative tasks are often misunderstood as trivial, similar to the minimization, denigration and under-compensation of "essential workers". In reality, these tasks are foundational and dynamic. Let's say you have $15,000 of contributions in an unvested pension plan. After leaving your job at a certain point, they stop crediting your account with the previous growth of 6% per year. To grow your retirement investment, you plan to roll it over to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). Doing it now instead of putting it off for 10 years (totally not an unrealistic scenario), will make you an extra $11,862.71 assuming the same 6% return. To accomplish this, you need to practice some social skills by calling your HR department to ask them what you need. Maybe they send you to a website that contains a lot of financial jargon that you have to Google. Perhaps this frustrates you because you feel like you should understand these terms, so now you need to emotionally regulate before moving forward. Filling out the application form requires close attention to detail and copyediting skills to catch mistakes that would otherwise get your form rejected. You'll use the same fine-toothed comb to open up an IRA to receive the rollover on the other side. When it's all filled out, you’ll need to use an understanding of your city to find a notary public. You'll probably have to access your little admin station to put it in an envelope and stamp it, since many of these antiquated systems make you actually mail stuff in. You'll have to use your reminder system to remind yourself to check in after a few weeks to make sure the forms are in good order, and again in a month if you don't see it arrive in your new account. If something goes wrong, your excellent troubleshooting skills have their moment in the sun. The most important tasks should be as easy as a click of a button. People also deserve high-quality financial advisors who can help them manage their financial lives. But beyond what team you can assemble and the pitch coming your way, you're the one swinging. When you hit an administrative task out of the park, take a minute to worship the administrative MVP you truly are.

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