Low Hanging Fruit


Whenever things start going bad in a program, typically there is a big strategic meeting (usually offsite) and we talk about the future and all of the big strategic things that need to change.  But I have never heard of any big strategic meeting that didn’t have at least a 30 minute session of looking for “low hanging fruit.”  It’s the stuff that is easy to do, the no-brainers, easy wins.  When all you do is send lawyers to Washington, they don’t see anything as easy, so they never even look for low hanging fruit.

I have respect for people in any generation that are suspect of technology.  They fear the unknown.  But sometimes you need a smack in the butt and told to get your ass in gear.  The image above is from a story on Ignites (Financial Times).  Some retiree has multiple DC retirement plans all recordkept by TIAA and is insisting that he not only continue to receive paper statements, but that he wants his paper statements his way.  So what does he do?  He sues.

Hey Congress, this is low hanging fruit.  This guy is insisting that his plan is being over burdened with mailing costs because his 15 separate statements are mailed in separate envelopes instead of all combined into one.  He estimates that if there are 1 million other people like him with 15 separate DC plans, all on the TIAA platform, that the total net cost is $60m.  Sounds like a great idea, let’s break it down.

No way are there 1m people with 15 plans on TIAA.  Wikipedia’s entry says they managed 3.9M participants in total a few years ago.  So 25% of baby boomer teachers that historically worked their entire careers with very few employers have 15 plans and are all insisting on paper statements?  I can’t imagine that one.  But I’ll cave to the fact that maybe there is $10m in waste on paper statements.  The dev project to fix the combining of all that information, plus the QA, UAT and rollout planning would cost $2m.  I know that sounds insane, but that’s just how these things go.  Trust me.  So is a 5 year payback on something that is a a downward trend anyway (receiving paper) worth it?

You already missed the point.  And so did Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D. NY. UCLA, admitted to Bar in 1991) when she blindly forwarded his letter to the DoL, thus triggering this mess.


See the problem isn’t in just fixing this whiner’s request, it’s the need to fix the system.  And Senators have that ability.  They can fix this mess by mandating that all participants switch to email confirms (zero cost) within x years.  Included in that should be some money for local communities to run tech training for these people so they aren’t scared of the future.  That has multiple benefits.  If the problem is high cost, then fix the problem, which includes the myriad ERISA-based ambulance-chasing lawyers filing class-action lawsuits every 5 minutes.

Washington needs people who know how to see and fix problems.  It’s not hard to do.  Watch any news program, pick up any publication.  The ideas for low hanging fruit are everywhere.  At least fix the easy stuff and build trust to get at the hard stuff.  Now if you excuse me, I am going to file a lawsuit against all the knuckleheads out there who insist on the paper phonebook that keeps landing on my doorstep (soaking wet) every year.  And there is some more low hanging fruit.

About Josh Rutstein

I am an aspiring entrepreneur and hopeful political candidate. Father of 2 very special girls, husband to an amazing woman, and passionate American. I snowboard whenever possible and follow a 20x mentality for exercise. I also play golf and ultimate frisbee and am a die hard New England Patriots fan and season ticket holder. Everyday I wake up wanting to make this country a better place, someday I hope to actually succeed.
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