Recently, I took my daughter to see the movie Hidden Figures. It highlights the true stories of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, three brilliant African-American women who each played an integral part in the success of the NASA space program and, in 1962, helped launch the first manned spacecraft. (The man inside, of course, was astronaut John Glenn.)
Their accomplishments are even more tremendous when you consider that they happened during a time in history when women were mostly limited to homemaking or administrative positions. Because of their race and gender, Johnson, Vaughan and Jackson’s contributions were long overlooked but that didn’t stop them from exhibiting an impressive dedication to their work. They understood their part in the bigger picture and nothing stopped them from pursuing excellence. That was powerful for me. Watching their lives portrayed on screen inspired both me and my daughter.
Even in 2017, I can relate to their experiences. As an African-American female certified financial planner, I am one in just 23% of women practicing in my field nationwide. In my mind, the movie mimics real life.
However, the term “hidden figures” can also apply to topics like investing. Hidden figures show up in portfolio fees that can go unnoticed but have a major effect on the total growth of your investment returns:
As you review the list, you may feel like these are just too many fees or too many incremental deductions you haven’t noticed. But consider that these costs are similar to the expenses associated with designing and manufacturing those gorgeous shoes that make their way from the warehouse to the shelves of your favorite boutique to a space in your closet. You’re paying for the labor and knowledge that creates a product. That’s why most of these costs don’t go away, even if you take a DIY approach to portfolio management.
Where you place value is where you spend money. Savvy investors recognize soft costs and do their research to alleviate blind spots when they’re making crucial decisions. It’s also important to understand that having access to a team of experts—such as a specialty attorney for legal matters, a CPA for tax planning, and a financial planner for goal-setting and portfolio management—is a critical investment in and of itself. Their inside knowledge helps to avoid hidden figures that can (and often do) show up because:
I can just imagine all of the girls—and the women—who will benefit from seeing Hidden Figures the movie. I also imagine all of the future and current investors who will benefit from understanding the hidden figures in their portfolios so they can be empowered, prepared and financially fierce.
[i] (Bersher, 2016)