Darien business shares the Diva approach to finances
Published 1:31 pm, Friday, September 14, 2012
Let's face it: If you're like most people, you dread keeping track of your finances.
You probably don't really know how much you have saved for retirement. You don't know how much life insurance you would be entitled to if your spouse passed away, and if you have a financial adviser, you wouldn't know how to contact them.
If you're a woman, the news gets worse. According to Susan Bruno, a Darien financial consultant with 25 years of experience, more than half and maybe up to 85 percent of women 20 to 70 years old lack the basic knowledge they need to handle their own financial affairs. Yet at the same time, up to 90 percent of the same women consider themselves the head honcho in the household when it comes to spending and making financial decisions.
"They feel like they can't really criticize when they are the stay-at-home mom looking for the new SUV," Bruno said. "Just because they are highly educated doesn't mean they have stepped up to the plate in their personal finances."
Bruno and her daughter, Stephanie, have launched a new business designed to help empower women and better help them understand their own personal finances, as well as the family checkbook. Called DivaCFO, the new business is a venture that combines basic financial knowledge we all should know with a user-friendly, visually pleasing interface geared toward a female audience.
"We take important topics and make it into a way you want to read it, with colorful, fun icons," she said. "It's very playful, like USA Today. I wanted to use color. Is this person a visual learner, etc. Women process info visually. Everything was going to be in color, and we had to get rid of jargon."
The online presence found at DivaCFO.com, focuses on offering information such as budgeting, debt reduction, investments and insurance. In addition, the site features stories of successful female entrepreneurs and businesswomen, as well as tools to help them organize their finances.
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In addition to the website, users can also download a $4.99 smartphone app called DivaDocs, which places financial tools right at their fingertips.
"I want to help millions of women get in the game," she said. "This is your money. Start learning about what you have."
In affluent communities like Darien, Bruno said it is commonly the husband who is the breadwinner, and therefore the one who takes care of the books. If he isn't in charge, the family may employ a financial adviser, someone whom the wife may never come into contact with or know how to contact should something happen to her husband. For many women, she said, this is accepted practice, but she wants them to be ready when one of the 5 D's strikes: divorce, death, debt, disability and disaster.
"When you have the luxury not to have to worry about the money, you may not be paying attention to whether the mortgage is being paid," she said. "When one of these things happens, it's then that they start paying attention to their own finances. Our feeling is stop delegating the most important tasks."
To be fair, it's not only women who can use financial help, and while her business focuses on "go-girl" attitude, she hopes that couples will use her tools to help focus as a team on their family finances, and plans to roll out a DudeDocs version of the software geared toward men. In the meantime, since rolling out the website in January, the company has received almost 25,000 views, with a goal of 100,000 by the end of the year. Since the app hit iTunes July 13, more than 100 people have downloaded the tool. Radio and TV promotions have gone out across the country, attracting the attention of MSNBC and other financial media.
"That's not bad for being out for a month," she said. "We're getting a lot of attention. These things grow virally, but you have to go out initially."
Bruno, a Darien native and certified public accountant and financial adviser who is also owner of Beacon Wealth Consultants, got the idea for DivaCFO after hearing many heart-breaking stories of women who felt like they were out of control of their finances, either after life-altering events or after the recession of 2008 hit.
Her daughter, Stephanie, a recent graduate of the University of San Francisco, is the creative engine of the mother/daughter team with a degree in social media marketing and writing.
In addition, a team of financial advisers also helps round out the team.
"It's a very under-served market," she said. "The way financial information is being disseminated is not reaching women. If you take five minutes a day to read our blog, it won't take long for you to take the next step, which is maybe meet your CPA for the first time."
John Palmer is a freelance writer.