September 11, 2012
Susan and Stephanie Bruno, a mother and daughter duo raised in Darien, created DivaCFO about one year ago to help women organize their finances in a fun and comfortable way.
“Divas don’t have to be ditzy and finance doesn’t have to be dull,” according to Divacfo.com. Susan is a veteran in the finance business. She is a certified public accountant, personal financial specialist, certified financial planner and certified insurance consultant. Her daughter has a degree journalism and media studies, and takes on the creative side of DivaCFO.
They decided to bring their talents together after one night in the Darien library during a power outage caused by Hurricane Irene. They enlisted Susan’s sister, Gretchen Bruno, of 341 Studios in Darien, as the graphic designer. They later hired Coleen Tully, an app developer based in Boulder, Colo., to create Diva Docs.
The project developed a blog and an iPhone application, released in July 2012, that helps users to create financial security by planning ahead. IPhone owners can upload their financial files to Diva Docs, which is supported by DropBox, an online file hosting service, and access them anywhere.
DivaCFO’s mission to make women “chief financial organizers” and create financial strength in case they face “the 5 D’s”: death, divorce, disability, disaster and debt. The mission relies on financial facts supported by various sources, such as Citibank, Prudential Financial and the U.S. Government Accountability Office that show women lagging behind men in financial literacy. Statistics indicate that women are increasingly the main source of income for their families, and though they try to manage finances in small ways, like by clipping coupons, they save less and are not as financially knowledgeable as men. According to DivaCFO, women retire with one-third less in their bank accounts and fewer than half of women are able to answer basic financial literacy questions.
Susan meets women in her work and personal life who seek a financial planner only when they are in distress. “That’s when women wake up,” Susan said. “That’s not the time.”
Stephanie is the project manager and part of their target audience. She takes her mother’s knowledge and writes blog posts that cover questions including how to deal with debt, when to buy life insurance, how to financially prepare for children and even what to do if you win the lottery. DivaCFO has a group of experts on various subjects who occasionally contribute to the blog. Stephanie initially designed the website herself.
DivaCFO’s blog gives tips on dealing with disasters, but also on living life to prevent financial stress. The blog posts are short informational articles that cover the same information Susan says she would share with her paying clients. The posts nudge women toward an understanding of topics that any person running a househould should be knowledgable about, like house, car and health insurance. One article asks single women to think about why they would need life insurance. There is also a section devoted to stories from women who worked through the five D’s.
Stephanie’s childhood aversion to numbers was an inspiration for helping women think about their money. She recalls being “horrified,” when her mother wanted to share her experience as a certified public accountant at a Hindley School career day. Stephanie said that she did not realize the importance of her mother’s work until she was forced to deal with her own finances after college. “If it’s an effort to make it part of your day, if it’s not enjoyable, there’s no way we’ll make time for it,” she said.
Stephanie recieved some feedback from Phil Van Munching, a longtime family friend and notable Darien resident. Stephanie recalled that Van Munching liked the blog but enouraged her to explain what the company name signified. The two joked that Darienites would notice the pink and green layout of the website immediately.
The Diva Docs also help make finances “a way of life,” according to Susan. The app breaks down the important documents ever woman should have available. It is set up like a scavenger hunt and users will earn rewards with every step they complete. Susan said that she hopes younger women use their tools to get accustomed to making financial choices before they ever have to deal with the five D’s. “Not everyone majored in accounting or finance,” Susan said. “You start young and follow and learn in the same way you would learn how to play tennis. Take it slowly and you make it part of your life.”
Susan shared an anecdote about a moment when she was prevented from learning about the status of a hospitalized family member despite the fact that she had a HIPPA document in her files at home. Susan was traveling and did not have a copy of the form that would allow doctors to legally share information. With the Diva app, she would have had the document available on hand.
The app and documentation process could also help wives start a conversation with their spouses about big financial issues, if they are not otherwise comfortable, Susan noted.
“The conversation can start with, ‘Hey I’m using this new tool, can we sit down and talk about our retirement plan?’” Susan explained. “Just blame it on us, we don’t mind.”
DivaCFO.com has around 25,000 views so far. Their goal is to have 10,000 subscribers for the weekly newsletter by October 10. DivaCFO targets women but its tools are available and useful for men, too. “Men are following too because they’re not afraid of the name,” Susan said.
The website has its first sponsored giveaways to coincide with the “Diva entrepreneur” series. Gina Zangrillo, owner of Darien Sports Shop, is the current featured diva. “She’s a diva in the DivaCFO sense,” Stephanie said, “successful in business and lots of people in town know her.”
“We are broadening our mission to not only getting women involved in finances, but in powerful roles, like business roles,” Stephanie said.
More info: Divacfo.com