We are financial advisors Ed Vargo and Melana Carbary.
Together, we comprise Burning River Advisory Group, a financial services firm with over 30+ combined years of experience in working directly with women and their families.
What we believe
We’ve heard from countless women that the biggest thing they regret is not learning about money sooner.
We founded enlightenHer to support women to change the narrative from “women who regret” to “women who empower.”
Women cannot be fully empowered unless they are financially empowered. Now is the time for women to take control of their financial lives — and help other women to do the same.
Why you need to take an active role in your financial life
- Your security, health, and opportunity rest on the foundation of your finances. This means financial literacy isn’t a “nice to have,” it is a “must have!” You feel safe and secure in your life when you’re in control of your financial life. And it’s not just about you: you have the power to set up the next generation with the financial skills to achieve and sustain financial equality. There’s too much at stake to let the idea that “women don’t understand” money last one more day.
- The wealth in this country is shifting to women. By 2030, women will control more than 60 percent of the wealth in the United States.This means you will be responsible for such things as retirement, college education, and life insurance amongst many others. Such responsibility can be thrilling or frightening as hell. It all depends on how prepared you are. We are here to make sure you are prepared.
- The financial industry has underserved, and often ignored, women. The financial services industry was designed by men for men. It hasn’t evolved sufficiently to meet the needs of today’s woman. Rife with jargon, overly focused on “data,” and ignorant of how women view money, financial advisors have often made women believe money management is a skill best left to the boys. We reject this belief emphatically. It’s time to take money out of the sole jurisdiction of men and put women on equal footing.
- You don’t have to be a financial pro to teach lessons about money. Being a Money Mentor isn’t about becoming a financial “expert.” It’s about learning a few foundational money principles that you can teach to others and put them on the right path. We can teach you these principles and give you the confidence to share your knowledge with others.
- Finances are fascinating. Yes, we’re being serious. Let’s get real: there’s nothing more riveting than your own worth. And When you have a community of women who talk about money this way, the entire game changes. The more you learn and understand, the more exciting and accessible money management becomes — and the brighter your future will look.
With mentorship, community, and trustworthy counsel, all women can become powerful, savvy leaders of their financial lives.
Money will become something that women simply do and do well.
enlightenHer is not just here to help you make sense of your money. We’re here to show you how to use money as a powerful tool to serve you on your life journey. We will help you gain the confidence and knowledge to make financial decisions that serve you best and to inspire others to take an active interest in the building of their own wealth.
Ed Vargo, CFP®, CLU®, ChFC®, AIF®, CDFA®, founder of Burning River Advisory Group, grew up in inner-city Cleveland. During the Vietnam War, Ed’s father served as a sergeant military policeman in South Korea where he met and married Ed’s mother. Once back in the States, Ed’s mother faced the challenges of a being a first-generation immigrant who couldn’t read or write English or drive a car.
Above all, Ed saw his mother struggle as she was not educated in financial matters. A strong-willed and capable woman, she was nevertheless stuck in an unhealthy relationship, unable to control her own well-being. She was financially dependent and had few options for finding a better life. Eventually, she was able to find the power and resources to end the marriage but her struggles left a lasting imprint on Ed and the values he holds dear as a husband, father, and advisor.
Ed’s father, a steelworker, did what he could as a single dad of four young children. Growing up in Cleveland’s Slavic Village neighborhood — a proud, hard-working community (but one not known for its college acceptance rates) — Ed worked hard in school eventually attending Case Western Reserve University. There he earned a BS degree in Management and met his college sweetheart and future wife, Wendy.
Ed and Wendy are now the proud parents of five — yes, five — charismatic daughters. Ed knows how much financial strength matters to the health, safety, and opportunity of a woman’s life, and he’s determined to raise his girls to be as strong, independent, and powerful as possible. He firmly believes that without financial equality, women will never achieve full equality. He wants this for his girls and for all women.
This deeply personal commitment to women’s empowerment is the powerful undercurrent running through Burning River. Ed also believes deeply that a woman’s hard work — as an individual, a professional, an artist, a mother, or anywhere in between — deserves to be recognized and supported. Providing customized financial solutions with a compassionate and caring hand, he is committed to helping women achieve financial independence.
Ed is a 20+ year veteran of the financial services industry. While growing up in the inner city gave Ed a proper education in the school of hard knocks, he is also a strong proponent of a formal education. Ed holds numerous distinguished industry designations including being a CFP®, an AIF®, and a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst®, amongst others.
Ed is a frequent guest speaker at companies, organizations, and conferences, as well as a regular contributor to various media outlets including the Associated Press, Money, CNBC, and Forbes. Ed and his firm, Burning River Advisory Group, have been awarded the Women’s Choice Award for Financial Advisors/Firms every year since its inauguration. They are honored in being recognized as one of the first 100 companies in the country to receive this prestigious award.
Melana Carbary, CFP®, CLU®, CDFA®, grew up in a small Ohio town, the daughter of a second-generation railroading family. While extremely close with all of her family, Melana shared a special bond and relationship with her mother. Her mom’s strong role within the family led Melana to be the strong, independent woman she is today and helped shape her career and passion for working with women.
Melana strives to live simply, be a prudent steward of her money, and create a life full of meaningful experiences. Her journey is about collecting memories, not “things.”
Ed and Melana began working in 2005. While Ed initially served as Melana’s mentor, it became apparent their skill sets and approaches to financial services and women’s empowerment were in complete alignment. They officially merged practices in 2009 and formed what is now Burning River Advisory Group.
Melana earned her bachelor’s degree in business management from Heidelberg College. She is a CFP®, CLU®, Certified Divorce Financial Analyst®, and holds other distinguished industry designations. Melana specializes in working with women new to financial planning and is the firm’s in-house insurance specialist. She is a member of the Financial Planning Association® and the Center for Principled Family Advocacy.
Additionally, Melana holds an associate degree in Floral Design and Marketing and is also a Certified Yoga Teacher (CYT 200). While she enjoys serving in the roles of advisor, designer and yoga teacher, she is most proud of the role she served in supporting her mom during her battle with cancer. She is also now the proud auntie of two beautiful nieces.
Ed and Melana are popular speakers and teachers. Their compassionate, straightforward approach and delivery cuts through the jargon and boredom of finances leaving their audiences with inspiration, courage, and the tools to take charge of their financial lives.
- Why Smart People Do Dumb Things With Their Money
- How to Recreate Your Paycheck in Retirement
- Women and Money – Your Worth is NOT Tied to Your Net Worth
- $@%^ – Where Did All My Money Go?
- Finding Balance – Meeting the Needs of Your “Current” Self with Those of Your “Future” Self
- Life Hack: What You Need to Know to Be “Cocktail Napkin” Smart Financially
Recent speaking and media engagements
- Frequent presenters at the Women in Transition program at Cuyahoga Community College
- enlightenHer Divorce workshops
- What Glass Ceiling? podcast guest
- Contributed to numerous articles in Money, US News and World Report, CNBC, Forbes, and many others.