FinCon – Where Money & Media Meet. Pretty catchy tagline for the personal finance blogging community. But let’s take a second to break it down for my non-blogging friends. Basically, FinCon is a convention where financial media of all types meet to geek out over everything from new apps, monetizing, SEO, creating fabulous content, and all sorts of other stuff. But that’s not all it’s about. It’s also about the community itself. Meeting people you have been talking to online for months (years for some) and deepening those relationships and the bonds that tie us together which, in this case, is money. This is the facet of FinCon that I explored the most and that in itself was well worth the price of admission.
So, what can I say that hasn’t already been said? Nothing. Instead, let’s skip the traditional FinCon recap post that my dear friends have already done (you can see a whole bunch of them on Physician On Fire’s round-up). I’m here to spill the dirt. What happened, what didn’t, and how to prepare if you are ever in attendance at any multi-day conference surrounded by people (and strangers) that you adore.
First off, ignore the rumors. Night one I was told that FinCon of yesteryear was a swingers convention of sorts. #NoJudgement, but so so curious… I was poorly disappointed to find that this is no longer the case (or was it ever?). My disappointment stemmed not from a FOMO standpoint but out of pure curiosity of how one gets indoctrinated into such a club. Was there a key bowl involved? Would it show up at an after party? On the table of the FIRE panel? Would it be mentioned in the Newcomers Session?? Nope. And believe me, I looked. I looked for all sorts of signs that the rumors were true…and a couple of times I got close.
First, when I ran into a very popular blogger in the bar on night one. While making introductions, I noticed he had something written on his hand. When my eyes finally made focus I saw what was written was his room number accompanied by which elevator would take you there. Interesting… Naturally, I had to ask if he was aware of the swingers rumor to which he laughed and said he was not. He explained his handwritten message (presumably in his own writing if he is a righty) was so that HE could remember his own room… Hmmm – somewhat suspect but still a valid explanation. 😉 The Sheraton was HUGE ya’ll, and I did actually get lost myself at one point. Right floor, wrong room – it can totally happen!
The second time came when The WoW’s and I were mistaken for a thriplette. What?! To be fair, we were all standing in a row getting pitched by some company when the rep looked down and noticed our name tags had Mr, Mrs, and Miss prominently displayed. What other possible conclusions could there be?? Of course, we graciously giggled and Mrs. WoW and I played along like good sister wives do then quickly found our out in the form of Ally cookies at the next booth over. I mean seriously, here I was the one conducting the research when all suspicion was turned our way due to our name badges. Note to self – change my first name for next year’s event to “Monogamous”.
In the end, I saw no hints of couples swinging. Rumors are usually built on a grain of truth so my guess is that whomever I was talking to was looking for some partners to play with. Actually, the person who mentioned it also happened to be staying in a lovely Airbnb with another couple. Perhaps they found their match after all?? I’ll have to keep an eye on them for next year…
Money Nerds Know How To Party
If ever there was a time for OMG, it is this. I am an early to bed, early to rise type of gal. Though I do enjoy adult beverages from time to time, I usually don’t drink for hours on end while moving from spot to spot and talking in long run on sentences at high decibels for hours upon hours. By the end of day four, my eyes were as bloodshot as The Giant Eyeball..
From Mr. 1500’s after party (at Gwen’s pad!) to a pub crawl with The WoWS, and late night chats with my roomie, Mrs. BITA (BITA for short 😉 ), my brain and body ran the gamut between feeling completely invigorated by conversation and insanely exhausted from sensory and information overload…but I wouldn’t change a thing. Well, maybe a few. Here are a few tips to make it through a multi-day conference without issue. Of course, I didn’t do any of them but you may find them helpful in the future:
1. Don’t try to keep up with people 10 years your junior. Major failure on my part. Though I can’t keep up on the cocktails, I did keep up with the crowd. It has been ages since I was up past 1am (except Camp Mustache) but doing it 4 nights in a row should earn me some kind of millennial street cred. Right?? Who has my trophy??
2. When you feel your voice starting to go – do not speak louder! Mrs. Montana can attest to this…
3. Take naps. Leaving FinCon looking like you were hit by a truck is no bueno…especially when you are flying home on the company dime. If you can pull yourself away from the hoards of fascinating people to nap, you are far more evolved than I. Every time I pulled away for a break I smashed right into another opportunity. Upon reflection, the bags under my eyes were well worth the sacrifice.
4. Eat. My schedule was all out of whack so I often went hours and hours and hours without meals, and even then, most meals lacked proper nutrition. In a crowd that big, I was confident that I wasn’t the only one on the crappy food diet so I took to handing out fruit strips to other attendees. So many fruit strips that one dude asked if it was my business card. Seriously. (Storing that idea for FinCon18)
5. Check your introvert side at the door. At this type of thing, there is no need to hide in a corner and watch the world go by. These are your people!! When checking in for Camp Mustache in May, we were told to walk up to 5 people and introduce ourselves. I took that fabulous advice and carried it with me to FinCon. If you are one of the people I assaulted with my handshake or hug, please forgive me. I know it isn’t for everyone (especially the hugs – again, my apologies), but being the first to stick out your hand get’s you places you can never imagine. Case in point, see below…
Be Prepared to Meet Your Heroes
I am trying so hard not to name drop with this post (too late?) because last year when I read everyone else’s posts on their FinCon experiences I about drown myself in major FOMO. BUT – I have to do it. You see, when people meet internet heroes in real life it is a strange collision of worlds. The third wall is shattered when smiles are shared faced to face. I had many moments like that throughout the weekend, but the two that stood out the most are the greatest of names that I can’t help but drop… J.D. Roth and J$.
What do those two J’s have in common?? Me…and maybe some of you as well. But, of course, they don’t know that and so I have to spell it out here. Both of these gentlemen are responsible for lighting the FIRE under my ass but in completely different ways:
I’ve mentioned that J.D. is how I first found out about FI. To this day I can’t remember what led me to him (I want to say Leo Babauta’s blog – Zen Habits?) but as soon as I started reading his blog, I could relate. From there, through a series of twisted and winding clicks of links, I eventually found some other fabulous writers that led me to the idea that I too could one day become FI. For that, I am eternally grateful.
I met J.D. on day two in the hallway leading to Draft (the sports bar many of my blogging friends spent MANY hours at) and clumsily introduced myself. He was gracious with my efforts and we quickly parted ways so he could go to a meeting. The next day I somehow found myself at his table (also in Draft though I am sure he left at some point – or did he? 😉 ) in the middle of a conversation about the FIRE community. I was pleasantly surprised by his willingness to discuss an issue that has been deep on my mind as of late which is that diversity is very much lacking in our FIRE community (more on that below). What I really want to stress from my chat with J.D. is that I was reminded that we are all a part of the same community and we all play a part in how it is represented. Some just have to start talking louder than others.
As an added bonus to meeting J.D., I was delighted to meet Kim, his better half 😉 , who I am almost positive if I lived closer we would be BFF’s. Kim has a unique position and angle to add to the personal finance conversation and I look forward to hearing more from her perspective. She is definitely one to keep an eye on and no doubt will have big things to share at next years FinCon. I. Can. Not. Wait!!
It may have been J.D. that got me on the path to FI, but it was J$ that inspired me to start writing again. Many moons ago I wrote a lifestyle blog about DIY home improvements, gardening, cooking, and frugal crafty shit. I posted 5x a week until my inspiration was cut short (meaning, I moved from that home which was the complete subject of the writing). The blog is now defunct, with many of my posts and pics missing, but the experience of writing publicly and building a community never left. I just lost my focus. It took a few years to reignite that passion and to find my voice again, but reading Budgets Are Sexy reminded me of what fun it is to put yourself out there – warts and all! J$ has this awesome way of making everyone feel like they belong, enough so that it made me feel like my voice and experience could add value to the personal finance niche.
At Fincon, J$ was often swarmed with a large bevy of peeps (seriously, everyone loves this dude!) and, minus a few brief encounters, the weekend was gone before we ever got to connect. I have to say, it is my greatest disappointment that I didn’t have a chance to thank him in person. So J$, if you are reading this now, I want to say THANK YOU once again. Without you, I wouldn’t have even been at FinCon. You (including Budgets Are Sexy and Rockstar Finance) are responsible for Miss Mazuma and all of the friends I have made because of this tiny little site. Your writing convinced me to start publicly tracking my progress on my way to FI. It made me want to join The Million Dollar Club and even made me believe I may hit that ginormous goal someday (though I’d be happy just to get close!). You also reminded me that there is still good in the world and continue to lead by example by being one of the few at the community outreach project set up Saturday morning at FinCon. I wasn’t around for Love Drop, but am so happy to be able to support the Rockstar Community Fund and the Giving Cards Project. Keep doing what you’re doing and the world will no doubt be a better place!
It is unusual to meet your heroes and have them be as genuine and humble in real life as they are on the screen. Both of these guys have managed to accomplish that rare feat and I am beyond grateful that they didn’t let me down!
FIRE is Not Yet A Flame
Back to my chat with J.D….
This was the standout that I realized most while at FinCon – the FIRE community is not yet diverse, and that for me is an issue. The stories often being highlighted are not representative of the community as a whole. Not only culturally (which was very apparent in every FIRE panel, chat, podcast, and/or documentary taping), but economically as well. We are not all engineers and/or living/saving on dual high-income salaries. As I told J.D., the FIRE community has a branding issue that starts with the spotlight being shined in the wrong direction making FIRE seem unapproachable for most.
The fact of the matter is the one who chirps the loudest get’s fed first. We need to change that. The same way we’ve celebrated and rallied to get the voices of women in the personal finance blogging space heard, we need to start doing the same for the underdogs. The TRUE heroes in our community. The ones who break free without the help of large incomes. The ones who find their passion after quitting grind. The ones taking leaps instead of cautious and calculated baby steps. The ones who practice mini-retirements and are REALLY fucking good at them! The ones who are 3rd generation FIRE (insert Marla’s name here since she doesn’t have a blog! 🙂 ). Those are the stories that inspire me most. And they inspire others as well. If you have that story, please share it. If you read that story, please spread it. We are all responsible for this community and who it reaches. Let’s get the word out on another level. You can hide behind emojis and pseudonyms for whatever reason is necessary (I certainly do!), but don’t do it to take shelter from having uncomfortable conversations with loved ones. The goal of FIRE is freedom – who doesn’t want that for the people they love most?
Back to reality, kind of. I’m back to work but writing from Punta Cana. Bittersweet, indeed. I already bought my ticket for next years event, but rumor has it there is another FIRE gathering happening around the same time in a country that I am dying to visit (remember what I said, don’t listen to rumors). If any of you are on the fence about attending, buy your ticket anyway. Get in on the early bird pricing and you can always sell it later. Chances are, you won’t want to.
Shout out time…
Special thanks to my FinCon friends (pay no attention that they are almost all dudes – no keys were involved in the making of those friendships!) Mr. Apathy Ends, Guy on Fire, Joe Olsen (Adventuring Along), Will (My favorite Plus 1), Marla (My PiC), and Emma & Andrew. The legume Gods made pea-pods to have 3 peas but I’m pretty sure we can fit 8. FinCon18??
And to my new and old friends that I didn’t get the chance to hang with much, I hope we have more time next year. The Happy Philosopher, thank goodness you survived that breakfast! Mrs. Adventure Rich, you were robbed…your costume should have won!! That being said, Route To Retire, mad props to you my friend. Mastermind Within, I am so glad my friend found you in this crazy world. I didn’t know what to expect but it seems you compliment each other perfectly – you are the yin to her yang. ESI Money, you got me thinking monetizing (see the adds??)! Financial Panthers, let me know if you’re ever looking for a cougar to join the pack. Physician on Fire, thanks for the koozies – already coming in handy. Fritz, I kept missing you! Mr. PIE and Mr. Slowly Sipping Coffee, the other members of my roommate’s (Mrs. BITA) thriplette…you guys had me in stitches. Steve Goodwin, love you man! Looking forward to our RSFF meet up next month!! Think Save Retire, retirement looks good on you guys!! Looking forward to following in tour footsteps. Make Smarter Decisions, also props for an AWESOME costume. I can’t wait to see what The Groovy’s come up with next year! Wealth Well Done, great to finally get a hug in. 🙂 KeepThrifty, I didn’t have a chance to gush to you directly but you are doing GREAT things with your new vlog – Congrats! Cait Flanders, meeting you in person was as lovely as I imagined it would be. Nords – thanks for hanging throughout the whole pub crawl, teaching me the term “evergreen”, and for giving me one of the greatest compliment on my writing thus far. Truly an honor to know you. Millennial Revolution, I knew you were my kind of peeps and am so happy it translated off screen! Millennial Boss, I promise I didn’t sleep in your bed. Broke Millennial, my Plutus Award-winning friend, not only did you teach me the ways of prime swag, you also sparked great conversation per the usual. We didn’t share sushi this time but your re-telling of The Notebook more than made up for it! Choose FI dudes, you know I’m a huge fan. Keep it up!! Mad Fientist, I’m ready for that shirt whenever… 😉 And, of course, a big THANK YOU to PT who made all of the FinCon fun possible.
Until next time…