We’ve just returned home from FinCon, the financial blogger conference, and we’re every bit as exhausted as we thought we’d be. Not only because FinCon itself involves close to no sleep, but because we went into it already tired from the lead-up to the reveal and everything else going on right now. It’s hard to believe that all of this has happened just last week:
- We unmasked ourselves
- We were featured in MONEY (which spread to MSN)
- We were featured in MarketWatch (which spread to Yahoo Finance)
- I appeared on ChooseFI
- I participated in the Playing with FIRE documentary shoot
- I recorded two episodes of The Fairer Cents with Kara
- We went to FinCon and spent time with loads of people we love and are inspired by
- … and one more thing (keep reading!)
But as tired as I am, I returned home with a full heart and loads of inspiration. Everything that happened last week was a huge reminder of the power of community, both in and out of formal events like FinCon. And it’s clear to me that one of the things I most want to do in retirement is create more opportunities for community-building, with special attention to including non-bloggers and women in FI (financial independence).
But let’s talk about FinCon!
Psst! Check out my recap of #FinCon16.
The Sheraton Dallas was the home of FinCon17, and it had two of my favorite features of any hotel: huge suites we could get upgraded to, and a club lounge with no bouncer!
I know I’ll lose my fancy hotel status soon, when we stop traveling for work, so I want to share the wealth with as many people as possible in the limited time I have. That means I brought tons of people into the lounge for breakfast each day and snacks throughout the day. Bless you, Sheraton, for not posting a name checker at the door like Marriotts do.
I had two sessions on the calendar this year, which were super different: The first was as a participant on the FIRE panel, and the second was as the leader of a panel I pitched on broadening your audience.
The FIRE panel had several perspectives represented – military early retirement with pension and health care, “traditional” early retirement with mostly index investing (me), early retirement with all real estate, and early retirement with a mix of investments and real estate. And while I don’t know this for sure, it’s possible that I was asked to be on the panel because I’m a woman, and the organizers felt they needed that. In the past, I would have felt icky about being the token on a panel (though in this case, my friend Gwen was also on the panel with me), but something my friend Liz (you know her as Mrs. Frugalwoods) told me has really stuck with me: “Be the token, and bring a friend.” And now I’m all about that. It doesn’t matter if someone invites me for the wrong reason. I’m going to say yes, and find ways to open that opportunity up to other women or underrepresented people. And all of that said, it’s also entirely possible they invited me for me. 😉
The second panel was the one I led, and included Jessica Moorhouse, Kara Perez, Liz from Frugalwoods and Jim Wang from Wallet Hacks. We had some lively discussion about different approaches to moderating comments to make people feel welcome, and about noticing the subtle signals that your site might be sending that tell particular audience segments that you’re not speaking to them (coming across as a know-it-all and judging some decisions as dumb being two biggies).
My favorite post-panel tweet was Adam’s, which I think means I did not suck. 😉
I only managed to attend one other breakout session during the conference, on monetizing your podcast (I’ll prepare you guys now: The Fairer Cents has a sponsor, but it’s a totally great one), which was great.
And of the main stage speakers, my favorite was Nicole Walters, who has incredible stage presence.
She reminded us all that, if we’re undermonetized, our blogs are just expensive hobbies. Her exact words: “Our Next Life is suuuuuper undermonetized, y’all! Go tell them what an expensive hobby that is!”
WELCOME TO MY EXPENSIVE HOBBY!
Mr. 1500 didn’t listen. He just drank beer.
Playing with FIRE Documentary
In my work, I’ve spent plenty of time behind the camera and arranging productions, but I’ve never really been on camera before (the time I appeared on Good Morning America to talk about crying over a panda notwithstanding), and certainly not to speak as an “expert.” So I knew it would be a new experience when the guys behind the Playing with FIRE documentary asked me to be a part of their influencer roundtable, along with rad FI folks like JD Roth, Brandon the Mad Fientist, Mr. 1500 and of course Liz. (And this is one of those “be the token and be a friend” moments – Liz suggested they ask me, though so did Brad from ChooseFI and a few others.)
FI Community Love
There is lots of great substance on offer at FinCon, but I know I’m not alone in saying that the real point of the conference is getting time to spend with like-minded friends. And for us, that meant maxing out our time with FI friends old and new. In addition to hanging with the bigger name bloggers at the documentary shoot, I loved all the casual time with FI friends new and old.
Time With My Fave Ladies
Probably my favorite part of FinCon was just having lots of time to chat with so many of my favorite women. From the ones whose pictures I can’t share (Maggie, Kate, Revanche, Felicity, Mrs. Adventure Rich) to the ones you may know very well from PF blogland, I loved being surrounded by kick-ass ladies who are putting incredible content out into the world. And it was equal parts serious and silly, from talking about taking our work to the next level, to dancing like the world is ending at the final party and breaking into spontaneous yoga in the club lounge.
I didn’t get pics with Alyssa, Penny, and a bunch of other rad women I was thrilled to meet for the first time, but you’re all in my heart big time. Especially those who got down to “Pony” with me at the party at The Rustic.
The Plutus Awards 2017 (AKA Alllllll the Ladies)
I was super stoked that so many women were finalists for the Plutus Awards this year, along with lots of guys whose work I love. And no offense to the boys, but the women crushed it this year!
My second favorite part of the ceremony was when Mindy from 1500 Days went up to accept the award Bigger Pockets won for best real estate blog, and the audience broke out in “Happy Birthday.” It was a spontaneous surprise for her, and she loved it.
But my favorite part of the ceremony was when it was time to announce the best FIRE blog, and I had my camera aimed at Brandon and Carl, thinking one of them would surely take it and I’d be ready to snap the pic, only to hear “Our Next Life” announced.
I’m super proud of everything I’ve done with the blog this year, but I did not expect to win, not even a little bit. (As I later told Mark, “If I’d known I might have to go up on that stage, I would have taken a shower today!”)
So needless to say, I displayed less than zero chill, and acted like a complete spazz when I went up to get the trophy. (There is video proof.) But I regret nothing. It was an incredible moment, and I’m still beaming from it. Thank you to everyone who nominated ONL, and to everyone on the panel who voted for us! #allthegoldstars
My two mastermind groups (plus one more possibly defunct group) completely cleaned up in the finalist nominations, with every single still-active blogger receiving at least one nomination, and several receiving two or more. (Yay Cait, Jess, Kara, Liz, Erin, Kristin, J. and Gwen!) And my writing-specific group did especially well, with three of us winning!
The ceremony ended with a wrap-up to The Office spoof they’d created, and an appearance by a pretty fellow who apparently was on American Idol at some point, who probably very few of us cord cutters recognized.
The Final Party
The closing night party was a costume party, and some folks threw down on costumes, while others (like us) went simple because we couldn’t waste luggage space on a costume when we knew we’d need to haul home all that swag. (And after winning a very large VR headset in the Plutus Awards gift bag, plus the trophy itself, I was feeling extra smart for that decision!) So we dressed as…
Our former selves!
There were a ton of great costumes, but even more great dancing. I have a new theory that reaching financial independence is positively correlated with dancing like no one’s watching.
My Big Takeaway // All About the Community
I absolutely credit the FinCon experience last year with helping me take ONL to the next level, and I have no doubt that lots of folks in our community will have that same experience coming out of their first FinCon this year. Because you can’t help but come away from it all feeling super inspired – inspired by the ideas you pick up throughout the session, by the wonderful community spirit, and by the generosity of the most successful bloggers to share what they know.
My small takeaways include that it’s way better to be able to be un-anonymous at these things (though it’s better to be anonymous than not to attend), and that it always pays to bring way more food than you think you’ll need. And the small takeaway that I hope others left with is to be unafraid of charting your own course. Don’t try to do what others are doing but better. Do something that’s entirely your own, share your story in real ways, show your vulnerability, be willing to go long.
The big takeaway that I left with is that I want to focus a bunch of energy in early retirement in bringing more people together. Some of that may be in collaboration with others, some of it may be totally behind the scenes, and some of it will be stuff I organize like FI meetups we organize on our travels. But there will definitely be more to share on this subject – stay tuned!
Community Outside of Events
I saw lots of FOMO tweets from folks who weren’t able to go to FinCon, and while I certainly understand (that was me when I missed what could have been my first FinCon, in Charlotte), it made me want to say as strongly and clearly as I can:
We do not need big organized events to engage with our community.
There are so many ways we can all engage together, and I really can’t overstate the value of doing so. Getting to meet other FIers in real life has made our plan better, and it’s just so wonderful to have friends around whom you can be your full self, money nerdiness and all. Best of all, you don’t have to blog at all to find other people. Here are some ways to do that:
- Email bloggers whose work you connect with, especially if you know they live nearby. We’ve made several good friends this way.
- Start a Twitter account as your FI persona so you can interact with folks and they have a way to contact you, but without the heavy lift of starting a blog.
- Comment on blogs whose other commenters you feel most simpatico with, and reference your Twitter handle in your name (so people can find you and connect with you).
- Create local FI meetups in your area and advertise them on Meetup or Craigslist.
- Attend the proliferation of FI-related camps popping up all over the country. (Or create your own!)
- Join the Rockstar Finance forums (open to non-bloggers, and friendlier than some other forums out there).
Keep an eye out next year for more ways folks can connect that we’ll be creating and supporting. And let us know in the comments what other ideas you have!
Alright guys, time to chime in! If you attended FinCon, what was your favorite part? Your biggest takeaway? If you missed it this year, will you attend next year? Look for other opportunities to connect with folks? For non-bloggers, what’s the way you’d most like to connect with others in the FI space, so I can help make that happen? Let’s chat about it all in the comments!
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