This year was the fourth straight year I’ve had the pleasure of attending FinCon. For those of you who don’t know what FinCon is (like my former coworker who asked “WTH is a FinCon??”), it’s a conference for content creators who talk about money. The tagline is “where money and media meet”, if that gives you any idea of the scope of the conference. Bloggers, podcasters, YouTubers were in abundance once again. I was blessed with not having to buy a plane ticket this year as it was in my new digs of Washington, DC.
The main attraction of FinCon 2019 was to see all my online friends in real life. I have made some rock-solid friendships in this amazing corner of the internet! Chatting in a Twitter group or texting is all well and good, but nothing holds a candle to being able to snuggle on the couch with a friend or give 80 million hugs to everyone over the course of 4 days.
FinCon actually started early for me as friends came into town early. I took the entire week off work and enjoyed spending time wandering downtown DC, seeing the museums and monuments. I even took my first official scooter ride! (Despite living in DC proper for a few months and seeing them everywhere).
I did my usual MO of staying in an AirBnB close to the hotel. This saved me at least $600 in housing costs! (more on costs later!) I also got to spend more quality time with some of my favorites which is honestly worth more to me than the money. The place we rented was a super cute rowhouse that fit 8 people. It reminded me of a big sleepover from high school, except we could all buy alcohol legally lol. [Dear family members, don’t worry, I didn’t actually drink at sleepovers in high school. That was college.]
I did consider just driving in every morning and going home each night, but DC area traffic is notoriously awful so I would’ve spent a ton of precious time in the car, paid a lot in tolls and not been able to have as much fun at parties. I found a very nice neighbor to look after the cat, so I was able to stay in DC guilt-free.
I’m including a shout out to some of the people that made FinCon 2019 so great! I can’t list everybody, so in no particular order here is the highlight reel: Military Dollar, Reaching For FI, Tread Lightly Retire Early, Financial Mechanic, Young FIRE Knight, Frugality and Freedom, Poorer than You, Miss, Mazuma, JD Roth, Chief Mom Officer, Rich & REGULAR, Bitches Get Riches, Afford Anything, ChooseFI, Financial Panther, All She Saves, Wealth Well Done, Doug Nordman, Chuck Jaffe, and countless more that are a blur due to social exhaustion and drinking too much.
Speaking of exhaustion, I was consciously monitoring my energy levels and took care not to overload myself. I found quiet spaces, went for walks to play Harry Potter Wizards Unite, and went back to the AirBnB to take naps and reset for the rest of the events ahead in the day. I made self-care the priority of FinCon, not attending sessions.
Honing my blogging skills
For a conference that was primarily about gaining blogging skills, I didn’t attend anything that would help hone this blog. No sessions, no meetings with brands.… nothing. There were a few reasons behind that. One, I’m comfortable with my blogging skills (it only took 4 years!). I feel no need to monetize the blog or grow my readership to millions of views each month. I tried that last year and all it did was make me miserable and stressed out. Two, last year my schedule was so packed with coffees, lunches, and dinners that I barely got to see my friends which sucked. Sure, I had a lot of meals covered but it wasn’t worth it. I was much more accessible this year and was able to say yes to invites to lunches or have a great conversation on the lobby couches with someone on how to deliberately plot a product launch (which was fascinating, as he was coming from a marketing perspective). Three, a lot of the sessions just weren’t interesting to me if I were interested in growing the blog. I did attend one session, but that was on FIRE and I only went because legit all my friends were going. It was excellent though, so I have no regrets.
I did take advantage of the wealth of knowledge present at FinCon though. I had a chat with my sister a few weeks ago, during which she informed me our stepdad doesn’t have a will. As someone who’s watched many families go through unnecessary hardship and suffering due to a lack of will, I was very alarmed. I asked a few different people on how to approach my parents about this and got an avalanche of advice in return. It sucks that I have to think of this at 28, but my parents aren’t getting any younger. I know eventually they’ll pass away and I want to make the process as easy as possible on everyone. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as they say. Or, in the case of estate planning, a few hundred dollars to an attorney to draw up a plan will save everyone years of court cases and millions of dollars (as one friend at FinCon had happen to her after her dad died with a will that left a lot open to interpretation). So even though I don’t care a whole lot about improving my blogging skills, I still made use of the conference.
FinCon 2019 was far cheaper than the previous years as I didn’t have to buy a plane ticket. All I had to do was drive my car 45 minutes into DC and voila! I was there. Having it be local did make it lose a bit of luster as people were excited about seeing things or going places that I can see anytime. I realized part of the magic of FinCon is getting to explore parts of a new city! In this season of life though, I’ll take all of my internet friends coming to my town over exploring a new city.
1⁄8 of an AirBnb: $200
FinCon 2019 ticket: $210.63
A variety of food and drink during FinCon: $115.12
Misc supplies pre-FinCon: $82.70
Verdict: WORTH IT!
FinCon 2020 is in a little town called Long Beach, CA which is a cozy hamlet of the sprawling LA metro area. That is almost exactly all the way across the country from me. My first FinCon was in San Diego, but I also lived much closer to California at that point. Flights would be a pain and rather expensive.
I’ve started to think a lot on what I want to do with the FIRE community in the next few years. I’ve been fully immersed in the community my entire adult life. I have learned so much and met some amazing people who have literally changed the course of my life. I owe so much to the wonderful people in the community, which is one reason I started this blog. I wanted to help others like I’ve been helped in the past.
However, I’m no longer a young 20 something living close to family. I have limited amounts of money and time and can’t keep using it all on FIRE events. Something in the future has to give. I want to take real vacations. I want to see my family more often. I want to hang out with friends in real life outside the demands of a conference with 2,000 of my closest friends. I want to be more available to do things with people here in DC.
In light of all that (and my disinterest at growing the blog as a side hustle), I won’t be attending FinCon 2020. I feel very at peace with this decision right now but I might have to go on a social media diet next fall when it actually happens.
I have one event left to attend this year: Camp FI South West in Joshua Tree. I am really excited to go hang out with friends in a smaller venue and visit another National Park. It also happens to fall over my birthday so I’ll get to spend part of my birthday with good friends, instead of maybe alone here in my new city.
The first 6 months of 2020 look really busy for me already. Friends in the FIRE blogging community are talking about getting together and hanging over a long weekend in February. I might be taking a vacation to Mexico in March to relax and maybe practice my surfing skills. I have tentative plans to attend Camp FI Mid-Atlantic over Memorial Day weekend.
I am definitely going to the Financial Freedom Summit at the beginning of May in St. Louis. I hope to hit a triple with the event: see a Cardinals baseball game (or two), hang out with the people in the FIRE community, and see my family since they live close-ish. (Close-ish being close in terms of Midwestern driving and probably far by anyone not from the Midwest.)
That is a lot of events planned for the first 6 months of 2020 when my goal is to start saying no to more things, even if they sound fun, are affordable, and are immensely enjoyable. I have been deeply involved in this community my entire adult life, and I don’t think I can keep up with this level of immersion in my life going forward. My life has been changed for the better by going to all of the Chautauquas, Camp Mustaches, Camp FI’s, FinCons and traveling to see people I’ve met from the community but I don’t think it’s sustainable for the future. I’m happy with the level of engagement I have with people in the community and the friends I’ve made. There will always be room for more, but my goal going forward will be to deepen relationships, not make more of them.
I’m happy FinCon 2019 helped me realize this!