The Power of Human Connection (A FinCon 2019 Recap)

FinCon Logo

I began blogging about personal finance in 2006. Sometimes it feels like I’ve been writing since the beginning of time or at least since dinosaurs roamed the Earth. After all these years you would think I’m a FinCon pro, but nope, up until last weekend I had never attended the event.

From day one I decided to blog anonymously and until last weekend I never associated myself in any way with this website. I never used my real name or added a picture. My parents and family members don’t know this little blog exists. A small handful of friends know about it, but we rarely discuss it in real life.

Before I purchased my ticket to FinCon I wondered what it might feel like to associate my image with my blog. Would it feel strange to walk up to people and introduce myself?

This weekend I found out.

My History with FinCon

Five years into my PF journey I began reading about the first FinCon meetup. It wasn’t called FinCon at the time, but a host of bloggers were throwing a conference about money and I desperately wanted to attend. The year was 2011 and the conference was set to take place a month before my first child was born.

Had that conference taken place a few months before that date I may have attended. In 2011 I found out I was pregnant, switched jobs, got laid off, delivered a beautiful baby boy, quit my six-figure job and decided to become a stay-at-home mom. It was a whirlwind of a year and unfortunately FinCon didn’t make the list of big events.

Hopping onto a plane while I was eight months pregnant wasn’t in the cards for me. After the birth of my son and with my husband’s small business well underway it was tough to find the time to fly off to a fun, money conference. Needless to say it took me nine years to buy a ticket for the big event.

This year FinCon was in my backyard. A quick thirty minute metro ride was all that stood between me and the money conference I wanted to attend nine years earlier. How could I not buy a ticket?

What Convinced Me to Attend

In 2017 I stopped writing about money. A year later Revanche from A Gai Shan Life encouraged me to get back into the swing of things. It turns out I had a super fan who just happens to be Angela from Tread Lightly Retire Early. The two of them urged me to write again and as soon as my fingers hit the keyboard I felt reinvigorated to continue my financial story.

During this time I also reached out to others in the PF community. I started checking twitter a few times a day and even emailed a couple of PF rockstars. I also happened to receive a comment from J.D. Roth of Get Rich Slowly, (who I have long admired), and my post, (How I Convinced Myself to Stop Buying Stuff), was picked for one of the first installments of ApexMoney. J. Money also included a link to it via BudgetsAreSexy.

FinCon for Introverts

I was super excited to go to FinCon and also unbelievably terrified. In fact, I was remarkably nervous about meeting people in real life. I should point out that I am naturally quite introverted. I am the type of girl who prefers to stand near the edge of the crowd than jump into a new group of people. I’m great at one-on-one conversations though.

On day one of the conference I gave myself a little pep talk. It went a little something like this: “I don’t know if I will ever attend another FinCon. This is my one chance to meet people and talk about money, finances, blogging and other fun stuff.”

So I started off slowly. I vowed to approach people, shake hands and get the conversation off to a good start. In the beginning I searched for people who were standing along the walls trying to look like they weren’t afraid to talk to other attendees.

It turns out there are a lot of personal finance introverts quietly typing into their computers and recording podcasts. Once I broke the ice most people were super easy to talk to.

I hit it off with one amazing conversation right off the bat and from that point forward I pretended not to be an introvert. I walked right up to people and said hello. Some conversations went off without a hitch, while others didn’t flow quite as easily. That’s perfectly okay.

A lot of people are nervous about talking with the big names at FinCon. I was but I still didn’t let it stop me.

Angela From Tread Lightly Retire Early

Angela was one person I wanted to meet at FinCon. We arranged, (in advance), to meet during the Women’s Personal Finance meeting out in the courtyard. Angela is super popular. Everyone knows who she is, what she writes about, I mean the girl won a Plutus award for goodness sakes.

So my favorite part of our encounter was how she left her entourage on one side of the courtyard and pulled me over to a cozy couch so we could chat one-on-one for the very first time in real life.

Angela credits my blog, (along with two others), for getting her interested in writing about personal finance. She’s become an amazing advocate for female voices in the PF space and I am honored that my blog helped kick-start her journey. It’s unbelievably fulfilling to know my words have touched other readers and inspired them.

Angela is kicking butt at this personal finance stuff. She is also inspiring many other women to join her Facebook group and read and write about money.

J. Money

One of my favorite moments came when I bumped into J. Money outside the Plutus award show. I saw J. a few times in the crowds but the time was never right to say hello. As I walked down the steps and rounded the corner into the big auditorium there he was handing out pamphlets to the awards ceremony.

I said something along the lines of, “There you are! I’ve been looking all over for you! Congratulations! I am so excited you’ve hit the million dollar mark!” It seems I must have been super giddy, because the next thing I know J. Money is giving me the biggest hug you could ever imagine. I mean it was HUGE. I stepped back and said, “Do you know who I am?” He said, “No, but you are so excited I had to give you a hug!” I started cracking up. Then I introduced myself and we hugged again.

I emailed J. Money a bunch of times before the event and congratulated him in email and through Twitter. I have never been so genuinely excited for someone to reach that million dollar mark. I mean I’ve been watching that net worth number grow for nearly a decade! It felt so good to congratulate him in person.

We may write faceless blogs we are always cheering and routing for one another in this community!

Adam from Minafi

I beelined for Adam from Minafi the minute I saw him. Adam writes a super cool and interactive site so I wanted to sit with him and chat about software. I used to be a super nerdy software engineer too. I was nervous to chat with some folks, but I pulled up a chair and plopped down beside him without a second thought. Luckily he is a super friendly guy, so if you’ve never met Adam before make a chance to say hello.

I bumped into him on Saturday night in the bar and pulled up a seat beside him again. He had me cracking up as we talked about old-school technology. I even updated my Feedly list with a few of his favorite blogs. For some reason I couldn’t figure out how to pull up my list of feeds so I guess I owe him a list when we meet again.

J.D. Roth

I began reading Get Rich Slowly shortly after I started blogging about personal finance. In fact, J.D. linked to this post written in 2007. So yeah, it’s been a long time since I first stumbled across his blog.

Now lucky for me, J.D. just happened to write a comment on one of my posts recently. I immediately sent him an email fawning over his content and gushing like the true fangirl that I am.

I told Adam from Minafi about my admiration for J.D. So imagine my surprise when Adam and I walk into the pro-pass/speaker mixer together and spot J.D. standing just outside the doors.

Adam walked right over and said, “speaking of J.D.” and introduced us. Adam later confessed that he doesn’t even know the man, which made the moment that much funnier.

J.D. and I spent thirty minutes talking about how shitty the Internet has become and his plans for Get Rich Slowly. I tried to keep it cool, (hopefully I did), but I was super excited to meet him. He’s the kind of guy you’d love to sit next to in a bar and just chat about life. He’s very down to Earth.

A Few New Favorites

Look, here’s the truth. I’ve been writing about personal finance forever, but a lot of people have never heard of this blog before I introduced myself.

FinCon isn’t just about the big name superstars. In fact, some of my favorite conversations happened when I stopped to talk to people who I’ve never corresponded with online.

Julian Sage and I chatted for what seemed like an hour out in the courtyard. We talked at length about the financial paths that lead to financial independence. In fact, he jokingly called me the anti-FIRE blogger, because I talk so much about the importance of staying in a 9-to-5 job. Our conversation was absolutely enlightening.

Mr. Jamie Griffin and I talked for two hours on the last night of FinCon. We joked about A-List celebrities we were too timid to meet. Somehow we kept moving farther and farther away from everyone else at the party. By the end of the night I’m pretty sure our backs were up against the wall.

I had a heart warming conversation with Judy Chin from Judy Home Trends. She has the most amazing laugh and kind of cracks herself up while chatting. It’s absolutely impossible not to laugh when she is laughing.

I also had the absolute pleasure of riding the bus with Josh Overmeyer on the way to the kick-off party. I think Josh won the award for nicest guy I met at FinCon. He loves the PF community and donates money to pay for scholarships so others can attend. He also sponsored a Plutus award!

All the Rest

I enjoyed chatting with Modest Millionaires, A Purple Life, Frugality and Freedom, Financial Mechanic, Financial Pilgrimage, All She Saves, Wealth Well Done, Physician on Fire, Four Pillar Freedom, Lazy Man, Owning the Stars, Donna Freedman, Dollar Revolution and Brave Saver. I talked with some people just once or twice. Others I got to talk with nearly every day that I was there! (I’m sure there were lot of others I forgot to mention on this list. There were so many faces and names it’s tough to remember all of them!)

It was also super cool to finally meet The Frugal Girl in real life. She began blogging two years after I did and actually sent me an apology email for ‘stealing’ my blog name. She’s unbelievably quirky. We kept bumping into each other randomly, which was super fun.

I got a chance to chat with Gwen from Fiery Millenials a couple of times too. Within five minutes of meeting her I felt like we were old friends. I can definitely understand why so many people love her at FinCon.

And if you ever need a friend look for Stephonee. She seemed to know everyone at FinCon and was more than happy to give me the scoop on financial bloggers and introduce me to folks I wanted to chat with.

Coming Full Circle

There was a lot of love and laughter at FinCon but before the conference was over I shed a few unexpected tears.

Sharon Epperson took the main stage on Saturday afternoon. She stood in front of the crowd of money nerds and discussed her harrowing experience with a brain aneurysm. As she told her story I sat in the back of the room at a big round table and silently cried.

It was as if the universe was confirming my entire online journey. You see I started blogging to distract myself from my own medical issues. I was lucky to be alive after a near-death experience and even luckier that we had solid health insurance and disability policies that continued to pay the bills while I recovered.

That brush with death forever changed my outlook on life and my relationship with money. I was twenty-seven at the time.

I needed to hear Sharon’s message and to remind myself of how far I’ve come since that nearly fateful day so many years ago.

FinCon – Was It Worth It?

I feel the need to include a disclaimer. My goal wasn’t to learn about making money at FinCon. I have a small ad on my sidebar and sometimes include sponsored links, but at this point I have no interest in monetizing my blog. That doesn’t mean that I never will. Just that I don’t feel the need to do so at this very moment in time.

So I didn’t step into FinCon prepared to attend every session, network like crazy and walk away with tons of paid work. I went to meet like-minded individuals who were interested in talking about money, blogging and sharing their stories.

That’s exactly what I found. A ton of fun people who were interested in chatting about money, life and future possibilities.

If you are on the fence about attending a FinCon event decide what you want out of it. I wanted to form human connections with those I’ve chatted with online and to meet others pursuing similar goals. I definitely achieved those goals!

15 Comments