Happy Monday, friends! I write that really enthusiastically because I have to say I’m experiencing a whirlwind of emotions at the moment. I’m sitting on plane as I type this (though, I have a feeling this one is going to be so long that it’s not a “write in one sitting” post) on my way from FinCon 2016 to Baltimore, where I’ll be for the next week on a business trip, totalling 12 days away from home.
What is FinCon?
From their website:
FinCon is a peer conference for the financial media community. Attendees connect, learn to create compelling online content, and discover new trends in money and personal finance.
So basically, anyone who is anyone in the money blogging world is at FinCon. I have heard such amazing things about it, especially as Burke Does has moved more and more into the money space. I’ve wanted to go to FinCon basically since I first heard about it. Unfortunately, because I’m working to pay down debt, I could not possibly have justified the ~$1500 the trip to San Diego would have cost.
While I had written What Financial Health Means to Me, a post I really did mean, the post was also an entry to a FinCon scholarship. When I didn’t win, I resigned myself to not being able to attend, which was fine, hoping to be able to swing it next year, depending on where I was on my debt snowball. It just so happened that FinCon offered another round of scholarships that I applied for on a total whim. I wasn’t expecting anything to come of it and had just accepted that I wasn’t going to be able to go. In fact, I had made plans to go to Embark, a military spouse conference in Virginia, for the same dates. Embark was going to be cheaper and was hosted by the MilSpo Project, an organization that I’m involved with here at Fort Bragg.
You can imagine my excitement when I was lucky enough to actually win one of those FinCon scholarships. That being said, the scholarship alone didn’t make me think I was going to be able to afford to go to FinCon. While the ticket cost was now free, I was going to still have to swing a flight and the conference hotel, neither of which would be cheap, especially under short notice. Also, I felt like I had committed to Embark, even though, I had not bought a ticket or my hotel room. I had told people I was going. (Also, as I was making these decisions, of course, Casey was gone, so I didn’t even have him to talk through for this. Thank you Military Life.) At the end of the day, I did a return-on-investment analysis, spoke to people who had been to both, and decided that for where I am in life right now, FinCon was going to be the conference that would yield more money. While I’ll share more about how I afforded FinCon later this week when I share my debt repayment progress, please know it wasn’t easy, but boy was it worth it.
You know, one of the most amazing things about FinCon was meeting all the bloggers that I read online regularly. As a blogger, I read a lot of bloggers; I consider it part of my “job” as a blogger to know what’s going on in the blogger-verse and continue to encourage and support the bloggers who have meant so much to me. While I know that the vast majority of bloggers that I read, I will never meet in person (maybe the Army will let me cross pass with some of my favorite military lifestyle bloggers, but who knows?!) at FinCon I got to do exactly that.
Let me tell you, it can be a little intimidating to meet the bloggers you so dearly look up to. My first moment of starstruck-ness was meeting my roommate Stefanie O’Connell. I remember Stefanie from when she was still The Broke and Beautiful Life. You know, the icing on the cake? I had her as a weekend the whole conference! She was extremely generous with her time answering way more of my questions than she needed to and really going above and beyond the entire time.
I also got to meet and go to lunch with Carrie of Careful Cents and Cait Flanders. I absolutely love their Budget and Cents Podcast and can’t believed that I got to meet them! I even went to lunch with Carrie. It was absolutely amazing to interact with women who have played such a key part in keeping me on track with my financial goals.
I was lucky enough to chat ever so quickly with the Budgetnista, who I first heard on the Dreams in Drive Podcast. She was so sweet and even listened to me as she was mentally prepping for her Keynote. She was amazing and incredibly generous with her time.
I shared a drink with Derek Olson of How Do I Money at a Cocktail Hour and I’m so glad I did! Derek is one of my favorite bloggers and played a huge role in my decision to attend FinCon. His Facebook group is one of my favorite places to chat money and money-blogging online.
I really got to know a number of military bloggers that I’ve been following for a long time, as well. I loved meeting Kate Horrell, Elizabeth Colegrove of Reluctant Landlord, Daniel Kopp of Military Life Planning, and Doug “Nords” Nordman of The Military Guide. It’s crazy to me how generous people were with their time. Here I am pictured with Kate.
That being said, I didn’t fan girl the entire conference. I was also there to meet medium-sized bloggers like me, and I did exactly that. Meeting Brittany from Penny Into Pearls, Allea from Ask Allea, Okeo from The Happy Lawyer Project were among the highlights of my trip.
The people I met at FinCon were really quite amazing and so generous with their time and thoughts. While the content was amazing, the people really were differentiators.
Day by Day Summaries
I landed in San Diego on Wednesday, super pumped to be at FinCon (and also a little anxious about the financial investment, if we’re being totally honest). After getting connected with my roommate and checking in at the hotel, Experian hosted a wonderful welcome luncheon of Dumplings that was perfect after a long day of travel and no food. I was excited for the First-Timer Orientation that took place later that afternoon, pumped that I would be meeting people like me who also wanted to be meeting people like me. After Orientation, some awesome conversations and meetings, there was a wonderful Happy Hour hosted by PenFed, followed by that evening’s keynote event. The Keynote was the final stop on USAA’s “The Road to Financial Wellness” Tour with Jason Vitug of Phroogal. I managed not only to snag a copy of Jason’s book, but also get it signed by him!
I decided on Thursday to do the “right” thing and try to go to the actual sessions. You see, sessions are all available online for consumption later on, so people have mixed feelings about whether or not to go to the sessions, but I figured since it was my first FinCon it’d be a great place to start. The sessions were all so phenomenal, though, that it was genuinely too hard to choose. I do plan to listen to them all when they’re released. I just hope that I don’t get a case of analysis paralysis.
The day was super full of networking, which was awesome. Talking to brands in the Expo Hall, one-on-one meetings from @-ing brands on Twitter, and networking through the FinCon App were all great ways to meeting awesome companies that might be a good match for BD. Right now, I’ve got more content ideas than I know what to do with- nowhere near as much time to actually produce it.
The day concluded with an amazing Happy Hour at Coasterra, a beautiful restaurant with an amazing view, hosted by TradeKing. Walking to Coasterra was absolutely breathtaking. That 15 minute walk along the water was absolutely worth it.
This is where the real magic of FinCon happens, folks. You know Jean Chatsky? I mean, THE Jean Chatsky?! The one who I listen to every week on the Her Money Podcast? Yea, that Jean Chatsky. I met her. I got to talk to her and take a picture with her and I was absolutely star struck the entire time.
I spent much of Friday meeting and talking to brands. I had an hour-long conversation with a rep from USAA, where I personally do most of my banking. I met with awesome brands, such as Chime, went to lunch with a wonderful group of women in the Careful Cents Community, enjoyed the Freelancer Marketplace, and really dug into the Expo again!
Friday was the night of Ignite, but unfortunately, I did not make it. I was talking to someone in the hotel lobby over a plate of fries and absolutely lost track of time. I’m bummed I missed it (I heard such great things before it and after was told how much I missed), but look forward to catching it next year.
Day 4 (Saturday): Community Service Project, sponsored by NEFE; Planning Your 2017; Bought 2017 FinCon ticket; Plutus Awards
Speaking of next year, on Saturday, I bought my ticket for FinCon 2017. High off the positive experience and the good news I shared to my email list, when the opportunity to buy FinCon 2017 tickets came out, I had no willpower to resist. I figure that if a conflict comes up between now and then, I will just resell & transfer the ticket. Easy peasy.
Saturday included a community service project, some more sessions, some great conversations, and a little bit of me time. After three days of networking all. day. long. I decided that it was okay to sneak away and have some Emilie-time. I’m so glad I did because it made it much easier to enjoy Saturday night.
The Plutus Awards were everything they lived up to be. Hosted primarily by Matt Giovanisci, who I’ve been seriously brain-crushing on lately, the show itself was super entertaining.The awards all celebrated really phenomenal blogs and I’m so glad I got to be part of that celebration.
Did you notice how on no day did I write “studied for MBA”? Nope, that didn’t happen, so Sunday was all about catching up on the rest of life, including the mountain of emails that I’m still working to sort through and my MBA coursework. After hours of studying, I headed to In-N-Out to catch some deliciousness before heading to the airport. Simple Sunday.
I loved attending FinCon. I thought it was so worthwhile in lots of different ways. I’m so glad I went and am excited to be able to return again next year. I will be sharing more about things I’ve learned and other fun tidbits in the coming weeks.
Emilie is a data engineer by day and lifestyle blogger by night. A Jersey girl at heart, she is currently living in her fifth home in three years, Savannah, GA with her college sweetheart. She’s learned the hard way that home is wherever the Army sends them. She enjoys eating food, cuddling with her dog, and binge watching HGTV.