In September of 2019, I spoke at FinCon 2019 in Washington, D.C. If you’re here for the slides mentioned in my talk, 24 Ways to Create Sticky Content, here they are! Read on if you’re curious to hear how my FinCon went, or read my rundowns on FinCon 2018 or FinCon 2017.
Anyone I know who creates online or works remotely eventually develops a longing to spend some time with actual people. This is especially true for me at this point in my life since I left my fulltime job in December and now see far fewer people. I’ve been on the lookout for events to go to that look fun (XOXO Fest, World Domination Summit and MicroConf are on my shortlist), but so far FinCon has been the one staple I go to every year. I’ve bought my ticket for FinCon 2020 in Long Beach and will be there next September if you want to say hi!
Who is FinCon For?
FinCon markets itself as a place “where money and media meet”. What that means is that almost EVERYONE there does something with money. On the creator side, there are tons of bloggers, YouTubers, Podcasters. On the services side, there are banks, investment firms, and credit card carriers. On the tools side, there are site aggregators, brands developing relationships, apps and a lot more.
Since there are so many creators there, a bunch of people who aren’t content creators also come to just hang out. FinCon offers a “community pass” for this that is usually cheaper but lets you attend the parties and limited events without the main tracks. The people I talked to this year who were there for this all looked to be having just as much fun as everyone else. The vast majority of people are awesome and want to chat with anyone they can. Whenever someone says they’ve read Minafi, my heart swells up and I thank them – which made for some great discussions.
Most people that I know go to FinCon for one of three reasons:
Connecting in Person! The absolute highlight (for me) is meeting people in person that you’ve only chatted with online. Putting a face to a name is great, and causes me to enjoy their writing so much more if I can imagine them saying it.
Learning Next Steps! There are people at all levels in their journey at FinCon. I like leaving with a solid idea of what I should do to take what I’m working on to the next level. Sometimes that’ll be something I’ve never focused on. At my first FinCon, I learned the value of email and immediately created the Minimal Investor Course. The hardest part for me is always figuring this out amongst dozens of possibilities (SEO? Products? Posting more often?). Talking through my future ideas with people who have successfully done exactly what I’m trying to do is great.
Making Future Contacts! I’ve always kind of sucked at networking. When I go to a local developer meetup I’ll chat with a few people, but I rarely follow up and develop long-lasting relationships. I’ve made a bunch of contacts at FinCon that were made from a point of friendship, but I don’t doubt they could be beneficial from a business standpoint (guest posts, asking for help, collaborating).
One reason I tend to enjoy FinCon is that I’m here for all three. I lead with just connecting in person, but love digging into strategies used for building a business (that’s the startup employee in me coming out).
I do want to do more helping other people learn/grow as well, which was a focus of this FinCon with my talk/mentoring. I’m hoping to do more of that in the future as well, as I start sharing more of what I’ve learned in my 2.5 years blogging and 12 years working in and around startups & growing businesses. No matter where you are in your journey there are people who are looking to learn what you’ve learned.
Day By Day
This usually gets a little long, but here’s what my FinCon looked like broken down day by day. Every year I’ve asked “what days should I go to FinCon?” which sounds like it should be an easy answer – but it’s not! The “main” talks are generally Thursday, Friday and Saturday, but there are conference events Wednesday – and even Tuesday! In the past few years, I haven’t seen too much happening on Sunday.
If this is your first FinCon, I’d recommend showing up Wednesday afternoon so you don’t miss the opening party that happens Wednesday night. That’s what I did for my first 2 years. Also: stay in the hotel if you can. In 2020 it’s in a convention center, so that’s not possible, but staying close is essential in my opinion.
This year though, I went a day earlier and stayed in town from Tuesday – Monday. I enjoyed having that day to settle in and relax a bit before going into full-people mode.
Side note: I’m going to mention a number of people I met/talked to, but I’ll no doubt miss some. If we talked and I don’t mention you in this post, drop me a line with where/when/what we talked about to help jog my memory and I’ll add you in here.
Tuesday – Flight, DYEB Party
I flew into D.C. around 4pm and navigated the Metro from DCA airport to the FinCon hotel just north of Dupont Circle. I met up with my roommate for the week, Bob from The Frugal Fellow, and headed out for the Do You Even Blog party hosted over at a BOARD GAME BAR.
Pete has a special place in my heart because he was starting out right around the same time I was here on Minafi. We followed each other’s journeys over the years, and have traded thoughts/advice/ideas. Last time I asked him a question he sent a VIDEO response. That guy, man.
I met up and chatted with a bunch of people there. What was great was the variety too! People just starting a blog up to raking it in. Pete acted as host and connector, introducing people who were looking a little left out. It can be hard not knowing anyone, so I’m sure they appreciated that.
Another side note, and Mr. Wow and I talked about this some: the same way “What do you do?” is not a great getting to know you question, “what’s your site about?” isn’t a great one either. I like “What brings you to FinCon?” since that steers the conversation to what people are most interested in.
Most of Tuesday night was spent chatting with a bunch of people there before calling it an early night. A had a few longer conversations with some people though, including getting dinner with Tae from Financial Tortoise and Justin Pogue who had recently launched his book Rental Secrets – How to reduce your rent. I kept running into Tae, and he introduced me to the term “sandwich generation” – which refers to caring for aging parents and growing kids at the same time. Later on, when we talked about what he would spend 10x the money on he instantly said “my parents and kids”. Crazy nice guy.
It was fun to put a few faces to names, including Champagne and Capital Gains (who I met for a second last FinCon and is an absolute riot), Keyy from Eff the Joneses (who is an amazing connector of people, even ones she’s just met) and Kim from The Frugal Engineers. Kim’s one person who after talking with for 5 minutes I felt like I’d known her for years.
Before you think I have too great a memory, I was looking at one guy who I absolutely knew that I knew but couldn’t remember how. It was Robert from The College Investor – one of the biggest blogs around and someone I met last year. 🤦 I remember listening to his episode on DYEB – even remembering where I was running at the time. I feel like Robert is one guy who’s managed to build something huge while having fun, which I respect immensely.
Wednesday – Check-In, Mentoring, Interview, Party
The best part about getting in Tuesday is sleeping in on Wednesday. There are no main sessions on Wednesday, but the Expo center opens up to wander around. There are a few quick 20-minute talks on Wednesday, but they tend were mostly packed this year (so I hear).
I usually go around the expo center once or twice, but always feel like most services don’t click with me. I’m a minimalist in the services I use, so for someone to be useful it has to solve a major problem better than any way I’ve previously done it. What did click with me was getting a macaroon with my face printed on it from Ally:
I mean, how do you say no to that?
Based on previous FinCons, I’ve learned that if you need to get shit done, Wednesday is the best day for it. Later on, there’s so much happening that pausing for a focused hour gets tough.
I was paired up with a mentee about WordPress/Plugins, which is something I know a touch about (I’ve created 15+ WP themes, a few plugins and Minafi itself is a Ruby on Rails site that uses the WordPress API as a content management system).
Gloria from She Loves Good Things and I met up for a debugging session and figured out a bunch of things in an hour or so. Gloria was all smiles the entire time and it was a ton of fun. She even got me a cookie from her favorite local place which was absolutely DELICIOUS and helped me out later in the week when I needed that sugar rush the most (around 2PM for me). I did eat other things than cookies this week, but they were a reoccurring theme.
Wednesday is pretty chill, which I liked. It’s the calm before the storm once people start arriving. I grabbed lunch with The Frugal Fellow and Mr. Jamie Griffin at a market closeby and we all caught up. Jamie and I randomly met last year when we were in line for sushi at FinCon and ended up getting a seat together with Annie from Good Egg Investments. I caught up with Annie some later and realized how great an idea it is to sell a course before you’ve written it to gauge interest and determine pricing.
Later on that afternoon, I joined Justine from Debt Free Millennials for a video chat about how to get started investing and how to think about that if you’re in debt or just escaping it. Justine is super-nice, and it was a fun, not-too hectic talk. When I think about people who could have a massive breakout success in the next few years, she’s at the top of my list (remember us, lowly bloggers, when that happens, OK?). Later on during the conference, I was walking by Vanguard’s booth and saw some overachiever had printed out materials giving a breakdown of their audience as a starting point for brand collaborations. Yep, it was Justine. Check out her stuff if you haven’t. I got some tips before our Vegas trip from her Vegas Budget Travel Tips video.
I was on the fence about attending the Singles Mixer, but enough friends of mine were going I wanted to check it out. Luckily Gwen from Fiery Millennials and Miss Mazuma had a plan for that. I walked in and Gwen immediately said “red”. They were giving out stickers for peoples badges that denote their relationship status! A genius but easy way of doing it.
The last “big” thing from Wednesday was the kickoff party. I was really excited to see this was at The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian – one I hadn’t previously been to. I had full intentions of checking out the museum while I was there, but sadly that didn’t happen. You could, but I spent the bulk of my time mingling around, enjoying the open bar and eating free donuts off the wall (less weird than it sounds).
I mentioned Pete (DYEB) started around the same time as I did. Another blogger who started around the same time was The Luxe Strategist, who’s somehow even more nice in person. We’d met earlier this year in NY when Mrs. Minafi and I were in town and went to delicious schezwan restaurant with her and Birds of a FIRE (who sadly missed FinCon this year). Luxe was sporting a Luxe/Costco mashup shirt designed by Accidental Fire that was on point. I have a few Minafi shirt ideas for next year already.
The opening party was LOUD and somewhat a blur. It’s tough for me to have a conversation with more than maybe 2 people at a time and still be able to hear what’s going on. That was why I was glad when Joyce from Financial Impulse and Kevin from Blackboard Finance. They had just taken the best photo from FinCon on the green screen – a Bond-style photo that was better than any pose I could think of. We had a great chat about slowing down at FinCon and favoring quality of talks with people over quantity. You’re not going to meet everyone, but leaving with a few memorable relationships you can build on is better than leaving with only a few business cards.
One couple who it was nice to meet in person was Dylin and Allison from Retire by 45. They’ve been retired a little while now, and it was a potential look into my future in the next few years as we travel more and travel slower. I don’t know that I’ll be taking a cruise from Europe to South America anytime soon, but I can’t wait to hear how their’s goes.
Thursday – Keynotes, Talks, Playing with FIRE
Thursday is the real kickoff of the content portion of FinCon. Who better to start it off than one of my all-time favorite blogs/bloggers/people – Tanja from Our Next Life! When it comes to people I’m in awe of their ability to do a TON of work and still have it seem authentic, she’s at the top of the list. Her talk was along those same lines – staying authentic while growing. It was one of the points from my talk too, but she did it justice. We caught up a little, but as a keynoter, podcaster, conference organizer and 3-time Plutus winner (this year alone) she’s now mobbed wherever she goes. To think just 2 years ago Tanja hadn’t even shown her face on her blog!
The second keynote was by Ramit Sethi from I Will Teach You To Be Rich. Similar to The Latte Factor, I was initially turned off by the title. Imagine my surprise when Ramit’s talk was the most memorable for me from all of FinCon! It focused around the main concept of his book: that you should ruthlessly cut spending on things you don’t care about and spend lavishly on what you love.
This hit a sweet spot for me and how I think about my spending. It’s something I try to follow already, but his exercise was a good one:
How would your life change if you spent 10x as much on the thing you love to spend money on the most?
For me, that would involve even more lavish travel. I can’t claim to be frugal now – I handed in that card after we spent $15,000 on our honeymoon. I felt like I did channel that thought on Sunday of FinCon though (spoiler for below: the day after the conference I did ALL THE THINGS). Spending 10x more on travel for me would mean:
- Less planning required
- Eating at more unique, and amazing restaurants
- Staying closer to the action
- Bringing more people
- Going with the flow more (but still going to last-minute events)
- Flying first class (which is on my goals list, but not something I can justify with my current income).
- Taking a cab/Lyft when I have luggage, it’s raining or I’m in a hurry (I do like riding public transit most the time)
For this FinCon I did my best to cut spending ruthlessly on things I didn’t care about. I split a room with 2 other guys, bought my flight on points and even SPOKE at the event which provided a free ticket and helped with the hotel costs. What I cared about was spending time with people and I spent lavishly whenever that was an option. My total costs for FinCon this year were:
|Flight||Free (points! Would be ~$400)|
|FinCon Ticket||Free (spoke this year! Would be ~$200)|
|Hotel||$330 for 7 nights after
|Food (conf + travel)||$71|
|Beer & Wine||$102|
Note: This doesn’t take into account the day after FinCon when I explored the area.
The above spending is everything I spent during my 7 days in DC – aside from Sunday. I’m amazed the food expenses are so low, to be honest. Part of that is because I ate protein bars for breakfast and had a bunch of free meals.
Then on Sunday alone, I spent $286 on a last-minute concert, a few beers, and two excellent meals.
I’ve found a lot of people at FinCon like to 100% go the hallway track (talking to people). I’ll do that when none of the current talks sound good, but I do love hearing a well-crafted and prepared talk. I went to a few talks each day, but won’t mention them all here.
A small group of us Salt Lake City locals somehow happened to be at the same place at the same time, including Scott from I Dream of FIRE, Chris from Can I Retire Yet? / the new Choose FI Book, Aaron from Personal Finance for Beginners, and Elyssa from Brave Saver (who’s sitting next to me here in the airport as I write this!). I love having a local community with the same interests to chat with. We’ve done a few in-person masterminds (thanks Aaron for organizing that) which always boost my motivation.
My favorite from Thursday was Jilian’s from Montana Money Adventures. Chatting with her before it always feels like talking with a long-time friend, even though we’ve barely spoken (it may have something to do with her email list, which is very well written). Her talk was on “networking for introverts”, but it was really a way of translating the 5 Love Languages books to professional networking. Having just read 5LL (I have no idea if that’s what people call it), this was a refreshing take. It’s half “how to make friends” and a half “how to build authentic relationships”. A memorable one for sure.
Managed to catch up and grab lunch with Life Outside the Maze at an incredible southern place nearby. Fried catfish, okra and collard greens? Yeah, I’d eat that every day if I could. We’d recently recorded an interview for the What’s Up Next Podcast that should come out soon about “Are Startups a Good Path to FI?” and we share a frightening number of things in common. From our view on that topic (yes, but mostly no. listen to the episode for the full breakdown), to what we write about (FI, but also the mental take of money on mental health and future plans) to both being in tech. He’s also one of the nicest guys you’ll meet. It’s rare to find people who are just that comfortable around people.
Chatted a bunch with Anna from Garlic Delight (yes, that’s a food blog) and somehow managed to go super serious without it seeming weird at all. She’s great at opening a conversation to deeper issues – and it helps that I’m somewhat open about my beliefs here on my blog as a good invitation to chat/question/discuss.
One person who I was looking forward to meeting was One Frugal Girl. We’re both FI and both software developers, which was a good starting point. She’s hilarious though and we were quickly pulling up our phones, comparing feeds and reminiscing about Google Reader and the last 20 years of software dev. She mentioned she wanted to meet J.D. Roth from Get Rich Slowly since she’s been reading his work for over a decade (he even once said “You do good work” to her [context is key]).
A bit later at the Speaker/Pro network thing, I spotted J.D. and we walked up doing my best “hi, have you met One Frugal Girl?” channeling my inner Barney from How I Met Your Mother.
One of the people I most wanted to finally meet was there – Brad from the Choose FI podcast. I binge listened to about the first 100 episodes in a month, so I feel like I know him and Jonathan way too well. It helped that Josh Overmyer was there and immediately started praising my site, the Periodic Table of FIRE and saying how I’d be a great guest on their show (seriously Josh is awesome). I was able to chat with Jonathan later on and let him know how inspirational a speaker he is – one of my favorite parts of listening to the show.
Thursday ended with the What’s Up Next Podcast party, Playing with FIRE panel and hanging out in the lobby with friends.
Later on that night I was chatting with Mrs. Minafi out in front of the hotel on Facetime when we got to talking about Pokemon Go. Someone walking by instantly asked, “POKEMON GO?”. I looked up to see Kitty and Piggy from Bitches get Riches! Suddenly they were asking Mrs. Minafi about her favorite Pokemon and sharing theirs. If you’re wondering if their voice on their blog is only in writing – I can assure it’s not, they are absolutely that hilarious and outgoing in real life.
Friday – Margaritas, Plutus Awards
Went to the Motley Fool Soapbox network lunch. Met a bunch of people, but mostly had a blast chatting with Financial Panther and Mindy (aka, Mrs. 1500 Days). If you get a chance to have endless margaritas with them, in particular, I’d highly recommend it. Finally got to hear the full history about the fall of ThinkGeek from Stephanie from Poorer Than You. ThinkGeek was core part of my ’00s nerdom – from buying Bawls energy drinks to geeky t-shirts to Penguin mints.
Found our way to dinner with Financial Panther and Zach from Four Pillar Freedom at a local diner in the Adams Morgan neighborhood. Zach also left his job recently, so I was excited to hear about what the experience was. When I left my job, everyone knew why. My manager and coworkers can all check my net worth after all. Zachs went a more discreet path and even his friends don’t know the extent of his online persona. Loved hearing about the differences that brings.
We made it back in time for the Plutus awards and I grabbed a seat just ahead of Josh Overmyer. It was amazing seeing so many sites, podcasts and friends win awards that night. I have a long list of new ones I want to check out now too! Congrats to everyone, seriously.
Saturday – MY Presentation and Relief After
I gave my talk: 24 Ways to Create Sticky Content that Keep Users Coming Back for More! The talk took me about 6 weeks from start to finish, with maybe 15 hours total working on it. Getting the slides just right, the messaging just right and practicing it enough times for it to feel natural takes a while for me. During the talk, I rarely needed to look at my notes, which was a good sign. I tried to break out of my comfort zone a little more and even removed the podium so I wouldn’t hide behind it.
The crowd was amazing for this talk too. They were engaged, laughed at my dry jokes, paid attention, took pictures and asked questions. Almost every seat was taken, along with the walkways and standing areas – something I wasn’t expecting during a last-day talk.
I’m both excited and nervous to rewatch the video once it’s up on the virtual pass. I’d like to improve at public speaking, even if that means cringing through it and trying to objectively figure out how to improve.
Immediately after I left my Logitech clicker in the room (there goes another one 😭) and headed out for lunch with few other guys at quick, local Chinese place for the best $6 lunch of the trip.
Most of the day after that was spent being relieved my talk was over and chatting with people. I grabbed a beer with Andrew from Shift Upwards and caught up on life. As another software developer turned product manager with a scruffy beard, we’re basically the same (minus his extra height).
A bunch of us made our way over to the patio and enjoyed some relaxation before the evening activities. We feasted on food that some nice soul had liberated from the Hilton Executive Lounge and offered to the group.
It was nice to catch up with Michelle from Freedom and Frugality about her crazy year-long US trip. Our paths crossed when we were both volunteers at Sundance last year. She was nice enough to bring tasty treats from Australia/NZ for people to try, as well as not-so-tasty things (yes, I’m talking about vegemite).
Most of the rest of the night was spent wandering aimlessly, finding new people to talk to and continuing to catch up with people before they left FinCon for the year.
Sunday – Museums, Tasty Food, Baby Metal
With FinCon now over, I wanted to spend the day taking a break from people and exploring D.C. alone. That started out at the Smithsonian Castle and the Archives viewing the Constitution, Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence.
D.C. has no shortage of electric scooters. I jumped on one and made it around the Washington Monument to finally see the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, FDR Memorial, and MLK Memorial. When I dropped off my scooter close to the Lincoln Memorial, the total payment was about $12 for the 2 hours I’d rented it for. A great deal to save 3+ miles of walking in the heat.
I’m always in awe of the Lincoln Monument. It’s always larger with steeper stairs every time I go.
For food, I went all out. I found a Peruvian place closeby and had some of the best tostones and milky ceviche I’ve ever tried.
One restaurant I absolutely wanted to check out was Bad Saint, an upscale Philipines place with 20 seats and that was rated the #2 best new restaurant in America in 2016 when they opened. I had a delicious meal, but only wished I could have tried more than just the radish, build your own pork buns and a pair of cocktails made with a spirit I hadn’t previously tried.
Spending money on unique food is something I’ll do all day. No regrets on that meal at all.
After that delicious meal, I planned to hang out and relax the rest of the night. Imagine my surprise when I saw this was happening a few miles away.
I immediately bought tickets, jumped in a Lyft and made it there just as Avatar started their set. If you’ve never seen/heard BabyMetal, well, just watch this or watch their performance on Colbert and that’ll explain it. It hits the right chord of music and performance to be awesome.
Wrapped up the night playing a bunch of games with Jen and the San Diego Choose FI group and alternating between first and last in Fibbage. She’s was doing an amazing job at the Choose FI/Afford Anything launch party making people laugh for their photos and bringing people together, so I can absolutely see why the San Diego Choose FI group is so tight.
Outside the scope of time, I know for a fact that I talked to a bunch more people. I have a bit of trouble placing the exact time/places we talked, but here’s a list of other people I had a chance to catch up with.
In no particular order other than how I shuffled business cards, photos, parties, hanging out in underground hallways, terraces and stairways.
Side note: I’m going on record now saying trying to remember/track everyone you meet at FinCon is a crazy idea. I took photos of peoples badges and collected cards, but STILL forgot dozens of conversations. I’m not going to commit to trying this again in 2020. 😂
More About FinCon 2019?
Writing up a post about going to FinCon is sort of a tradition for a lot of bloggers. Here are a few other FinCon posts out there already. (Have you written one and want it added? Let me know!).
- Wallet Hacks – FinCon 2019 Recap: The Most Fun You’ll Have at a “Work” Conference
- Tread Lightly, Retire Early – The Best Community Of Money Nerds: FinCon 2019 Recap
- A Purple Life – The Ultimate FinCon Bootcamp: Sleep, Sprint, Yell, Fast!
- The Frugal Girl – Everything you wanted to know about Fincon!
- Catherine Alford – FinCon 2019 Recap (aka that time I spoke in front of 2,000 people)
- Money at 30 – FinCon 2019 Recap: 7 Things I Did Right and Wrong This Year
- One Frugal Girl – The Power of Human Connection (A FinCon 2019 Recap)
- Miss Mazuma – FinCon19…The Good, The Bad & The Could Have Been Ugly
- Tawcan – FinCon 2019 – A Canadian’s Recap
- Stop Ironing Shirts – FinCon 2019 Recap
- Full Time Finance – The Value of a Conference: Fincon 2019 Recap
- Smile and Conquer – How to Survive Your First FinCon
- Get Rich Slowly – FinCon 2019 and the future of Get Rich Slowly
- Dr. McFrugal – Five Personal Takeaways From FinCon19
- Partners in FIRE – Attending Your First FinCon
- Life Outside the Maze – What is Financial Independence Really?
- Do You Even Blog – 5 FinCon 2019 Takeaways to Grow Your Biz
- B.C. Krygowski – 10 Reasons Why You Need to Attend a FINCON
- Piki Living – 10 Things I Learned From FinCon 2019 Even Though I’m 14,000kms Away (not an attendee, but some top-tier stalking)
- Rich and Regular – FinCon 2019 Recap
- Simplifinances – Here’s What Happened At FinCon 2019
- Free Family Fun – The Value of Investing in What You Love: Takeaways from #FinCon19
- Miss Be Helpful – My Experience at FinCon 2019, Being an Official Speaker & Meeting Ramit Sethi
- Financial Services Marketing – Taking a look back at FinCon 2019
- Four Pillar Freedom – My Three Biggest Takeaways from FinCon 2019
- Financial Impulse – Is FinCon Worth It?
- Modest Millionaires – My First FinCon Experience: Thoughts and Emotions, So Many Emotions!
- DollarSprout – The DollarSprout Team Takes on FinCon 2019! Here’s Our Recap
- Broke is a Choice – FinCon 2019
- Financial Freedom Countdown – First timer FinCon 2019 recap including a delightful surprise
- The Dragons on Fire – FinCon19 Fairy Tale
- Financial Pilgrimage – FinCon 2019 Recap: My Week as Mr. Burrito Bowl’s Publicist
- I Like to Dabble – FinCon 2019 Review: Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone as a Creative
- Dollar Revolution – The Ultimate FinCon 2019 Recap Roundup
- The FI Old Guys – Taking Walks at FinCon19
- Fiery Millennials – FinCon 2019 and the Future
(More to come!)