October 1, 2018
Along with half of the Twittersphere, I just returned home from Orlando where I attended FinCon 2018. FinCon is an annual conference for money nerds of all kinds, from bloggers and podcasters, to financial advisors, companies and media. And then there’s people like me, that do not fit neatly into one of those categories, but couldn’t pass up the opportunity to meet with other personal finance enthusiasts for 4 days (and nights) of presentations and panels on our favorite financial topics.
I purchased my ticket last year on the day that FinCon 2017 (in Dallas) ended. And this year I followed suit and bought my ticket for Washington, DC next September 4-7. But what did I get out of the conference that made it a Must-Attend for 11 months from now?
#1 – A vote of confidence in who I am
As I mentioned before, I don’t feel like I am a blogger, and I’m definitely not a podcaster, financial advisor, vendor, etc. But I am an enthusiast, having read personal finance and FIRE content online for the past 6-7 years. I routinely comment, like and share other people’s articles. I participate in conversations on Twitter. I subscribe to email lists from several of my favorite bloggers and take a few minutes to write a reply when they provide something that speaks to me.
So even though I may not be a “content creator” in the way that so many of the FinCon attendees are, I got positive affirmation from literally DOZENS of people that I was meeting for the first time in real life. I would walk up to someone I “know from the internet”, introduce myself, and would get a reaction bordering on a ‘tween meeting Taylor Swift. Ok, maybe not quite that excited, but it sure was a boost to this “nobody’s” confidence to know that people knew who I am, liked me, and appreciated my efforts in the community, even if I’m not on a consistent posting schedule and don’t have a large blog audience.
#2 – Killed my imposter syndrome
After getting that confidence boost I talked about above, I didn’t have to self-identify as a kinda-sorta-wishy-washy blogger anymore. I was Josh, personal finance enthusiast, who happens to write sometimes on his site to share stories about my personal investing failures, among other topics. Everyone seems to share all of the wonderful things that are going on in their lives, and the investments that allow them to reach financial independence and/or retire early.
But it wasn’t just that confidence boost that ended my imposter syndrome. I had conversations with all different levels of personal finance and FIRE personalities. Some are wildly famous in this community, and still feel Imposter Syndrome. Instead of thinking “this person has been writing for 20+ years and still feels like an imposter sometimes” and holding onto my insecurities, I flipped that coin and shed the feeling altogether. Because I’m not a guy trying to break into the personal finance scene as a famous blogger/writer/book author, I can embrace the role I hold in this community as a favored cheerleader of my friends. I can speak My Truth without worrying how others will see me, because the people who matter already told me they love what I put out into this community.
#3 – Encouraged me to get back home and get to work
So I just admitted that I’m not trying to be a big blogger or content producer, but I am finally resolved to put my voice into this space and hopefully continue to cover content that hasn’t been said 1000 times.
And speaking of putting my voice into the space, I recorded my first podcast interview on Friday, while in the pool, so that was definitely something outside of my comfort zone. Pete, from DoYouEvenBlog, was interviewing several of us first-time attendees and bloggers a chance to do our first podcast interviews. Pushed by Penny, which is a recurring theme around here, I gave an awkward interview answering 3 questions that Pete posed to us. The awkwardness came from my inability to put into words what was my #1 takeaway from my first FinCon. After a few seconds that felt like at least a minute, I babbled on and gave an answer so that I could move on to the third and final question. But at least now I’ve got that first interview under my belt (I didn’t literally wear a belt in the pool, BTW), and the next one won’t be so bad.
#4 – I made the best damn friends a guy could ever have (this part is really long)
Since I’m a spreadsheet geek, I spent some time ahead of the conference to type into Google Sheets the names and Twitter handles of around 50 people I really hoped to meet. I knew it was far-fetched that all of them would be in Orlando, but I set out to try and turn those names into IRL friends and contacts.
Within my first few steps into the Rosen Shingle Creek hotel, I saw famous personal finance people such as Carl and Mindy from 1500 Days, PT who founded FinCon, and Brad Barrett from ChooseFI/Richmond Savers/TravelMiles101. I checked into the hotel, had a quick chat with Brad about “It’s weird to hear your voice right now because I was just listening to your episode with TheRideshareGuy on the way up here” and then shared an elevator with PT.
The next morning, I saw Brad and Jonathan walking around the hotel, and joined them to find coffee. I had already been to the hotel 3 years ago for a conference in my line of work, so I became their unofficial tour guide for the next hour and a half. Since they are celebrities in our online community, they tend to draw a crowd; which on Wednesday morning included JD Roth from Get Rich Slowly and John from ESI Money and Rockstar Finance. Down the hallway, USAA was hosting their DigitalMillEx session, and during a break in the session, out walked Doug “Nords” Nordman from The-Military-Guide, Gwen from Fiery Millennials and Fire Drill Podcast, and Tanja Hester from Our Next Life/The Fairer Cents Podcast/author of Work Optional/Founder of Cents Positive. Gwen came flying out of nowhere and nearly tackled JD with a huge hug, and Tanja followed suit. I was standing next to JD at the time, so I said Tanja’s name and waved, which caused her to come running at me with another huge hug. That’s also when I met Felicity from Fetching Financial Freedom, Matt Lane from Optimize Your Life and Karsten (Big ERN) from Early Retirement Now. After a little while, I decided I should head back to my hotel room to get cleaned up and ready to check into the conference at noon, but while I was walking through the massive convention space, I saw a tall brunette that I knew immediately must be Jillian Johnsrud from Montana Money Adventures. I think she figured out who I was even faster than I recognized her, because she increased her pace faster than I could, and she gave me yet another huge hug (I’m her self-proclaimed favorite person on Twitter).
Back in the hotel portion of the property, I saw Deanna from Ms. Fiology talking to Jim from Route to Retire, so I introduced myself and chatted for a bit. Then Robin from Side Jams came and met up with Deanna, so we grabbed some waters from the coffee shop and sat down to chat for about a half hour. I ran into Mr. Jamie Griffin in the hallway, and he looks 100% like his avatar.
Continuing with Wednesday activities, I checked in and wandered aimlessly, hoping to find more people I knew from Twitter. I had changed into my “Reaching Dollar” tshirt that I had printed specifically for the conference, which was a reuse of the logo that Military Dollar created in support of their respective entries in last January’s Rockstar Rumble. Military Dollar shared the original logo with me, so that I could surprise Erin from Reaching for FI with a tshirt with their logo. When Erin saw my shirt, her reaction was priceless. I hadn’t even met her yet, but I was already wearing her logo. I let her know I had two more printed for her and Military Dollar to wear later on at the conference.
After a little while, I ran into Liz from Chief Mom Officer and we decided to check out some of the on-site dining options for lunch. After lunch, I met the fantastic ladies behind Women Who Money and Women’s Money Talk, Vicki Cook from Make Smarter Decisions and Amy from LifeZemplified. Later on, I met Laura from Everyday By The Lake, also a part of WWM.
I flipped through Instagram and saw that Champagne & Capital Gains (“Annie Ray”) was in the area between the hotel and the convention area, so I messaged her that I would like to meet, and she said she thought she saw me walk past her a little earlier. After chatting for a little bit, I headed back to the conference area to attend the first-timers session, and I ran into Krystel from All She Saves and Jenny & Jimmy from Living Life Loving Us before the opening Keynote. I saw Allea Grumert from Ask Allea and Duett walking towards the Keynote, but I wasn’t sure if I was going to attend. I stood in the back of the room for a little while, when I got a Twitter DM from one-half of the dynamic duo known as Bitches Get Riches. Kitty had arrived earlier in the day, while Piggy was stranded in NYC with a delayed flight. I sat with Kitty for a while and we teased Piggy that we had already met, and sent a selfie together to make her super jealous 😊
After the Keynote, a group of us headed off-site for a belated birthday party for Stephanie at Uncle Julio’s. If you haven’t heard of Uncle Julio’s, you need to stop reading this right now and do a Google search for their Chocolate Piñata. I sat at one end of the table with Andrew from Shift Upwards, and nearby Military Dollar and Erin, plus Kitty and Piggy arrived about halfway through the 3.5 hours it took for our meal. I got to meet Lisa from The Give and Get, and she commented on my shirt, which is the same one from my Twitter profile picture (I wore it on purpose). I also met the wonderful Miriam Joy, Ruby, and Jenny from Good Life Better. I felt so bad that I didn’t get to meet everyone at the other end of our 25-person table.
On Thursday, I volunteered again for 4 hours at the registration desk/standing around giving directions. As I was standing in the hallway, I got messages from Penny at ShePicksUpPennies, but since she is an anonymous blogger, I had the most difficult time finding her. I actually had seen her around the halls a little bit, but I was never able to see her nametag, so I didn’t really consider that it might be my Twitter bestie. Once she figured out who I was, she came up to me and I stumbled back a few steps, unwilling to believe I had finally met the wonderful Penny! I continued giving directions to people, and I actually met up with 3 more people in my area of Southwest Florida, including The Money Twins and Colleen Kelly. I met Vicki Cook’s other half, Jeff, and chatted with him quite a bit.
After my volunteer shift, I learned that some folks were out by the pool, so I joined Penny, the Women Who Money, and Chris from Apathy Ends for a couple drinks. I also met Abigail from ipickuppennies while enjoying my drinks.
On Friday, I really got to meet people in the pool, including Chelsea from Smart Money Mamas, and her husband Jeremiah was there too. Pete from Do You Even Blog was busy even while relaxing in the pool, recording us first-time podcast guests.
And with apologies to everyone else involved, I am sure I am leaving out a whole bunch of people that I met in the past week. I spent quite a few separate times with Tori Dunlap from HerFirst100K. I finally met Carmen from Make Real Cents, who had the huge accomplishment of paying off her debt on Friday of FinCon!! We’re pictured here the following day:
I met the duo behind Financial Panther (Kevin and Thomas), Chelsea and Lauren from The Financial Diet, and Denis and Katie from Chain of Wealth. I met Cody Berman from Fly To FI and FireBelowZero Podcast. I met Adam from Minafi, Laurie from The Three Year Experiment, Olivia from Birds of a FIRE, and Lily from The Frugal Gene.
I had a beer with Doc G from DiverseFI and I had a beer with Pete from Mr. Money Mustache before the Plutus Awards (which my friends freaking killed! S/O to Penny, Liz, Des, Tanja, Brad & Jonathan, Amy, and more!). Had a nice chat with Craig from Retire Before Dad right then, too. I met Jim Wang from Wallet Hacks and Brandon from the Mad Fientist, both of whom remembered me from past email conversations we’d had because I’m signed up for their email lists. I met Erik from The Mastermind Within, and J from Millennial Boss and Fire Drill Podcast. Justin from Saving Sherpa and I chatted about his 1.8 million Hilton Honors points.
I finally got to meet Taylor formerly of The Freedom From Money, and she was as sweet as I always suspected. I met Nick True and Andrew from Family Money Plan. And I finally met Bianca from Miss Mazuma, and Stephen Baughier from CampFI. I met Stefanie O’Connell, J-Money, Coach Carson, Paula Pant, Paulette Perhach, Leif from Physician on Fire, Modern Suzy, Keith from The Wealthy Accountant, Gerry from Millionaire Educator and so many more. And now I can’t wait to go back to FinCon in DC so I can meet even more and catch up with my new old friends!!