FinCon 2018 was so incredible! I made so many relationships with people I only knew online and it was simply a phenomenal experience. This started off as a short post, but meandered into an incredibly long piece of content.
I’ve tried to make sure I’ve included everyone I met, but I’m sure I’m missing a bunch of people. If we chatted and I forgot you here, please don’t take it personally! I was majorly sleep deprived this week. Please send me a message or comment below and I’ll be happy to link back to you so I don’t forget.
This post is going up, unpolished and all, written mostly in stream of consciousness because if I don’t publish it now, I’ll lose the story details and momentum. Because we all have those drafts that have sat for weeks.
- 1 Wednesday: The Start Of FinCon
- 2 Thursday: I Should’ve Slept More
- 3 Friday: Wow, I Made A Bunch Of Friends!
- 4 Saturday: Dang, We Have To Leave Soon? Just As It’s Getting Good!
- 5 Sunday – Are You Really Still Reading This? I’m Not Sure Anyone Will Read This Far.
- 6 FinCon Tips – For Newbies and Returnees
- 7 FinCon Exhibition Booth Recaps
- 8 Tips For Exhibitors:
- 9 FinCon Expenses
- 10 Other FinCon Recaps
Wednesday: The Start Of FinCon
Having very narrowly missed my flight after being up all night on Tuesday, I had all of 2 hours of sleep on the plane coming into FinCon. That being said, if I’ve forgotten you in this recap, please don’t blame me! Accidental FIRE tells me my short-term memory is messed up whenever I pull these all-nighters.
It was awesome meeting Lily for the first time as we had talked a ton via Twitter DM! I met Janet from My Twenty Cents too, who was our third roommate. Lily left us to go to a CFSI event and we walked in around 11AM into the conference center together. Registration opened at noon so we just talked to each other for a bit. Mostly because we were a little shy, I’m not going to lie.
We eventually decided we should find someone we recognized to talk to since we had all week with each other in our hotel room. That’s what FinCon was for, right?
Janet spotted a guy wearing a ESI Money shirt, but the guy looked like he was in his 30s! I was pretty sure John was around 50 so was mildly confused.
“Maybe that’s his VA or tech guy?,” I mused.
We walked over to him and introduced himself. Turns out, John from ESI Money had crazy genetics. 54 but looks like he’s in his 30s!
He asked me what my targets for the goal were, and I must confess, I hadn’t thought of what to aim for given how busy work had been. I mumbled a few things about sponsorships and freelance work, and just to meet people in general. John gave out a lot of great first timer info on how to approach people and what I should be doing. If you see him next year, he is super approachable and friendly, so say hi!
Then I met Carl from 1500 Days. I had written a guest post for him when I first started out. My very first (and currently only existing) guest post for anyone. Super chill, normal, and asked me what I wanted to get out of the conference. Since John had just asked me the same question, my subconscious had probably been formulating an answer. I cemented my freelance writing answer and Carl gave me the rundown on his experience for it.
Pro Tip: Figure out what you actually want from FinCon before you get there and then ask those more experienced for advice. You’ll get a lot more out of it. Decide whether you want to freelance, become a VA, network with others in your industry, get sponsorships, etc.
After this, we met Erik from Mastermind Within and a few other people (at this point my sleepiness was setting in from being up all night, so I’m missing a few people I met in this section). Erik and I conversed a bit about his bearish views on the market before it was time to check into registration.
When you’re at registration, they let you pick buttons and cute lanyards.
We then hung out at the giant pink flamingo before someone asked us to get up so she could take a picture. We did, and then took some ourselves. This is literally the only picture of myself I took in all of FinCon. I didn’t take pictures of people either because I didn’t want to accidentally take a pic of someone who is anon.
The first workshop we went to was Curt Dailey’s from The Penny Hoarder. The main takeaway was Postbacks. Basically, if you don’t want to open 10 different affiliate networks every day, you can use HasOffers to consolidate all that into one platform. Pretty cool considering I was looking for this solution for a few months, but didn’t quite know what to Google. Plus none of the bigger bloggers I asked knew of a solution.
The next workshop was from Tom Tate of AWeber. We bounced around a bunch of workshops before we landed on this one and Janet and I really wished we started off with this one. It was full of super actionable advice, from packaging your most popular/informative posts into a free ebook for an opt-in, to simply offering a PDF for your long pages, to consolidating all your freebies into one page and having them opt-in there. It was crazy useful. Quick wins you can do to create an opt-in with.
After this, we went to the KeyNote. Bethany Bayless was the host, and I think she might’ve been the most upbeat person I’ve ever met. Seriously. I can see why she’s a professional emcee. We started out with playing Never Have I Ever on financial topics, which is usually a drinking game. Instead of shots, we used paddles. If you want to play a similar game, check out J$’s post here.
Rachel Cruze was one of the main speakers and I loved her message about gratitude and serving your audience in order to feel fulfilled.
After this, Janet and I circulated around the room and met Karsten from Early Retirement Now. His blog is probably the most quantitative blog out there about Financial Independence and probably one of the tallest people (6’6) I’ve met. I asked him about dividends vs growth stocks and he said something pretty surprising — that the dividend aristocrats actually outperformed for quite a while. Michael Kitces also offers some pretty good quantitative posts, but ERN’s are more complete IMO. If you want to read a well-organized paper about SWR, check out Karsten’s paper on it. I absolutely loved it.
We then met J$ from Budgets Are Sexy and he is so nice and actually had his mohawk! I’d always thought it was just for the picture.
We then walked outside to find Lily as we were exhausted and wanted to say bye before she left for her dinner. Janet had just flown 24 hours to get to the US from Switzerland and I was running on 2 hours of sleep. Once outside, we found her talking to Zach from Four Pillar Freedom.
We then went home and agreed on a 20 minute nap before visiting Shake Shack. 3 hours later I woke up and Shake Shack was closed, so settled on the closest place with food nearby: Popeye’s. I have to say, I really like their blackened ranch dipping sauce.
Then Lily came home and we chatted well into the night about life.
Thursday: I Should’ve Slept More
That’s probably why we woke up so late on Thursday. Breakfast ends at 10 though, so I did get a chance to get some free breakfast. We also got some plates to put in the fridge in case we get hungry later. Our resolve to go the Women Who Money Meet-up was broken since that was at 7AM. Luckily, we met them both the day prior. Unluckily, we don’t meet a bunch of other women who go to that meet-up.
Continuing on my freelance writing quest, I thought it might be fun so I went to Freelance 101 for my first workshop. Jackie from Hey Freelancer, Lindsay from Notorious D.E.B.T., Paula Pant from Afford Anything, and Zina were the panel participants.
Top tips included putting a “Work With Me” link on your menu bar, networking with other writers to get referrals, and guest blogging on a few big blogs before you apply to become a freelance writer for a major network.
After, Janet and I split up to cover more workshop ground. I went to “How (And Why) I Sold My Blog For Millions And Other Questions I can Legally Answer”. Though it was a clickbait title, it delivered thoroughly. With 4 pages of notes, they gave out a lot of valuable information. Janet went to the talk with Jim from Wallet Hacks and GRS.
If you have the Video pass, definitely check it out both when you get big enough to sell. J$ is a financial blog broker, so if you ever are thinking of selling, you might want to reach out to him.
Next up, lunch!
I go to the other workshop to find Janet and end up finding Lily instead. She’s standing with Zach and Adam from Minafi in a circle around JD Roth from Get Rich Slowly. I pretty sure I made a “OMG” face. I text FireBear (BF) that I’m standing 2 feet from JD Roth and that I can’t think of anything to ask him since I’m so daunted by meeting one of our heros. FireBear tells me to tell him that FireBear reads him every day and that he loves him. I stay silent because I’m apparently super starstruck and awkward. Oops.
Pro Tip: Before you head to FinCon, imagine yourself meeting your favorite bloggers and think of questions you’ve always wanted to ask them. Breathe and remember that you can always talk about normal things with your heros.
Jim talks about his cool upcoming move to Panama, Adam about his FIRE’ing at the end of this year, and Scott taking a mini-FIRE retirement. I pick Scott’s brain about freelance writing.
If you’re nearing FIRE or just curious to see their journeys’, check out their blogs.
I spend the rest of the afternoon checking out the exhibition booths. Go down to the “Tips For Fincon” and the Exhibition Booth Recap sections below. There were around 80+ booths with 12 hours that the exhibition booths were open. That’s about 7 exhibitions per hour if you wanted to visit them all, so plenty of time.
For dinner, I eat with Lily, Janet, Zach, Karsten, Susan from FI Ideas, and Doc G from Diverse FI. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about Susan’s journey to FIRE from an engineer’s perspective, Doc G’s entrepreneurship in concierge medicine, and Karsten’s visits to Europe for his first few months of retirement.
Doc G, Zach, and I go to Ignite Mediavine because we need something to do before heading to Carl’s meet-up. We also get free dessert and a drink via the sponsor of the talk. Ignite is a form of presentation done across the globe. Everyone gets 5 minutes to speak, with slides changing every 15 seconds, for a total of 20 slides.
The first few talks are really hilarious. Jordan Cox gives a presentation of why British people are different from Americans, the second guy talks about how Quora = Google for lazy people, and the third was a lawyer who sued a student loan company who called her 8-10 times a day for 2 months after she paid off her loans. She ended up with $80k to pay off her law school loans.
We head over to Carl’s meetup, where I realize I didn’t bring any beer. I don’t drink alcohol anyway and didn’t know! I meet Accidental FIRE and we talk about rock climbing and monetizing your life. I see Erin from Reaching for FI again.
Tired from chatting with Lily all night last night, I decide it’s time to go home.
In the Uber ride, I get to chatting with the driver and he tells me how he works for the Boys + Girls Club, but drives Uber 2 days a week for some extra cash. In the neighborhood he works in 71 percent of people don’t graduate high school. He tells me the Boys + Girls Club offers free tutoring, SAT and College prep, and a ton of other services for low-income neighborhoods. If you’re looking to volunteer, check them out here.
Friday: Wow, I Made A Bunch Of Friends!
We wake up late again, and I miss my 7AM meetup with Pete and the Do You Even Blog group. Thankfully, Janet so kindly got us breakfast after seeing us both in bed, and not about to wake up anytime soon.
In the morning, I realize I haven’t met a lot of my anonymous friends and chalk it up to the fact that no one knows what I really look like. Oops. So I send a picture of my outfit to a few people I chat with online.
As we walked into FinCon, Aaron from Personal Finance For Beginners spotted me and I was super excited to see him. We talk a lot of strategy on Twitter. I try to give him a hug and he gets nervous because there was recently a Twitter thread about how men shouldn’t hug women. Aaron is very awesome.
We basically sit down and talk about how his FaceBook Ads learning curve is going and ask about the recent conference he was just at.
FinCon provides lunches at this point. I note that no one is passing out the lunches, which seems like a terrible idea at a conference about person finance, ahem, frugality. I didn’t see anyone take two, but I was curious why it was set up this way. I suspect some exhibitors didn’t collect theirs or something?
Military dollar and another thin female (I’m sorry, I can’t see your name in my head, but I can see your face/body! Please let me know who you are) pop up to my right and I look at their nametags to figure out who they are. She showed my outfit to someone who said,”Is it an Asian girl? If so, she’s sitting at that table”. Perhaps I should just say “smallish Asian girl who is not Lily, Janet, or Alexis” for next year. Multiple people have come up to me thinking I was white because of the stock picture I used.
I commend Military Dollar for the cards she hands out that list 45 female personal finance bloggers. She was tired of people saying they couldn’t think of females to interview or ask to sit on panels, so she decided to make business cards and hand them out. I’m honored to have made the list — this is only my 9th month blogging!
Dr. McFrugal comes over and says a quick hello. I’m sad we didn’t get to converse further, but please see his blog for his post on food. Seriously that is a really nicely organized pantry. I modeled our very tiny countertop after his design. We don’t have a pantry in good ol’ NYC.
After this we go into the booth exhibition area and we wait for pancakes by Ally. Time flies because Aaron and I keep talking strategy. I learn the pancake people are coming up with a pancake kit that will go on QVC. I’m not a big spender, but that honestly sounds like a lot of fun. Apparently the squeeze bottles for the pancake batter is proprietary, so I’m not going to try to DIY the kit. Really, wouldn’t making pancake art at brunch be kinda fun? See the pancake in the exhibition booth recap portion.
I go around to the booths I hadn’t visited before and then pick up some extra swag for FireBear. Janet lets us know if there is any swag left over, people just hand it off to you because they don’t want to pack it.
I head poolside to meet with a bunch of people I haven’t run into yet. Krystal from All She Saves, Lisa from the The Give and Get (check out her article about an interesting poverty mindset), Brad from The Frug, and Tori from Victori Media. I’m missing someone and blanking on who. Krystal could be a fashion blogger, she is that put together. Lisa is surprisingly upbeat and cool. In her pictures she looks sweet instead (she is!).
Everyone retires to their room and I resolve to stay at the actual hotel next year for FinCon.
I head back over to the conference area and spot Jason from Winning Personal Finance and we chat until the Plutus Awards begin. He wants to become a CFP one day — in the meantime, having kids sounds brutal from what I hear (from him).
We go into the Plutus awards with Aaron. Aaron wins $25 in Stockpile gift cards taped under his seat, and Jason gets $5 in $1 denominations. Jason gives his to Aaron because he doesn’t want orphan stocks in one of his accounts. I suspect these are the extra gift cards part of the Stockpile exhibition booth since I remember those exact 6 cards. These guys are crazy lucky!
Congrats to CMO, Kitty + Piggy from Bitches Get Riches, Cait Flander’s Book The Year Of Less, Erin Lowry’s 3 minute series on YouTube, She Picks Up Pennies, Half Banked, Amy from Life Zemplified, Emily Birkin, Tanya from Our Next Life, and Paula Pant. I loved the little dance Paula did and how Kitty and Piggy would stand up and clap for certain winners.
After Plutus, we go to this hexagon shaped room (I don’t understand why they would build a hexagon shaped room — that causes echos!) and I give my drink ticket away to Jason and call it an early night. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a 25 year old living in an old person’s body. I don’t drink and need my many hours of sleep.
Good thing though, because I run into John again in the lobby and get to chat with him again! I tell him about my FinCon experience so far, and he gives me some more tips. We talk about our personal lives for a bit and then he tells stories about his kids and his P&G work life (it sounded brutal). I suspect that’s why he’s so good at networking and marketing — it sounds like he spent his whole life doing that!
It was then a big-wig with other big-wigs invited us to an event that night. I didn’t feel comfortable accepting and plus, I was pretty tired. Odds were high I’d say something silly.
Pro Tip: Don’t be like me and take the invitation if someone big-time invites you out. Don’t get nervous (or tired). Get some rest the week before, and of for FinCon!
I talk to my Uber driver again. He comments that I’m one of the only ones to ever ride his Uber sober. I get his lowdown on the conference business in Orlando. Seriously, who knew conferences happened in Orlando that much? I guess it is the weather and people like to go to DisneyWorld after maybe? The only other city able to hold conferences of the same size is Las Vegas (not our FinCon size, but some of the other conferences around).
Saturday: Dang, We Have To Leave Soon? Just As It’s Getting Good!
On Saturday, we got up at a leisurely time again. Basically, for Janet, Lily, and I, this was one big vacation where we happened to meet online friends and eat a bunch of pretty interesting food. For me, it’s incredibly fun to understand products and what kind of business models someone comes up with, so that was added fun.
In undergrad I loved reading business case studies and was always slightly irked when the HBS case study was like $10-$25 for a 30 page study. Basically going to the booths was a crash course in some part of the case study (without the super-quant numbers though).
We head over to Rosemarie’s Busy Budgeter funnel workshop and it is phenomenal. It’s a great lesson in truly passive income — create a funnel and drive paid traffic via ads. If your CPA < LTV of a sub, you’re golden. Especially good for high-value products. If your CPC is 6 cents, and you product is $200, only one in 3,333 have to convert. Odds are you’re retargeting people who are on your list or have visited your site, so I assume conversion is better than just blindly throwing darts.
I then head over to meet Penny Pinchin’ Mom, who also runs a consulting blog. Um, she has 600,000+ FaceBook likes. That is seriously mind-boggling. WHAT. She’s so seasoned in blogging and is an expert in so many ways and is so willing to share her wisdom. She mentions her number of subscribers and my eyes get really big. In fact, she mentions multiple stats, which make me sit there and think “Omg, how on earth am I so lucky to have met such a smart, kind, mentor.” She also talks about imposter syndrome, which resonates deeply with me. Crazy to think that she experiences that too!
We almost don’t meet because our FinCon mentor/mentee emails get sent to spam! I find her actual email in the promotions tab 2 days after the conference ended. Check your spam + promotions folder a few days before just in case. Luckily, she reaches out via the app and we do meet up. It is probably one of the most valuable time I spend at the conference. She audits my site, answers all my questions on various topics, and I learn so much — I have an entire page of things to implement now! Yay for actionable growth!
She also highlighted the importance of a mastermind. I take a few pages of notes while we talk. Let’s face it, without notes, you’d probably forget the gold your mentor drops!
For lunch, I meet back up with Janet and we head over to the Diner.
The people who keep telling me it will rain in Florida for 7 minutes then stop are right. We narrowly miss the rain on the walk back.
The restaurant has a waiter who is great at performing. He does a little spiel before we order and it’s great. I ask if he does some kind of show on the side (maybe Orland is like Las Vegas?) and he tells me he used to work at SeaWorld, where people paid $500 to swim with dolphins and other sea creatures. He says that’s why he’s so good at it. He tells me it pays better at the cute diner because people give tips and SeaWorld is a fixed hourly rate. I give him a big tip because I feel like he deserves it.
While we are there, I notice he’s using a tablet to take our orders and it relays to the kitchen electronically. I’d imagine that saves him at least 10% of time in labor, because now he doesn’t have to walk back to the kitchen every time. He’s using Clover. It also splits our bill for exactly what we ate. I’m shocked as this is the first time I’ve seen waiters use this technology and that I haven’t seen it before. Then again, I don’t eat at chain restaurants, so maybe they are used there too and I just don’t know? Anyhow, I discover Clover has been bought by First Data, with a market cap of $23B. To buy or not to buy? Any thoughts on AMD as well?
We get back to the hotel and end up at Chenell Tull’s Conversion Owl Marketing workshop. She shares 11 tips on how to get the most out of your FaceBook ads. If you don’t have the video pass, you can email her to ask for her slides. They’re pretty useful for a beginner (which I am).
I spot Pete from Do You Even Blog and collect my blog bag :D. That purple shirt is one of my favorite pieces of swag. There’s also a nice small pink notebook with a sweet note. Pete is the absolute best when it comes to getting blogging help. His course re-opens end of this year I believe. His blog/podcast content is top notch and I always feel like there’s a way I can improve whenever I absorb his content.
I ask him to introduce me to Chelsea from Mama Fish Saves who recently came out with the ICE Binder. It’s a family emergency printable binder that is useful so your family knows what to do in case of an emergency. She designed it herself, which amazes me. Chelsea has innate talent for graphic design.
We head over to the FinCon Closing Speech and Pete from Mr. Money Mustache gives a funny talk. Liz from CMO asks MMM what we can do as a community when dealing with the same stereotypes in the media about FIRE. MMM tells us we should seek to amplify less talked about voices, which is great to hear from someone so influential.
I meet the founders of Financial Panther, who are actually two people. I meet Kevin and Thomas and they are super cool. They’re friends from high school! I’m not super close with anyone from high school so I think that’s awesome. I complain about how we don’t have those Lime scooters you can charge in NYC and am jealous of him making the spread of X payout – 10 cents in electricity. Also about the time he rented out his apartment during the SuperBowl. I talk to Thomas about his great design skills, especially that sidebar where you can hover over and it turns into color icons. I tell him I eventually hope to have time to tinker with the design on my website.
After the talk, we go to dinner at an Ethiopian place called The Nile. Adam recommends it to us and Lily seconds it due to her love of Ethiopian food. I have to say, it is pretty delicious. Everything was spiced perfectly. Now I really want to learn some Ethiopian recipes. The only thing is that it seems you need to make 10 different dishes each time, so that might be a little tough! Our usual crew went to the dinner, with a few additions. There were 11 of us, so I definitely didn’t get all our names. Sean from Mastermind Hunt told us about his product though. If you went to FinCon you got a year free. Mastermind is kind of like Product Hunt, but for finding masterminds.
We close the night out with a party.
I spot a photo booth and decide not to participate with the group just in case.
A guy walks up to me and asks if I am Alexis from Fitnancials. I laugh and ask if it’s because I’m Asian too. I promised I wouldn’t say who it was, but we point him to Alexis and try to get him to walk up to her and introduce himself. We talk about rock climbing and weight lifting. I tell him about my $500 rock climbing bet. I later go home and tell FireBear about him since he does powerlifting too. We continue to try and get him to meet Alexis because it sounds like he is a big fan. I’m not sure he actually ever meets her.
Mostly, we listen to Janet’s stories. They are pretty dang hilarious and she doesn’t even drink. Maybe she is still on Switzerland time and tired. I hear you can feel drunk when you’re super tired.
I spot Jordan Cox, walk up to him and shake his hand and ask where his content is because after 3 minutes of Googling, I wasn’t able to find it. He’s a part of Money Saving Expert, but I was hoping he’d just have a YouTube channel with his content on it. He’s one of those people who just sound hilarious by nature.
Lisa from the Give and Get stops over and tells us about a guy who asks her to play Tic Tac Toe. We’re not sure if it’s a pickup line. We think it is. I give my drink coupon to her and walk outside.
We hang out with our group for a while and then say our goodbyes.
Lily, Janet, and I get some quality girl time in after that.
Sunday – Are You Really Still Reading This? I’m Not Sure Anyone Will Read This Far.
Another all nighter on Sunday because I was afraid to fall asleep and miss my flight.
I get to the airport on time and am reminded I need to get my Global Entry renewed. FireBear can’t get access to it, so I let it lapse since we usually travel together and so I just wait for him to get through his customs line. This is my first time traveling alone in quite a while.
I head over to the United lounge and hang out for a bit until boarding. Free breakfast, coffee, and some comfy chairs. Free due to some extra United passes.
I land, then take an Uber home because I’m way too exhausted for a 2 hour trip vs a 1 hour Uber ride. I need some sleep before meeting up with a bunch of friends late evening.
People I’d hoped to meet but didn’t: Champagne and Capital Gains, Drew from Guy On Fire, Physician on Fire (though I did met him in NYC once). People who I wanted to see, but didn’t go: BusyMom from Countdown to Tranquility, Aparna from Elementum Money, Rich from PFGeeks, Moose from MSOLife, Luxe from The Luxe Strategist, and Angela from Tread Lightly, Retire Early.
Two recaps on the roomies from this week:
Janet, oh Janet. Possibly the most entertaining person I have met at FinCon, full of wacky stories. Unfortunately, her blog doesn’t have those great stories on them. I suggested she start an anonymous YouTube account with a mask over her face. If you want to imagine how hilarious she was, watch this video of Awkwafina (who starred in Ocean’s 8 and Crazy Rich Asians). Then multiply it by at least 3x hilariousness. I hear she is starting a YouTube channel though, so stay tuned!
Lily is the sweetest, chattiest, and happiest tiny Asian girl. Our love of food binds us. She is a very down to earth millionaire in her 20s and her blog is full of awesome stories. Mostly we chatted about life, well past midnight most days. She has dreams of getting a masters and working on her other side project (top secret).
FinCon Tips – For Newbies and Returnees
1. If you sit in a workshop and you don’t learn anything in the 1st ten minutes, odds are that workshop is geared for someone who is at a newer level. Don’t be afraid to switch rooms. Pro Tip: Buy the video pass if you think you’re really going to watch them after and just network and hang out with friends in the hallways in the mean-time.
If you buy the pass before October 4th, the video pass is included. If not, I believe it’s an extra $99.
2. Make a cartel of friends who are taking notes inside different rooms. Trade notes after. Even if you buy the video pass, are you really going to watch those sessions considering how busy most people are?
3. Make sure you sign up for a mentor! My first email ended up in spam, so by some stroke of luck I happened to check it for fun that day and realized. Then the email that paired me with a mentor got stuck in spam and my mentor’s email ended up in the promotions tab! Just when I thought I didn’t get accepted to the program. Luckily, my mentor, Tracie Forbes, who runs Penny Pinchin Mom and private consulting reached out to me via DM on the FinCon app and we met up and it was awesome.
4. Which brings me to my next point, download the FinCon app, because it’ll allow you to DM people through the app, get their contact info, see messages posted on the main Timeline, etc.
5. Try to get FinCon tickets for free.
There are three scholarships I know of for FinCon. RSF sponsored 20 first-years this year (120 people entered) for FinCon tickets, CFSI sponsored 5 individuals for FinCon tickets, airfare, lodging, ground transport, and food, and FinCon itself sponsors a select number. If you’re gunning for a scholarship, realize that the RSF/FinCon ones are for people who have only had their blog/podcast/etc a year or less.
The CFSI one allows anyone to win. I think it has to be a blogger because this year they requested blog posts as entries. If you’re somewhat sure you’re going to FinCon next year, I’d recommend you order your pass now because it’s at $197 (plus fees). As the year goes on, the pass eventually costs $599. If you buy it at $197, you can always sell your pass (they are transferable) to someone else and recoup your initial $197 and then just go for free if you win a scholarship.
Also, if you speak at FinCon you get free FinCon passes! If you are an anonymous blogger, you can ask not to be taped (they will capture your screen and voice). I confirmed this with Felicity who spoke anonymously at FinCon and asked not to be taped. They simply recorded her audio and slides.
If you’re part of a panel instead of an individual speaker, I am not sure how this works. You can always ask!
6. Swag T-shirts/large items tend to run out on the first day for most booths. If you’re super into swag, aim to be there when FinCon Central (where the booths are) opens. Go around to all the booths with swag you’d like and talk to them first, then go back around to all the other booths of interest.
7. Buy a 100-count of business cards from Moo before you go. I didn’t this year and kind of regret it. I only had IRL business cards, but couldn’t exactly hand those out as I was anonymous. A lot of the booths will have some kind of raffle where you need to drop your business card to win something. A lot of people would also ask for my business card, and I’d just have to deflect and ask for theirs instead.
There were probably 20 booths giving out prizes out of 80 and on both days, it didn’t seem like more than 20-30 business cards were in each booth’s raffle glass. Obviously you want to give out your business cards to other bloggers or podcasters as well, but the free stuff is an extra bonus. I saw Apple watches, Shaq’s signed shoes, etc. being given out for these raffles if you dropped your business card in.
8. If you interact with someone you want to build a relationship with, send a follow-up email. It takes less than a minute, and you would not believe how many people don’t actually follow up. Get ahead by just doing the basics.
9. Bring snacks or beer and everyone will love you.
10. Don’t feel like you need to plan everything. I literally planned nothing until I got to FinCon and everything turned out ok. That being said, do plan something as I’m sure it probably could’ve been even better.
FinCon Exhibition Booth Recaps
Note: None of the companies I’ve mentioned below are paying me for mentioning them in this post. I just thought they were cool. I’d like to one day either do VC when financially independent or work on a few startup ideas of my own. This is my way of keeping notes on what companies did well on when meeting with others. Most people will find this section boring, so feel free to skip to the next!
Having interned on a securitized products desk and seen all the mortgage servicers out there, I’m pretty surprised this company managed to rebrand to something that literally looks like a startup product. Not because it is overly difficult, but because I haven’t seen a single bank do something this drastic and manage to actually do it well.
A mortgage servicer is someone who collects the payments on your mortgage and remits them through to the owner: the bank or the government if it is a qualifying mortgage.
At first I thought it was a newly funded, VC backed firm, but it turns out, it’s a rebranding of NationStar with 7,000+ employees. The rep was really friendly, “hip”, and gave a great demo of their app. From a UX and psychology perspective, the app is literally 3 pages, making it super intuitive and easy to understand.
They also had free coffee and a pretty cool party from the pictures I saw (I went to hang with some friends I hadn’t met yet). The invite had emojis on them. Emojis. The party had a graffiti artist. They armed themselves with cute thank you notes for coming to the party. They definitely know their target market.
The booth had that reclaimed wood look for a table, a coffee corner, and a bright, eye-catching design.
I posted a picture of them on social media to enter their drawing and some of the most financial-services hating bloggers actually had good experiences with them.
It’s amazing how making simple changes like an intuitive, clean, and responsive website and customer service team endear you to people. Especially since most financial firms
are not good at this do not implement this.
The booth looked super millennial friendly and they even brought down one of their money coaches.
I was intrigued by the smart marketing of the company. Money coaches are basically the bankers you meet in the branch, but rebranded to not sound intimidating. The money coach at the booth was wearing a light tweed jacket with elbow patches – non-intimidating but still modern professionalism.
Capital One branded meeting with bankers as 3 free sessions with a money coach. Even though you could meet with bankers for free as well, it sounds so much more enticing to meet with a coach. It kind of sounded like you were getting free personal training, life coaching, etc.
Their whole business model is moving towards opening up cafe’s instead of bank branches. They currently have a branch in Union Square (NYC) and gave me a free few coffee tickets to go try it out. Free wifi as well, so if you’re looking for some place to study and meet with someone in person about your finances, check it out. If you just want to study, you can just go and hang.
It’s kind of like the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Loft in NYC (also free), but for people interested in their financial life instead of the cloud.
Ally had this booth that created pancakes of you. It was very popular and people would wait upwards of an hour to get their pancake done. I suspect any time anyone ever eats a pancake again, they’ll reminisce to that time they got a pancake with their face on it. I suppose I’ll imagine Ally whenever I think of a Koala or a normal pancake as well. That’s some next level marketing. I green’d out FireBears face because it does kind of look like him. Mine doesn’t though, so I doubt you’d recognize me.
Ally has some of the highest savings accounts out there and is a great digital bank.
FYI, if you’re looking for someone to create pancake art for your next event, check the pancake artists out on YouTube and Instagram. While I was there I asked if they would be creating a course for making pancake art or some kind of kit with the squeeze bottles (they looked different than normal ones). I mean, if i can create better brunch than actually going out for brunch, why not have it at my place every weekend?
They also had these great cookies everyone kept talking about. They were oreos covered in white chocolate with round purple sprinkles.
I guess all of my favorite booths were reinventions of the financial industry.
I was really impressed they were the only life insurance quote engine that doesn’t sell whole insurance. If you know me, you know I think that whole life insurance is one of the biggest rip-offs compared to term, and would probably not get you a higher net worth vs just investing the extra.
The widget looked easy to use and these socks are now in my rotation of long socks.
Did you see those pink fluffy hoodies? Yeah, those were awesome. The app is also pretty cool. You know how we track productivity, sleep, meditation, etc? Joi tracks how happy your transactions are. Here in the personal finance space we crush pretty hard on people who enjoy lattes at StarBucks instead of making them at home, but if they give you a ton of happiness when you buy it, and you’re doing insanely well on all your other goals, who are we to say you shouldn’t spend a little money to be happy?
From what I understood, you rated your transactions after you had a little bit of time to enjoy them. If you find you’re buying a lot of things that don’t make you happy, the app will tell you that. If you find you’re loving a single brand, Joi is looking to partner with them to give you small treats.
Though I think cash envelopes are probably helpful, they’re also kind of annoying. As a woman who just carries her phone with credit cards in the back of the phone case and a keychain with my keys, I’m not going to lug around a bunch of envelopes.
ProActive came up with a way to digitize them. You get a physical card (looks like a credit card) that you need to put money in through the app each time you want to make a purchase. You deposit your monthly spending amount into the app and move small amounts from each envelope to the card every time you want to buy something. This syncs with your digital envelopes on your app, so that you’re forced to take that money out of your digital envelope and put it in the card.
Kind of a genius concept.
Did you know that banks got paid to process debit cards every time you made a purchase? I never knew that. I thought it was only credit cards.
Aspiration is looking to help those with bad credit get debit cards and give them rewards on top of it. They’ll give you a debit card for 1 percent cash back on your purchases made with a merchant. They collect the 2-3% fee from the merchant and give you 1 percent back.
Favorite People From Booths:
Tom from Aweber (+ his coworker).
Their shirt was also my second favorite shirt with a robot on it. Their stickers were awesome too.
If you got the video pass to see all the talks, he gave a great talk the first day on email marketing. I thought the Aweber team was pretty smart and spent about 30 minutes talking to them about email marketing. I was mostly curious if any email marketing company was able to tell me if my email would end up in the “promotions” tab in Gmail and if it could recommend things for me to change so that wouldn’t happen.
I’m considering switching from ConvertKit (Aweber is cheaper than ConvertKit for every tier except for the one in which they are the same price — the only reason I signed up for ConverKit was because another blogger recommended it). AWeber seems to have the same functionalities and then some, but I’ll have to take a test drive.
Yael from Grove.
Grove is a company that charges a fixed amount for unlimited financial advisor advice. Basically, your fixed fee advisor that I’m assuming is targeting millennials.
Yael and I really bonded because she worked in the financial industry as well. If you’re a FA, I believe they will eventually be hiring.
Michael explained health-share quite well and we talked a lot about the business. He was just a cool person. I also won an Uber gift card for $25 while spending time at their booth.
Not to be confused with Ellevate, which is a female mentorship company.
Paul spoke to me about the free data they offer on American households. Compiled from Nielsen (I believe) with n = 1000 for a 95 percent confidence interval. Accidental FIRE and Zach seem to do those types of visualizations most often, so hopefully someone will make good use of the data.
Best Business Model:
A digital magazine subscription of 10 money articles per quarter. I leafed through the first edition (90+ pages) and saw articles by some pretty famous writers: Erin Lowry, Kristen Wong, etc. $20 for a lifetime subscription. At first I was curious if that was a viable business model, offering someone something forever for a pretty low price. Becker then told me how many subscribers signed up for his other magazine, Simplify, and I realized what a genius this guy was. Doing some quick math, I’m sure the expected value of the company is positive for probably 50 years already. $20 for a lifetime magazine is pretty awesome. Check out Simplify Money.
Tips For Exhibitors:
1. Try to get a booth nearest to the lobby of the hotel. The left part of the exhibition hall was closest and that was where most people seemed to congregate. It looked like people gave up a few rows in and the booths on the right side of the hall definitely didn’t get much foot traffic.
2. If you’re giving out T-Shirts and they say your website link (or anything else) on the top of the T-Shirt on the back, consider if that’s the best place to put it. I tried mine on and FireBear had to move my hair every time to see the logo on the shirt. Maybe have guy shirts continue to have the website link on the top and women shirts have the website link in the middle/bottom because we might have long hair and that might hide your logo?
3. Women love V-necks. It shows off the collar bones and makes the shirt look a little dressier. At the Grace Hopper conference, a lot of booths gave out shirts with V-necks and I continue to wear those years after the conference. FinCon is mostly men, so it might not be something people have thought of. I guarantee if you have V-neck shirts and a woman gets them, you’ll have a larger percentage wear that shirt out more often.
4. The softest shirts seem to always be a color + white “flecks” in it. The more comfy your shirt, the more people will wear it outside! Same goes for a nice design. There seems to be a pretty normal distribution for overall rating of shirts.
I guess I think about shirts a lot. Haha.
If you’re a blogger, podcaster, etc with a business, you can write off your business expenses against your revenue.
If you’re hard-core, you can stuff all your profits into an i401k or you can reinvest that money back into your business.
- Hotel: -$105 -> (with free breakfast!) Lily generously shared her room with us since she got part of it paid with a scholarship
- Airfare: $0 -> travel hacked with Chase UR points – We have too many this year because we’ve only gone on one flight this year while we went to 7 places last year. So yeah, we’re running a huge surplus in travel points and miles.
- Food: $87.87 (Popeye’s, $40 Chirashi (what, I love Chirashi!), Burgers, a Diner, and Ethiopian food) – I could’ve gone the route of cooking, but really didn’t feel like it for a short vacation. 3x points on the Chase card.
- Transportation in NYC: $84.72
After being up all night and missing the train that goes from Penn Station to the EWR airport, I had no choice but to take a pretty pricey Lyft because the next train was in 30 minutes. It then took me another 10 minutes to get a Lyft. I was literally the last person to board on the flight and very narrowly missed it.On the way back, I had pulled another all nighter. The train + subway ride would’ve taken 2 hours to get home, so I just called an Uber and called it a day. Since I won a $25 Uber gift card from Medi-Share, it wasn’t the end of the world.This category could’ve been lowered by $60 had I taken the New Jersey train to EWR instead. Sometimes, you just spend a little extra. Raise has Uber gift cards with a slight discount, so I stacked that into the app with a 3x point earn on the CSR.
- Transportation in Orlando: $63.9 We stayed at Hawthorne Suites instead of the Rosen, so we needed to go to and from the hotel every day. I rode with Lily in the morning, who was covered with a scholarship. At night, she usually went home earlier, so I’d pay for a ride later.I paid for riding to and from the airport since the hotel didn’t have a shuttle. No Uber pool in Orlando!
- Uber gift card: +$25 I stopped by the Medishare booth and spun a little wheel which got me a $25 Uber gift card. Lucky me!
Total cost for 4 days at days in Orlando: $315.49 or $63 per day
Do I think I got more than $ value out of it? Oh, absolutely.
The friendships you make in real life are just so different than the friendships you make online. It was so cool to talk to people in person instead of just DM’ing them on Twitter all the time. Seeing someone in person cements your friendship. Stories and knowledge that is shared in person is so different from what you say online. It was an incredible experience and I’m definitely going back next year when it is in DC.
Even if I didn’t count the friendships and networks I made while there, I absolutely think I got more than enough $ value out of it. If I get at least 1 freelance writing opportunity and 1 sponsorship from all the people I’ve talked to, it’ll be worth it. I’m positive I’ll manage that in the whole year I have to improve. Even at a very conservative assumption, all you need is one to get started, and then that should snowball down. In a few months, I’ll do a post-mortum on the freelance/VA/site income portion and we’ll see how I did, broken down by the numbers.
If you made it this far, I salute you because this is probably my longest post, written mostly in stream of consciousness.
Other FinCon Recaps
If you’ve written a recap of this year’s FinCon, let me know and I’ll add it below:
- Adam at Minafi’s
- JD Roth from Get Rich Slowly’s
- Jim from Route To Retire
- Accidental FIRE
- Josh Overmeyer
- Liz from Chief Mom Officer
- Penny from She Picks Up Pennies
- Janet from My Twenty Cents
- Passive Income MD
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