Should You Attend FinCon15?
Spoiler alert for financial advisors, personal-finance bloggers, and entrepreneurs: Yes!
It’ll boost your financial independence.
FinCon15 is the fifth of the series, and it promises to be better than ever. It’s grown from its first gathering of 150 personal-finance bloggers to over 500 bloggers, entrepreneurs, writers, financial advisors, and sponsors. It now has several tracks for all skills and experience levels, with a separate professional track for financial advisors. This year it’s even added a one-day blogger tune-up run by Digital CoLab.
Why I go to FinCon
I’m frequently asked why I go to FinCon and whether it’s worth the money. What’s the big deal?
My top reason for attending is the other attendees. I enjoy reconnecting in person with people who I’ve only known online, and I like meeting new people. I’ve made a lot of friends at FinCon who I never would have met any other way.
My second reason is a skills refresher with a battery recharge. (Maybe that’s two reasons?) I can attend presentations and workshops on every area of writing, personal finance, and social media. (This year promises to have the most in-depth discussions yet!) I might attend the top-level writer’s workshop in one hour (maybe even as part of a panel) and in the next hour I’ll sneak into the back row of the “Pinterest For Beginners” presentation. (Hey, I’m a guy who’s still struggling to “get it”.) While I’m at FinCon I’ll catch up on the projects of my peers & friends, and we recommit ourselves to do an even better job with our skills before the next FinCon.
A third reason is the location. It’s a chance to vacation on the Mainland, perhaps in a city where I’ve never been before, and to make extra time for sightseeing. Charlotte in September should be at least as nice as Denver or St Louis or New Orleans, and I’ve enjoyed them all. (I’m still waiting for a FinCon in Waikiki or on Maui. Maybe next year?) My spouse comes along to luxuriate at the hotel, explore the city, and investigate the thrift stores. She’s also highly amused to watch me talk myself hoarse by the evening of the first day.
If I wrote a top-twenty list, the other 17 reasons would all describe the fulfillment and fun that I get out of the week.
But enough about me.
Why other people go to FinCon
Why should you go to FinCon, and why should you spend hundreds of dollars on the experience?
Let’s start on the ground floor. If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about personal finance, this conference will cover every aspect of the field. If you’re curious about a career in writing or financial advice or if you’re starting your own business, then you’ll be among 500 other people who are already doing those things. (As you walk down the hallway listening to the chatter, you could cut the entrepreneurial spirit with a chainsaw.) By the third day you’ll have answered your “Should I?” question and started working on the Whats and Hows. You’ll also find a group of mentors and supporters whose advice you can tap all year long. You’ll also form mastermind groups to help keep you focused and motivated.
Two years ago I watched a military retiree attend FinCon12 to research blogging and social media techniques that could help him start his own financial planning firm. By the second day of the conference we’d already rubbed elbows with Michael Kitces and networked with some well-known financial planners from USAA. That night he was sharing a few frosty beverages with Rick Ferri (who’s also a military retiree) and swapping sea stories. By the end of the conference he was convinced that he was on the right track, and he knew what he needed to do. Today he’s running his own financial planning business and earning money from customers. He uses his social-media skills and his blog to attract military clients from all over the world.
If you’re already in business, then FinCon will help you boost your strengths and fill in the holes in your skills. You may even find partners and freelancers who’d be glad to help you outsource your chores so that you can focus on building your business.
If you’re already an expert in your craft, then FinCon will connect you to the entrepreneurs who are disrupting the business model. You’ll meet new clients (in a new demographic) and you’ll even find people who can help you leverage your talents. That last phrase is not just copywriting boilerplate– FinCon attracts a crowd of fintech entrepreneurs. Several of them are already millionaires from their previous ventures, and they know what it takes to build the next multi-million-dollar business. If millionaires are attending FinCon, then perhaps they have very good reasons to be there.
One final factor: this is our conference. We get to suggest most of the presentations (as well as the “Ask The Experts” sessions) and we deliver most of the content. When was the last time you could shake hands with the conference director and introduce yourself? Could you e-mail them a topic suggestion or nominate a keynote speaker? Could you post to the Facebook group about travel logistics or the dress code for the afterparty? PT takes our suggestions and (with a lot of volunteer labor) turns them into a conference that we’re all proud to be part of.
Paying for FinCon
The perennial FinCon question: is the cost “worth it”?
Wrong question. Ask yourself how long it’d take for your business to earn back the FinCon expenses. Then consider whether the extra fees (for the pro networking pass and the Digital CoLab) would make you commit to work even harder at your projects.
Personally, in 2012 I recouped all of my FinCon expenses (including round-trip airfare from Hawaii) within six months. I boosted my Google AdSense revenue, sold more direct ads, improved my book marketing, and even earned some freelancing money. I wrote 10-15 hours per week (mostly answering reader questions) and quit early almost every day to go surfing. Your side hustle could do the same, and after 18-24 months you could be earning nearly a full-time income from it.
If you’re still on active duty and blogging as a side hustle, then you should take leave to attend FinCon. You’ll learn the skills to boost your earnings up to over $1000/month within 12 months after FinCon, and up to over $2000/month a year after that. (“All it takes” is time & effort!) If you’re within two years of leaving active duty and considering the entrepreneur life then I’d attend FinCon as part of your transition plan.
Frankly, during FinCon14 I only attended one keynote speech and barely two-thirds of the presentations. They were all worth my time, but I got the most out of it (and enjoyed myself the most) when I was networking with other bloggers and entrepreneurs. (Skip down five paragraphs for the other reason I felt comfortable skipping speeches and presentations.) Again, I learned enough from the Q&A to pay for my FinCon expenses within six months.
If the FinCon expenses are a challenge, then you’re still in the right place to solve this personal-finance constraint. FinCon is filled with frugalistas who are experts at cutting the costs down to the bare necessities. You can buy FinCon tickets with early-bird pricing. You’ll sign up on a Google Doc to share a hotel room. You’ll hear about travel hacks, frequent-flyer bargains, and cheap group transportation to the hotel. You may even be able to score a free ticket from a FinCon sponsor in exchange for freelance labor.
I enjoyed my first FinCon because people made me feel welcome. If you see me sitting at a table or standing with a crowd (even if I’m in a conversation) then please walk over and introduce yourself. Ask me anything. If you don’t understand something from a presentation, then sit down with me and your website and we’ll talk through it. (If I don’t know the answer, I know where to find out.) If you’re seeking content then I’d like to introduce myself to your military readers. If you need a podcast guest, I love doing them.
If you have any doubts about your calendar conflicts with FinCon, then buy your passes now and book the hotel before it fills up. There’s plenty of time to sort out your schedule before 17 September, and you can always sell your passes (at cost) to another last-minute attendee. PT sets up the Google Doc to make it happen, and the week before FinCon is pretty busy with last-minute buyers.
Finally, here’s a solution to all of these problems:
- It’s too much information, and I’ll never keep up or process it all!
- I’m deployed during those dates and I can’t take leave.
- I just had a crisis and I can’t make it!
The FinCon presentations are all professionally recorded, the speakers wear microphones, and your purchase includes a virtual pass to view the videos. PT spends big bucks for the contract crew to do this right, and they’re everywhere during the events. You can attend almost the entire FinCon without even being on site. You’ll still miss out on the networking and the personal experience, but you’ll be able to review the information and check the numbers. (It’s also a handy way to research your FinCon blog post.) The virtual pass is included when you attend FinCon, and it’s for sale as a separate event after FinCon.
So even if you can’t go to FinCon, you can still watch it. Your real risk is the opportunities you’ll lose by not attending!
I hope we’ll see you at FinCon15! Early bird discount registration ends on 31 March.
(Images courtesy of PT and the FinCon15 team.)