Highlights from FinCon 2012

by J.D. Roth

Defining your purpose with why, how, and whatI’m in the air, somewhere over Michigan, on my way from Denver to New York City (and then on to Istanbul). I spent the past four days in Colorado at FinCon 2012, the second annual Financial Blogger Conference.

In the past, I would have written a conference summary that highlighted all of the key insights I gleaned over the weekend. I don’t have to do that anymore. Instead, I can focus on how much fun I had seeing old friends and making new ones.

Each time I attend a blogging conference, it’s an intense experience. I’m “on” from the moment I reach the hotel until the moment I leave. This time, I was “on” even longer.

When I boarded the shuttle from the airport on Thursday afternoon, I sat next to Linsey Knerl (from 1099 Mom). She and I (and two other bloggers in the van) chatted the whole way to the hotel. On the early Monday morning shuttle back to the airport, I rode with Andrea and Shannyn and Sarah. From van ride to van ride, I was in constant Social Mode with very little sleep. It was overwhelming — but awesome.

“You’ve changed. You look good.” — Linsey Knerl‘s funny “compliment” to me on the shuttle to the hotel

Friends and Colleagues

My favorite part of blogging conferences is connecting with my friends and colleagues. I’ve “known” some of these financial bloggers for almost seven years, but we rarely have a chance to connect in person.

Ramit won't eat sno-balls, not even for moneyI went to lunch with Jim and Luke on Saturday. There, we hatched a possible business collaboration. Could the three of us become business partners? Possibly! We’ve worked loosely together in the past (and Jim and I even partnered on the Personal Finance Hour podcast), but never had a formal business relationship. That may change in the future.

As always, I spent time with Adam Baker, who may be my best friend among this community. He and I and Ramit spent some time talking about the past, present, and future of blogging, and about what each of us hopes to accomplish in the days ahead. I tried to convince Ramit to eat some Hostess sno-balls, but he wouldn’t do it — not even for twenty bucks. That’s some discipline!

In what is becoming an annual tradition, Kylie Ofiu and I escaped from the crowd for a quiet dinner alone. Kylie’s a sharp young entrepreneur from Australia. Our backgrounds are similar, so it’s interesting to compare notes.

I liked the three metal bracelets Kylie Ofiu was wearing. Each was engraved with one of her favorite sayings:

Kylie's bracelets, which I love
Kylie Ofiu has engraved her favorite quotes on a series of bracelets

I also took time to meet with Pete, who goes by the moniker Mr. Money Mustache. He has a hot early retirement blog, and for good reason. He offers solid advice in a strong personal voice. I loved his presentation at FinCon; his blogging philosophy and mine are closely aligned.

Mr. Money Mustache gives a presentation at FINCON 2012
Mr. Money Mustache gives his presentation at FinCon 2012

I had a chance to chat with lots of other financial bloggers, as well. Neal Frankle and I had several long, interesting conversations. I’m half tempted to leave Turkey early so that I can visit him and his family in Israel.

“People lock themselves in their own prison…If you don’t live with gratitude, you’ll always be poor. You will always be in poverty.” — Neal Frankle, on being grateful for what you have

Ryan was again a great source of inspiration. Last year, he shared a Spanish proverb (“no hay mal que por bien no venga“, which loosely translates as “every cloud has a silver lining”), which had a profound impact on my life. This year, he was again a well of knowledge, teaching me about everything from Turkish tourist spots to blog optimization to simple, tasty breakfasts.

Recipe! Here’s one of Ryan’s favorite breakfasts, one I’ll be sure to try: Fry some chunks of pepper bacon in melted butter. Add shredded parmesan. After the parmesan gets crispy, add eggs and scramble. Serve over sourdough toast..

I didn’t just reconnect with old friends. I made some new ones too. I met dozens of other bloggers, such as Adam, Corey, Karen. I especially enjoyed chatting with Paula from Afford Anything and Shannyn from Frugal Beautiful. I also got to meet my stalker from FinCon 2011, Andrea from So Over This.

The Future of Financial Blogging

J.D. in the channel 9 newsroomThe conference wasn’t all fun and games, of course.

I spent a lot of my time meeting with representatives from financial services companies like USAA and T. Rowe Price and Ally Bank. I listened to pitches from companies with interesting financial apps, companies like RetailMeNot and Budgetable. I did two television interviews.

Plus, I attended a number of lectures and workshops. I appreciated Adam Baker’s thoughtful opening keynote that encouraged us to identify our “why” before trying to find our “how” or “what”, Linsey Knerl’s presentation on connecting with mainstream media, and Mr. Money Mustache’s instructions on how to build a cult-like following.

“Everyone dies in the middle of their lives.” — Adam Baker, about how nobody expects the end of their lives to be the end — they still feel as if there’s more of their story to be told

Some of the most fun I had was during the “How I Built My Million Dollar” blog panel with Jim, Luke, and Will. We got to sit on stage for an hour, fielding questions from other bloggers about the business of blogging. I get a kick out of sharing what I know with other people, and it was especially fun to hear how the four of us had different ideas and opinions.

Expert panel at FINCON 2012
Kelly Whalen puts a question to the “all-star panel” at FinCon 2012

Last year, I gave the opening keynote to FinCon 2011. Most attendees remember the speech because, in order to make a point, I recruited my friend Benny Lewis to storm the stage dressed as a Klingon (complete with bat’leth!) This year, I gave the closing keynote, and it wasn’t nearly as exciting.

My talk was on the community and the future of financial blogging. Rather than ramble on about my own half-baked notions, I recruited eight of my fellow bloggers to join me on stage one at a time to share their views.

J.D. interviews Flexo at FINCON 2012
J.D. interviews Flexo about the blogging community at FinCon 2012

Perhaps my favorite part of the whole talk was being able to introduce Karawynn from Pocketmint to a larger audience. Karawynn’s the reason I’m a blogger. I first found her online journal back in 1997, and it inspired me to start one of my own. Then, a decade later, she contacted me because she was starting a personal finance blog. She had inspired me, and now I was inspiring her. Love it.

FinCon 2013

Though I’ve retired from Get Rich Slowly, I’ll be at FinCon 2013. For one thing, I’ll be writing about money here now and then. For another, I’m about to resume my duties at Time‘s Moneyland blog. And, most of all, I want to see my friends and colleagues once more.

Others seem to feel the same way. In fact, I’ve managed to make plans to see some of these folks again on this long trip. When I return from Istanbul to New York City in early October, Luke and I plan to see a show on Broadway. After that, I’ll fly for a speaking engagement in Atlanta, where I hope to have dinner with Paula. And when I make it to San Francisco, I intend to meet with a couple of the companies that talked to me this weekend.

But now? Now it’s time to set business aside. This plane has almost reached JFK. For the next three weeks, I’m going to forget about financial blogging and focus on fun. Next stop: Istanbul!

Updated: 11 September 2012

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