Highlights from FinCon 2012

11 September 2012 · 30 comments

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:

  • “Luck is where opportunity meets preparation.”
  • “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?”
  • “I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become.”
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!

1 Lance@MoneyLife&More September 11, 2012 at 05:37

Enjoy Istanbul! Every fincon post I read makes me sad I couldn’t make it this year. Hopefully it is mid to late month next year so accountants can make it too! Sounds like I would have a blast if I can break out of my shyness and meet people.

2 Dianne September 12, 2012 at 20:44

Oh Lance – If I could tell you how many people I met at FinCon12 that said they were shy and uncomfortable in crowds that truly felt in their element…you would totally have a BLAST! Mark it on your calendar for next year!

3 Dianne Samonas September 12, 2012 at 20:51

JD, It was so great to meet you after years of ‘stalking you’ on-line! You are the REAL DEAL and I look forward to hearing (reading) more of what life is bringing your way. You are an inspiration to many…

4 Tyler Karaszewski September 11, 2012 at 08:56

As I’ve drifted away from GRS I’ve become a big fan of Mr. Money Mustache, both because his site is fun to read, and because I’ve finally become convinced about his goals and lifestyle. Financial Independence is my goal now, too. I’ve even thinking about starting my own blog to track my progress.

Glad to see you back, J.D.

5 Kylie Ofiu September 11, 2012 at 11:25

It was great to see you again and I hope we continue our tradition next year. I miss the States already. I met so many cool people at Fincon12.

Have a blast in Turkey. I’m looking forward to hearing more about it.

6 Mr. Money Mustache September 11, 2012 at 13:12

Thanks for the mention, JD, and congratulations on this new blog! You’ve got me as a reader from day one, and I’m really looking forward to following along in this latest adventure.

I share your thoughts on this business about being “ON” and how intense the blogger conference can be. I loved it, and I must admit I’ll be tempted to go to the 2013 edition as well. But I also wrote nothing during the whole four days. So it is nice to have an alternate life here in my quiet basement office as well.

@Tyler K – Hooray! So nice to hear about your “conversion”. Perhaps with JD’s retirement, he won’t mind if we go out and grab a few hundred thousand more GRS readers now :-)

7 Kathleen @ Frugal Portland September 11, 2012 at 13:27

I like your voice, and I’m happy you’re writing. :) Enjoy the next steps!

8 Martin September 11, 2012 at 14:23

Not till fill your head too much on your own blog — but JD is one cool cat! This guy owned the dance floor and was open to chatting with every single person at the conference.

I could’ve sworn you said you were an introvert when I started reading your blog back in the day!

9 jdroth September 11, 2012 at 14:30

Haha. If by “owned the dance floor” you mean “looked like he had been electrocuted, but was doing it on purpose” — or however Baker put it. :)

I was an introvert, but I really like meeting people. Interactions with others are what makes life interesting.

10 guinness416 September 11, 2012 at 14:51

Ramit is so dreamy

*sigh*

11 Karawynn @ Pocketmint September 11, 2012 at 14:55

As I told you before, I’m stoked to see that you’re picking up, er, ‘self-directed’ writing again. The sale of GRS did some really good things for you, I know, but it also quieted your personal voice, which I missed. :) Glad we got to chat a little last weekend. Have a great trip!

12 Suba September 11, 2012 at 15:00

It was great seeing you again JD! Glad to see you back writing again. Have a blast in Istanbul !

13 Jacob @ iHeartBudgets September 11, 2012 at 15:22

Man, another post that makes me wish I could have made it out to meet some of the coolest digital people I “know”. I’ll probably meet you an FinCon13, assuming I don’t quit in a fit of rage writing about Term vs. Whole life insurance…

14 Shannyn @frugalbeautiful.com September 11, 2012 at 16:39

Have a fantastic time in Istanbul! You also have excellent taste in Scotch. It was a blast hanging out. Safe travels and can’t wait to hear updates of your time overseas!

15 Tom Drake September 11, 2012 at 17:20

FINCON was a blast. Hopefully we’ll continue our now 2 year tradition of having an after-FINCON dinner!

16 Corey September 11, 2012 at 17:29

It was great meeting you JD. I look forward to seeing you next year (if not before). If you’re ever in NJ, feel free to look me up. Then, you can give me your well-thought-out response to what you are going to do differently. :)

17 L Marie Joseph September 11, 2012 at 17:49

When are you coming to Atlanta? I would love to see you speak. Where will Fincon13 be?

18 Paula @ Afford Anything September 11, 2012 at 23:51

Connecting with people — including dozens of the people you mentioned in this blog post — is the sole reason I come to FinCon. I can learn blogging lessons anytime, anywhere. But I can only connect with this community once a year.

At FinCon11 I felt like I was meeting everyone for the first time (which was true); at FinCon12 I felt like I was cementing friendships that will last for years.

19 Linden September 12, 2012 at 09:56

You’ve retired from Get Rich Slowly? I saw your post that you were “On Vacation” for the rest of the month, but not that you were finished there. Can you elaborate?

Congrats on the new blog, I’m glad to hear your online voice again!

20 Crystal September 12, 2012 at 12:28

Have a great trip! It was a lot of fun talking to you Friday afternoon! :-)

21 Marie at FamilyMoneyValues September 12, 2012 at 14:36

FinCon12 was awesome. PT and staff did a great job.

JD, I loved hearing you speak and the idea of interviewing others to see what the future of personal finance blogs brings was inspired! I’m just sorry we didn’t have time to hear from them all!

22 Linsey Knerl September 12, 2012 at 23:29

Could my face BE any redder? Of all the quotes to credit to me… oh well ;)

So fantastic seeing you again, and YES — you took me a bit by surprise as I looked and looked and wasn’t sure it was you at first when we got on that shuttle. Amazing how life can change us in just a year!

Thanks so much for being gracious of your time. I look forward to seeing what adventures you have in your future, JD.

23 Kelly September 13, 2012 at 09:17

I was wondering where that picture might end up! :) I hope you have a great trip. My only regret from FinCon was not getting more time one on one with more folks, you included.

I’m excited to see what this blog will develop into over the next few months. Have a great trip.

24 Benny Lewis September 13, 2012 at 11:21

Ah, me charging in and yelling in Klingon that your mother has a smooth forehead… good times :D I’ll have to see about crashing Fincon 2013! ;)

25 Joe September 14, 2012 at 00:35

Being “ON” was tough for me. Meeting that many people really wore me out. I think I’ll do better next year now that I know what to expect. Hope you’re having fun in Istanbul.

26 Mutant Supermodel September 14, 2012 at 09:46

If you ever meander down to Miami, please do let me know. I’d like to meet you and wouldn’t mind showing you my gorgeous hometown

27 Stanley Lee September 18, 2012 at 22:23

I like your current blog even better than Get Rich Slowly. Love to see more of your adventures.

28 Ryan September 20, 2012 at 18:08

Great to see you again, too, J.D. I hope you’re having a blast in Turkey!

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