FinCon 16 is officially a wrap!
Yes, I’m a bit delayed, I know. I’ve been traveling and wanted to make sure this post accurately captures a clear snapshot of my first ever FinCon experience.
Warning, this is a long post, but I hope you will find it helpful in one way or another. *Please forgive any typos… my eyes are starting to glaze over! 😉
My First FinCon Ever!
For the uninitiated, FinCon is an annual conference that caters to new media (bloggers, podcasters, etc.) and finance (personal finance, money, investing, etc.). It was started by PT (Phillip Taylor of PT Money).
This year marks their 6th FinCon conference and it was hosted in my backyard… sunny San Diego! It was held at the Sheraton on Harbor Island just across from the airport. That made it nice and convenient for those flying in.
I started noticing on the FinCon FB group that people were arriving as early as Sunday. I guess people figured out that San Diego is the PERFECT place to extend out for a vacation!
Pre-FinCon: DAY 0 (Tuesday)
My friend, Carl (Mr. 1500 of 1500days.com), let me know he’d be in town early. So we arranged a Pre-FinCon lunch on Tuesday.
I finally had the pleasure of meeting Mindy (Mrs. 1500) who is as awesome as her counterpart. 🙂 They gave me some cool tips to make the most of my first FinCon (like which swag to keep an eye out for!!). It was definitely nice to meet up pre-conference because they were both super popular personalities during the event.
There were dozens and dozens of live media streams that happened throughout this week!
FinCon: DAY 1 (Wednesday)
Wednesday afternoon was the official start of registration. It was a quick 25-minute drive from home and I was lucky to find an affordable parking lot directly across from the hotel – just $10 per day vs. $34 at the hotel.
I got there pretty much on time and already there were hundreds of people congregating and lining up for their official FinCon16 badges. After I received mine, I headed off to volunteer for a bit before the First Timer Orientation.
BTW, volunteering is a great way to quickly meet the event organizers and get a better understanding of the conference flow. Sherrian did a wonderful job of coordinating the volunteer efforts! I got to meet PT in passing and he was a nice as he looks. 🙂
The First Timer Orientation was super helpful. PT did a fantastic job of helping us newbies to figure out how to get the most out of our first FinCon. One recurring theme that I kept hearing was to prioritize time interacting with people. He informed us that all the sessions are videoed and available for the participants 2 weeks after the conference is over. This was critical information so we didn’t have to stress about taking copious notes or worry about missing a session.
After the presentation, we had the opportunity to chat with the people at our table. I had a nice conversation with Madeline from America Saves, a great non-profit that helps to educate low-income earners about the benefits of sound financial management. Just following this was a kick-off party sponsored by PenFed Credit Union.
As we walked through the doors, we were greeted by smiling faces from PenFed and given a nice swag bag and 2 drink tickets. There were some nice appetizers and it was fun mingling with Natalie and Brittany from Credit.com.
I also had a great conversation with Han from Investment Zen. He and Nate are doing some exciting things with their site! I interacted with a few other people and headed over to Your Money Meetup where I met up with Paul and Sherene Vasey from Cash Crunch Games. After watching Jason Vitug’s presentation, I headed home.
FinCon: DAY 2 (Thursday)
I was back at the Sheraton bright and early Thursday morning. After grabbing a quick pastry, I headed into my first breakout session.
On FIRE: Everything You Need to Know About the Financial Independence / Early Retirement Movement
The two panelists that stood out to me where Joe from Retire by 40 and JD Roth from Money Boss. The main takeaway was that FI looks different for everyone. It’s really a function of your lifestyle and thus your relative expenses.
Other notes included:
- Get clear on your values first because this will dictate WHERE you should spend your money
- Those that choose frugality usually perceive it as a gateway to somewhere else, thus they don’t feel like they’re having to give up something
- Best way to NOT be a consumer is to be a PRODUCER
- Early retirement doesn’t mean stop working all at once. You can ease into it with mini-retirements, a sabbatical, etc.
- Maintaining Financial Independence (FI) is a lot of work… I’d agree with that!!
The next session I attended was:
Brand New Blogger Goes from 0 to 10,000 Email Subscribers in 10 Months
This was run by Chris Peach of Money Peach. This was a popular topic and the room was packed with newbie bloggers as well as seasoned vets. Here are my main takeaways:
- Add a Lead Magnet (give away something useful)
- Use autoresponders to engage your audience
- Use the Top 7 Spots to grab email addresses (see link below)
- For a copy of Chris’ email presentation, you can find it here
My next session was given by Paula Pant of Afford Anything.
Write So Well They Can’t Ignore You
I loved this session because it wasn’t a typical one I’d attend. Paula really dug down into how to write clearly and concisely. Here are a few notes:
- Control your pacing with shorter sentences
- Beware of the rogue “It”!
- Be frugal with your words
- Use strong verbs – eg. instead of “eliminate debt” consider “crush debt”!
- Kill adverbs. If you need an adverb, you probably need a better verb.
Lunch was hosted out by the Expo Hall with 5 different Food Trucks. They issued tickets with different times on them to ensure an orderly flow. It was this time that I met up with O’Brian (aka OB) from OutofStateInvestor.com, Brian from RentalMindset.com, and Amy from Yetisaurus. The expo hall was pretty cool. There were lots of different media and financial companies there eager to make connections with us.
(When I got home later that night, my kids tore open my bags and started pulling out every last pen, coloring book, phone charger, beach ball, t-shirt, selfie stick, etc!!)
During lunch, I met up with Joe from Retire by 40 and met several other bloggers and real estate investors. I met David Ning from MoneyNing, Gia a former PF blogger turned real estate investor, Viet from DealZon, Chris Huntley, and Todd Tresidor from Financial Mentor. Everyone was really nice and shared some insightful stories of how blogging used to be 10 years ago!
Some of these pioneers were on the forefront and ran several blogs at once. They would even produce content up to 3 times a day which is crazy (to me at least)! A few of them have moved on to different businesses or real estate investing.
One thing that happens at FinCon a lot is that you get caught up in conversations. So, although I had intended on seeing the keynote this afternoon, I ended up chatting with Joe from Retire by 40
and Sam from Financial Samurai in the hallway.
It was awesome to chat with them in person as I admire both of their sites, and we are fellow early retirees. Even cooler is that they are both down to earth and very nice! I’m collaborating with both on some future guest posts, so look out for that. 🙂
Around 5pm, I headed up to Quinn’s for a happy hour with some other real estate investors. Brian and OB were the ones that organized this, so I met back up with them and Amy. There were several new faces here as well which would soon become new friends. Eric of Eric Bowlin is a fellow real estate investor who’s found FI with 27+ units. We’d be hanging out much more throughout the next few days.
I also met Buddy Broome who owns multiple units in LA. He’s got some incredible section 8 tenant stories (think exploding toilets)! I also got to meet Brandon Turner from Bigger Pockets and his adorable daughter. Also in attendance was Han, Claudia, and a few others I didn’t have the chance to interact with as much as I would have liked to.
Finally, I met Rich Carey from Rich on Money who is an active military officer who has invested remotely all the way from Germany!
A handful of us walked over to the Trade King Kickoff Party at Costerra Restaurant. Here I met Chad Carson, yet another active real estate investor. He owns a whopping 90 units and is a teacher at heart. Wow! The party was great. There was lots of food, drinks, and interacting with people from all areas of personal finance.
Of course, I hung out with my boyz OB, Brian, and Eric some more.
On my way out I had the pleasure of meeting Jackie from The Debt Myth. She has run a successful site for many years now and even developed a mobile app… cool! Jackie was super friendly and we had a fascinating conversation about the earliest FinCons.
FinCon: Day 3 (Friday)
I was pretty eager to attend the morning sessions. In fact, I was a little too eager because after parking I forgot to pay for my day pass at the kiosk!
2 hours had gone by before I realized my oversight and I rushed over to fix it. But by then, someone had already reminded me with this lovely blue and white piece of paper… DOH.
Pinterest Master Class Panel
As a PF blogger, I’ve generally steered away from Pinterest. But, I kept hearing buzz about it and decided to check it out. I’m glad I did! I was blown away by how successful some bloggers are utilizing it. So, I’m a complete newbie when it comes to Pinterest:
- Buy your own FONT to stand out
- Pinterest is quickly becoming a dominant player in search
- Use vertical graphics to maximize mobile screen real estate
- Switch to a business account to see stats
Next up I transitioned over to video…
Almost Famous: Using Video to Make Yourself a Star
This session was hosted by Stacy Johnson of Money Talk News – a 20-year veteran news reporter.
- A great video comes from a compelling story
- No one should be on video for longer than 15 seconds before changing scenes
- Ideal video length is 2 minutes
- When interviewing, try videoing when they don’t know you’ve even started
- Emulate other stories that are successful
- Ask how does it feel?
After these morning sessions were over, we had some additional time to check out the expo hall. This was cool, cuz you can never have enough swag! Well, at least from my daughter’s perspective. 😉
After exploring some more booths, I caught up with my friend Dom (aka GenYFinanceGuy).
It was great to finally run into Pia (aka Mama Hustle) who caught me up on her exciting career move. Also, I was happy to meet Claudia Pennington, a digital marketer, who struck out on her own recently. I wish these girls all the best! I admire that they are willing to push forward and make change happen.
We were on our own for lunch, so a few of us decided to head offsite to grab some food. Since I am also a local SD food blogger, I was tasked with picking a place to eat. I suggested we drive out a few miles to get some authentic tacos at Las Cuatro Milpas. There’s always a line, but it’s always worth the wait.
I guess we weren’t the only ones in search of great tacos as we bumped into Sam (Financial Samurai) and Carl (Mr. 1500) there too. If you’re ever in San Diego and want some legit tacos, check ’em out.
Following lunch, I decided to attend the email marketing panel.
How to Level Up Email Marketing for 2017
More fantastic email ideas from the pros! If you don’t know these guys (and gal) below, you need to!
- Pat Flynn, best-selling author, and blogger – Smart Passive Income
- Noah Kagan, Founder of SumoMe
- Chris Ducker, Online Entrepreneur
- Brandon Turner from Bigger Pockets
- Erin Chase from $5 Dinners
Again, email was a super popular topic!
- Good open rates on your emails are 25% or higher (I’m currently at 40% on average)
- Pat randomly emails people directly on his list
- Add your newsletter sign-up to your email signature
- Promise to respond directly in the beginning
- Include short video
If you haven’t seen it yet, you should definitely check out Pat Flynn’s latest email guide – Email The Smart Way.
Following the panel, I met back up with Viet who introduced me to Charles from Credit Donkey. We connected quickly because we are all from Southern California (SoCal). Since they were hungry we headed out for an early dinner along with Dom, OB, Eric, & Amy.
I took them over to Liberty Public Marketplace (LPM) since we had several people. LPM has a dozen or so eateries to choose from in an open warehouse area.
It was a perfect San Diego day, so we ate outside in the patio area. We must have talked for hours because it quickly turned dark and we missed the entire Ignite Event!
Hopefully, I’ll get to check it out next year. I hear it’s a pretty cool event where speakers have 5 minutes to talk about anything. There was an Ignite after party as well, but I was pretty tired after the previous days. Plus, we would have had to drive out to yet another location.
FinCon: Day 4 (Saturday)
Whew! With the final day of the conference upon me, I was already brimming with excitement with everything I had learned. But, I was still in for a few more cool surprises and epiphanies on this final day.
Breakfast was a quick pastry and some orange juice with Mr. & Mrs. 1500, Brandon from Mad Fientist, Brandon Turner, and Chad Carson.
For the morning’s session, I jumped into the Trend Spotting Panel as Sam (Financial Samurai) hailed us over (he was one of the panelist).
Trend Spotting Panel
- Sam follow the $, find the pattern (note to self, figure out how to invest into Virtual and Augmented Reality)
- Native advertising is expected to be a $20B industry soon
- Video is still trending with much higher engagement
- Create longer and meatier content (how about this post!!)
- Readers are looking for shortcuts to success
After the panel, I met Erion of Investing Architect who is a fellow entrepreneur and REI. Here’s a picture Chad took on his phone. Note to self for next year, take more pictures of actual people!
Roundtable Discussions & Meeting J$
One really cool breakout was the round table discussions. This was held in the main ballroom and there were different tables with different topics of discussion… eg. SEO, Real Estate Investing, Coaching, etc. (…I think)
I was excited to check it out. As I walked in with Brian, J$ flagged him over to shoot the shit about the previous night’s party and invited us to sit with him.
So, I finally got to meet J$ from Rockstar Finance and Budgets Are Sexy in person! I had been wanting to meet him all throughout the conference, but he was always swarmed by different people (he’s a popular guy!). When we finally had a chance to chat, he was so cool and down to earth. You can tell he really cares about helping people, especially those that are just starting out.
Well, I never ended up attending a specific roundtable discussion, but meeting J$ was way better. Thanks man!
With 1200 people at FinCon16, it was somewhat impossible to meet and engage with everyone. The first day your voice will probably be raw and hoarse from talking to so many people. As the days progress, you’ll find yourself naturally clumping into groups of friends you find common ground with. For me, this was the real estate investor (REI) crew and local SoCal friends.
It’s still a good idea to go out and meet new people every day. You never know who you may collaborate with later on. Furthermore, reach out to others that you want to meet specifically BEFORE you attend. This will increase your chances of meeting them as I mentioned in my prior post – Why I Love Conferences and How to Milk Them for All They’re Worth.
We were on our own for lunch again, although I did hear some of the vendors sponsored lunch for partners. Maybe next year I’ll crash one of those. 🙂 I ended up grabbing a quick lunch with OB & Eric at a deli.
After lunch, I was excited to attend the…
Financial Coaching Best Practices Panel
As a beginning financial coach, I’m definitely still learning the ropes. So, this panel of experienced financial coaches was just who I needed to hear from. Each of the coaches worked in different areas, but share some common practices.
I also learned some additional clarity between financial coaches, financial advisors, and financial planners. Todd at Financial Mentor does a beautiful job at describing some of the finer nuances here.
There’s a lot of misunderstanding with who does what which is perhaps one reason I’ve had some trouble gaining some traction. I think I’ve been too broad.
Financial coaching was such as popular topic that they literally couldn’t answer 80% of the questions they received in advanced. So, the panel was kind enough to host a webinar after the fact to finish up the job.
Just following the coaching panel, was a one-on-one mentoring session in the main ballroom. I was paired up with Scott Maderer, who happened to be one of the panelist in the financial coaching session. This was fantastic because it was directly related to questions around my overall focus.
You see, as an early retiree, I started this blog as a way to share, contribute, and eventually monetize my efforts. While I don’t need to monetization results to survive, it also leaves me dabbling and unable to focus on one path. Inevitably, I’m shooting myself in the foot because I have been too broad. Scott helped me to identify who my potential avatar truly is. Who am I trying to help? Who am I writing for?
This could be an entire post in and or itself, but it should suffice to say that the clearer you are on your customer avatar, the better suited you’ll be towards helping others and being about to monetize your efforts. Scott helped me to really identify my potential customer avatar as myself 15 years ago… delicious food for thought!
We also talked about digital products and ways to attract new clients. Thanks, Scott!
I won’t spend too much time on these afternoon keynotes since this post won’t ever end!! Plus, I’m sure there are some other bloggers out there who have some great synopsises already. I’ll link up once I find them (or feel free to share them with me).
Keynote – Jeff Rose of Good Financial Cents
Jeff was well spoken and shared his most recent successes of hitting multiple six-figure months!
However, it didn’t happen overnight and he spent many evenings pounding away at his computer day-in, day-out.
His reminder to everyone – Take a Day for Yourself (No work, no email, nothing except family & friends).
Keynote – Noah Kagan of Sumo Me
Watching Noah was truly entertaining. He definitely polarized the audience with this unfiltered masculine commentary. I found parts of it particularly hilarious, though I can see how he could have offended others.
Nevertheless, he had a similar message about finding success. It didn’t happen overnight. He went through numerous failures but kept persevering.
To change things up, he decided to hand out lottery tickets to everyone in the room! His point… you won’t get rich playing the lottery. I was fun to see everyone scramble to get one. No winner for me!
Last, he took his entire speaker fee and handed it out to the audience. It didn’t get to everyone, but I’d say half of the audience walked home with a $50 bill! Interesting social experiment.
I wasn’t lucky enough to get one of those (thanks Viet…haha), but hopefully, those that did (Eric) will use it well. 😉
Following the keynote, there was a Plutus Awards reception in one of the ballrooms. I met up with Han and his friend, Jennifer, and Pauline from Reach Financial Independence.
They invited me up to the hotel club lounge which had some nice amenities, free food, and a killer view of the San Diego Bay. It was great to get caught up with Pauline who knows everyone in the PF blogger space! She’s also awesome because she asked me to contribute to an article that got picked up by the Huffington Post earlier this year. 🙂 She lives a really cool life completely on her own terms.
The Plutus Awards Ceremony started an hour later so we made our way over. They celebrate the best PF blogs within several different categories. (Maybe next year I’ll submit an application to be considered!)
It was really cool because Pauline was nominated in two categories and actually won Best International Personal Finance Blog! She received a nice plaque and some cool gifts… well deserved. 🙂
After the Plutus Awards, there was a closing FinCon farewell party out on the lawn. I made my rounds and tried to say goodbye to everyone that I had met up with during the conference. It was pretty dark out, so that didn’t work out too well. But, it was a nice way to end a fantastic first FinCon.
I hung out with Viet and OB on the way out and called it night… 24 hours later I was on the road to SF!
Final Thoughts, Takeaways, & Action Items
FinCon16 certainly didn’t disappoint! I must say that PT & his team did an incredible job. The attention to detail was spot-on… especially the graphics and brand consistency. I’ve been to a lot of conferences and this one really stood out.
The conference app was wonderful too. It contained the entire agenda and all the attendees. You could even message people directly from it!
Thanks to EVERYONE I had the pleasure of interacting with a little bit or a lot. If we didn’t meet this time, let’s meet next year!
I already purchased my ticket for next year in Dallas, TX! Although it will be more expensive with airfare & hotel, it’ll be nice to be onsite in the heart of the conference. If you’re thinking about attending next year, snag your ticket now. You can always trade it later if you can’t make it, but it’s a lot cheaper now.
Here were my best takeaways for me personally…
Takeaways & Actions Items
So, I plan on doing all of these, but the ones in bold are my top 3 actionable ones.
- Follow up with everyone individually
- Update my Feedly with my new friends
- Use a Schedule for my Posts
- Guest post for blogs you admire
- Identify my customer avatar and write directly to him/her
- Create a lead magnet for increased email sign ups
- Place ad in popular pages for easy revenue opportunity
- Join a local fincon meetup group (I may join L.A.’s because S.D. doesn’t look that active… I may need to investigate further)
- Establish your own mastermind (in the works!)
- Create video content
- Get social on Pinterest
Wait, FinCon16 wasn’t over??
Literally a day after FinCon16, I was on the road with my family to visit some friends and family in the Bay area (ie. San Francisco area).
Part of the reason we were up there was to celebrate our close friend’s birthday. So, her husband assembled several local friends for a small bday get together. While we were there, I met Jenna who happened to mention she was in San Diego the previous week… guess what she was doing there?? Attending FinCon! Such a small world. 🙂
Alright, that was A LOT!!! I bet you didn’t read everything, did you?? If you did, kudos to you… I’ll send you a lottery ticket. 😉
FinCon16 attendees, what were your Top 3 takeaways? Did we have the chance to meet? (I hope so! If not, FinCon17 for sure!) Where can I find you online?
For others who didn’t get to attend, or just reading, are there any ideas here that will move you towards action? Will you be joining me for FinCon17?