I returned home this week from FinCon 2018, the grand finale of my busiest month in recent years.

Even though I’m eager to get back to my wonderful everyday family man life, I gave myself permission to take a mental health break for my first day and a half back home.

For me, this meant putting no expectations on myself to accomplish much more than spending lots of time with my kids and giving Ellen a much deserved break from being on.

Below, I’ll share a rundown of my FinCon 2018 experience followed by a few takeaways from the conference for anyone considering attending a future FinCon.

FinCon 2018 in Review

Little man. Big pool.

For me, the best part about FinCon is the inherent concentration of people with a mindful relationship with their money. When you get that in common with people, so many other things tend to fall into place nicely as well.

I find I enjoy talking to everyone I meet at FinCon and hearing their stories. If you’re anything like me, you will too!

The Pre-FinCon Caboose Party

My friends Bianca & Marla invited me to Wisconsin for a Fincon pre-party at their recently acquired adjoining cabooses. I couldn’t resist a fun weekend with Bianca, Marla, and friends, not to mention the chance to see these cabooses in person.

Our days at the caboose included such activities as day drinking, 11 mile hikes, and watching bad comedy movies.

My caboose weekend friends from left to right: Bianca, Lauren, & Marla (she’s unbelievably social, but chooses to have no online presence. I love that about her!)

Hanging out with these three ladies for a few days would have been great enough, but I also got to meet Bianca’s parents and grandmother. The genetics run strong in her family — both of her parents and her grandmother looked at least a decade younger than their age.

Wednesday — Day 1

The caboose invite included mention of free drinks on our Southwest flight from Wisconsin to FinCon. Joanna joined us for the flight to FinCon and managed to get this photo of us.

One bloody mary into the flight, I requested a selfie with the man wearing this shirt.

We arrived at FinCon just in time to catch the opening keynote. We happened to arrive as our friends Drew from Guy on Fire, Mr. & Mrs. WoW, and Mr. AE from Apathy Ends were walking in with a giant box of beer. Prost!

Now, to prepare for FinCon I’d gone months without drinking any alcohol. This may have been a flawed strategy. I was already feeling pretty buzzed after my couple of opening Keynote beers, then FinCon staff handed me free drink tickets as I walked out.

At least that’s how I’m going to try to explain the first of many trips to this giant pool Flamingo in the hall.

Thankfully, some friends saved the day by inviting me along to dinner at A Land Remembered, courtesy of Charles Schwab.

Now, this was one of those standing dinners where appetizers and drinks were flowing freely. Except there weren’t any vegetarian appetizers. There was a salad bar, but celery sticks can only do so much to counter the effects of more alcohol on an otherwise empty stomach.

I recall having great conversations with Paulette Perhach and Jennifer Jackson in particular, but in my buzzed state I may not have been the best judge of conversation quality.

I think I held myself together pretty well. I didn’t get kicked out so that’s a win if you ask me!

Shortly after midnight, hunger got the best of me and I realized all of the restaurants were closed.

This ended up being a blessing in disguise though. I found this group of FinCon Atlanta folks playing a late-night game of Phase 10 in the lobby. Del Shawn, one of the first people I met last year at FinCon Dallas, invited me to join them.

PT walked by shortly afterwards and looked like he was considering joining. Instead, he wisely headed on to the elevators and presumably to bed — he had a conference to run after all!

I had overpriced room service delivered to our table and spent the next couple of hours witnessing one of the greatest upsets in Phase 10 history. Del Shawn came back from dead last to win and was pretty pleased with herself, as you can tell here. James & Jason, not so much. 🙂

Thursday — Day 2

First thing in the morning, I showered then walked to Publix to buy some groceries. After spending half an hour walking around in Orlando’s infamous humidity, I required a 2nd shower of the day. Refreshed again, I headed to the conference to support my friend J.D. Roth at his morning ‘Ancient Bloggers’ talk.

After J.D.’s talk, Emma, Brad, Bianca, Marla & I headed back to the room Marla & I were sharing to eat some lunch together.

After lunch, we headed to the opening of FinCon Central to have a chance to look over the swag before the best of it had all been given away.

At 3:00, Stephen, Bianca, Marla, Jillian and I headed to another sponsor excursion (thank you, Varo!)

This time, we headed offsite to the ICON, a 400 ft tall observation wheel.

At the ICON, I had great conversations with a number of awesome bloggers, including:

After the ICON event, Jillian & I headed to the Pro Pass cocktail reception at 5:30. There, I managed to have even more conversations with fun people, including:

After the reception, I headed back to the hotel room to get ready for Carl, Mindy’s, & Gwen’s awesome beer tasting party. As silly as it sounds, this event is one of my favorite things about attending FinCon. Craft beer enthusiasts around the country and beyond meet up to share fancy beers with one another.

As Marla & I were getting ready, we realized a spectacular storm was forming and heading our way. Since our room on the top floor had the best view, Marla invited our friends Pete & Heather to our room for an impromptu storm watching party.

Pete & Heather brought some fancy wine to share and we turned out all of the lights. We spent the next hour and a half or so in the dark together watching the storm roll in and cracking each other up.

Buzzed on wine, we all then headed to join up with the festivities at Carl & Gwen’s beer party.

Carl built up this beer tasting party quite a bit in his invite:

“The purpose of this event is to sample good beer. That’s where you come in! Bring some good beer (or cider or whatever) from your part of the world.”

I prepared myself to sample some world-class fancy beers. But honestly, with that kind of build up, I expected Carl to have a more distinguishing pallet…

Thanks for the photo, Sean!

Carl’s proclivities for Busch beer aside, I talked to more great people than I can count. Some highlights included my conversations with:

Friday — Day 3

Although Days 1 & 2 were late nights, I dragged myself out of bed to attend the 8:00 a.m. ‘4 Flavors of FIRE’ panel moderated by J.D. Roth and featuring our friends Carl, Pete, the Physician on Fire, & Jillian.

Marla, Bianca, and I sat front and center, but I gave my seat up for Heather when she arrived. This worked out great, because I ended up sitting next to Patricia Reyes and getting a chance to not only meet a nice lady, but also practice my Spanish before and after the talk.

Raina from Reading Richly brought Jillian these vegan snacks from Texas shortly before her talk. Jillian kindly thought of me and asked Raina to offer me one. Thanks, Raina and Jillian!

Later that morning, I wandered back to the exhibit hall to hear Stefanie O’Connell’s talk at FinCon Central and eat the free lunch.

After lunch, Bianca invited me to join Pete & Heather at the pool so I changed and headed that way. There wasn’t a lot on the agenda so we hung out there until the afternoon ChooseFI meetup.

As we were about to head that way, we heard early reports that the venue only accommodated ~40 people and was turning people away. Our hasty backup plan was to hunker down in a corner of the lobby and drink.

Joel from FI180, his wife, Lauren, Emma, Marla, and I spent the next couple of hours drinking champagne and brainstorming a podcast idea that Joel & Lauren might act on, among other things. I hope they do launch their podcast — it sounded really promising!

I later discovered that something resembling a second round of Carl & Gwen’s beer party had started up in front of FinCon Central and joined in on some more Flamingo fun until the Plutus awards.

I was having such a good time in the Flamingo, I nearly missed the awards altogether. But I remembered that a number of friends were nominated so I headed that way to cheer them on.

After Plutus and more Flamingo time, I headed back to the room to eat. Marla invited J.D. Roth back to our room as well since he and Marla hadn’t had much time to talk.

I’m glad J.D. and I got some time to talk despite his jam-packed conference schedule. We figured out I live a couple minutes from family members that he and Kim often visit. I’m looking forward to the chance to have them over during one of their future trips to Colorado.

At around 1:00 a.m., we all called it a night.

Saturday — Day 4

After going and going and going for awhile, it felt great to just take it easy Saturday morning. Marla invited Emma over to our place for breakfast. We all talked and lounged around until it was time to go support Brad & Jonathan at their podcasting talk.

This was my favorite talk I attended and I’d encourage any other FinCon attendees with a virtual pass to watch it. They have a great dynamic together, are both gifted communicators, and presented some genuinely useful information.

Even though I have no intention of ever starting a podcast, I was inspired by the broader message and think most of it can easily be applied to blogging or other creative outlets.

I’m a little embarrassed to admit I haven’t listened to their podcast yet. But after hearing the two of them give their talk, I’ve subscribed and plan to catch up on some past episodes, particularly those featuring some of our friends in the FI community.

After their talk, I ran into another Brad a.k.a. the Frug and we had lunch together.

After lunch, I headed over to catch the panel discussion featuring some of the cast and crew involved in the upcoming ‘Playing with FIRE’ documentary.

After catching the trailer and talking more with the people producing this film, I believe it has a real chance of encouraging millions of additional people towards the underlying FI philosophy: you can become wealthy by producing more and consuming less, all while making less demands of the planet’s finite resources.

I believe in the film so much that I made the extremely uncharacteristic move of backing the project’s kickstarter campaign with a $100 contribution. As I write this, it’s more than 150% funded with 710 backers and 13 days to go!

At 3:30, I headed to the Big Ideas Keynote to support Pete (not that he really needed it!)

After downplaying his talk as just a simple Q&A, he proceeded to walk through a few slides he had prepared and gave an excellent talk. My friends Sean & Kevin from the 2 Frugal Dudes podcast actually live-streamed the closing keynote to Twitch (MMM’s talk begins at about 23:05.)

After the Keynote Saturday evening, I was once again invited along to a sponsor dinner at A Land Remembered, this time courtesy of Chris Hogan & the Ramsey Team.

At the dinner, I got to catch up with Steve from Think Save Retire, his wife Courtney (wearing a badge for their other project — A Streamin Life), and the anonymous writer “ESI” from ESIMoney.com.

I remarked on ESI’s remarkable ability to remain consistently prolific — he publishes around 4 articles per week — and I asked him to walk me through a day in his life. I was even more impressed with him after hearing his response:

  • He walks to and from his gym every day and works out from around 8:00 a.m. to around 9:30 a.m. When he gets home, he usually goes for a walk with his wife.
  • He doesn’t sit down to his computer until around 10:30 a.m. and is typically done computing for the day by around 2 or 2:30 p.m. It all happens by consistently giving himself that 3.5 – 4 hour window to work.
  • ESI also stays approximately 2 months ahead of his publishing schedule. In other words, at any given time, there are 30-40 articles written and scheduled.
  • He revisits each scheduled post twice. Once to do a first round of edits and revisions. This first edit actually takes him more time than writing the article. Finally, he briefly reviews each article one more time before it publishes.

I also briefly talked with a group of podcasters including Andy Hill of Marriage, Kids, & Money. I became aware of Andy when Chad recommended his podcast while he was staying with us this summer so it was neat running into him at FinCon.

On the balcony of the restaurant, I joined a group of fun people that were gathering to enjoy the uncharacteristically pleasant evening air.

The wine was flowing freely and the general mood was light. The balcony provided a much quieter and more pleasant atmosphere than the intended bar area and the best part is the servers were quite happy to keep on bringing us wine out there.

As such, I spent a couple hours out there enjoying fun conversations with friends including Marla, Pete, Brad, Heather, Bianca, J.D., Jillian, Paula Pant from Afford Anything, and my new friend Bill, among others.

The reception ended in time for everyone to attend the closing party. Pete & Heather weren’t feeling the dance party and suggested the pool. We all split up, I quickly ate dinner, then before I knew it I found myself swimming about with yet another great group of people.

The ladies from Bitches Get Riches apparently had the same idea and were among the first out there, along with Brad, Jonathan, and Ashley from ChooseFI.

Ashley had a frozen cherry drink of some kind and suggested everyone try it. I agreed and headed to the bar with her. Paula & Jonathan joined us shortly thereafter and we all got a table.

Paula played her now infamous Suze Orman clip and Jonathan quickly asked Paula for permission to play the clip on ChooseFI’s post-FinCon episode. We all knew this was going to be a huge hit in our community.

If you haven’t already, listen to the ominous clip linked above, then go listen to Paula’s full interview with Suze Orman.

After a while, I was summoned back to the pool by some friends. It was a good thing too because I got to meet Joel from Pour Not Poor, Felicity from Fetching Financial Freedom, and Jenny from Good Life Better.

Once again, I was up late but this time I had a 7:00 a.m. departure home to deal with so I called it.

Sunday – Traveling Home

The next morning, I headed to the lobby and managed to catch a Lyft with my fellow INTJ homie Matt from Optimize Your Life. Thanks, Matt!

The Orlando airport was a zoo so I’m glad I gave myself lots of time to clear security. I always do this and usually end up killing time in airports, but I never miss flights!

Others I connected with at FinCon, in no particular order include:

4 Quick Takeaways from FinCon18

1. FinCon is Actually Just a Giant Engine of Friendship

Walking around FinCon, there’s this sense that you can talk to anyone and end up hitting off incredibly well. If you’re reading this, it’s quite likely that these money nerds are your people.

There are thousands of people there and you’ll never meet them all. Enjoy this rare chance to spend several days stumbling into conversations with fascinating people.

2. Clear Your Calendar Before & After FinCon

14+ hour days of fun with friends takes it out of you. Arrive rested. Don’t rush back to work afterwards if you can avoid it. Give yourself some time and space to process it all afterwards.

3. Be Proactive About Your FinCon Schedule

Review the schedule. Volunteer. Reach out to people you’d like to see.

4. Speaking of Volunteering, do it!

I volunteered for much of my first FinCon and missed spending time alongside fellow volunteers and with FinCon staff. Leading up to the event, FinCon announces volunteer positions in the Facebook group and via email.

I missed the volunteer communications. Next time I’ll watch for these opportunities more closely. It’s great to get to know the people putting on this amazing conference for us as well.

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