Fincon17 or “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb”

Preparations for my first Fincon

With the start date of my first Fincon only weeks away, I can’t help but reassess this decision. Is this still a good idea? Will my time and money be wellspent?

When the organizers first announced Dallas as the Fincon17 venue, I started getting excited. All the greatest minds in the FI blogging world coming to discuss their craft at a location just 4 hours up the road? Awesome! I marked the early-bird sales date, and as soon as they went on sale, I snapped up a pair for my wife and I. At the time, I felt like I had a great plan of attack. Develop a portfolio, work on reviving this blog, and head into Fincon with a full head of steam. I would soon be early retired and Fincon could be a great step of transition into that post-FIRE world.

However, as luck would have it, with the event now only weeks away, none of those goals have transpired quite the way I had planned. Thanks to some good fortune and efforts to retool in my spare time last winter, I recently accepted a sweet new position at my company. This change has had some severe impacts to my family early retirement plans (which I’ll cover later), but for now it means I had lots of other more interesting things to do than publish blog posts and hang out on FI forums.

So as just a casual dabbler, someone who today is about as far from a “Mr Money Marketer” as can be, does it still make sense to attend? Let’s break it down.

Remaining Uncertainties: Why I’m not sure this weekend will be a slam-dunk use of my time

1. Time
The Fincon weekend is a large commitment of my time and resources. The event will result burning vacation, long days (and long nights), and hopefully(!) enough networking to leave me hoarse for days.
As a member of the FI community who only rarely blogs (and who has even less interest in blogging for personal financial gain), does it even make sense to go hang out at a professional marketers’ convention?

2. Not the targeted audience
I’m not a professional blogger/marketer/freelancer/content creator. I’m not interested in posting affiliate links to the latest gimmicky insurance or savings account products banks have to offer (in spite of what some bloggers may tell you about their affiliate links, there’s no such thing as a free lunch). I actually don’t tend to identify with most of the bloggers who paint a narrative of “I have a great story and if you know what’s important, you’ll pay attention and think as I think.” I’ve been told repeatedly in the past that I’m too honest to be a good salesperson, and really, I’ve always been a “This is who I am, take it or leave it.”

3. Finances
Despite how close the convention is being held, there is still significant cost outlays. Lodging, transport, food, beer, and other incidentals will all have to be footed out of pocket. As a soon-to-be early retiree without blog income to write off, I still feel a pang of guilt having to foot the bill on all this discretionary spending from my entertainment budget. These expenses are unusual for my budget, and my wallet can already sense those pressures.

4. There’s no magic to a weekend of FI
As I learned as Camp Mustache, these meetups are primarily social exchanges. Even the technical and networking benefits of these gatherings doesn’t change the fact that there is no shortcut to FIRE. You need to earn, save, and invest (usually for years). Hanging out and talking to a lot of great people, even experts, is still talk. It doesn’t change the math.

That said, why I am still definitely going to Fincon!

1. The energy
In spite of all the salespeople from Ally, Fidelity, JP Morgan etc., there will be even more people from the FI community attending. What I learned from Camp Mustache II is that these people are awesome. We all share a unique (even counter-culture) value set and perspective on how we want to live and optimize our lives. Hanging out with the community is always a great time, and those attending Fincon are leaders within that FI tribe.

2. The technical FI knowledge
While many of the talks and breakout sessions will be focused on helping bloggers attract more customers help other aspiring early retirees, there will also be an exceptional knowledge base of actual and soon-to-be early retirees. While early retirement will always require years of gut-it-out saving and investing, having a chance for off-the-record conversations with these experts should provide some fresh perspective to the whole process.

3. The technical blog knowledge
This is the core value dimension for most Fincon attendees. These folks are actively pursuing a career publishing FI content, and this conference seeks primarily to help those content creators.
While I currently have little interest in living off of sweet, sweet 6-figure blog income (which may effectively mean working as a subcontractor for affiliate link sponsors), I do enjoy writing and engaging with the FI community. If Fincon can support me toward those goals, then there’s a definite personal value proposition.

3. Perspective on the blogger community
There are many different types of bloggers (they share many similar drives to write and/or run successful businesses also) and they will all be in one place, interested to reach out and build their own networks. This event offers a huge opportunity for me to engage and learn from these pariahs. It offers me a huge opportunity to start building my own presence in a community that really only comes together in-person once per year.
Even if I never plan to blog or monetize a FI product, strengthening connections in this world-wide community is a great resource for anyone on the FIRE path.

4. Unknown and limitless potential
Life has a way of continually reminding you, that no matter how much planning and analysis and time you put into decisions, the unexpected is always possible. Most of the most significant turning points in life come about as the result of small events and decisions. Something that seemed quick and irrelevant at the time can go on to shape your entire life. Good things happen to those who bother to get out of bed in the morning. And who knows, Fincon17 could be one of those choices.

Should you go to Fincon?

At this point, if you have not already purchased tickets, it’s probably too late and too expensive to bother. Save (and invest) your money, and look for other events (Camp Mustache, local meetups, Choose FI events, Donegan business schools, etc.) that can be enjoyed more efficiently.

Keep an eye out for local FI meetups. I’ve found these folks to be every bit as interesting, friendly, and knowledgeable as any of the great people I met at Camp Mustache. If you find that these types of events are something you enjoy, and are ready to take the deeper plunge, Fincon18 could be a great way to spend a weekend with the thought leaders of this great community!

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