I woke up at the crack of dawn, if you can call stumbling out of bed, cursing the alarm waking up. Strike that, it was about an hour before dawn. At best I had four hours of sleep. I had an hour to get up, shower, and finish putting my stuff together before I hopped a cab to catch my flight to the inaugural Financial Blogger Conference. Sleep be damned, I was excited!
With complete coincidence, this article is publishing on what is my fourth anniversary, blogging with Free From Broke. Four years is like, I don’t know what that’s like in blog years! There was no iPhone or iPad when I started, that’s one thing.
Four-plus years ago I came upon the world of Personal Finance Blogs. The very first one being Get Rich Slowly. The writing style and information blended so seamlessly that I thought it would be easy to start up my own blog (you know, just like when you see Michael Jordan shot, it looks like anyone can do it).
I hopped in the cab and made my way to the airport. I was so happy to get on-board. It meant for the next two hours I could try to catch up on a little sleep. Airplane sleep is never the best but I was willing to take what I could get.
The plane touched down in O’Hare airport in Chicago. For reasons I can’t figure out, the plane needed to run a lap around the airport before it decided to dock with the terminal. Guess it had to get comfortable like a dog does before a nap.
I was fortunate enough to catch up with Brad who publishes Enemy of Debt at the airport to share a cab ride to the hotel. How’s that for frugal, huh? But check this out: We agree to meet at baggage claim 9. I get down there to meet Brad, he landed before me, and I don’t see him anywhere. I call him and we can’t figure out what’s going on. Then we figure it out — there’s more than one baggage claim 9! Brad was in terminal 1 and I was in 3. I hit the elevator, went over to the tram (they have a tram) and took it two stops over and finally met up with Brad. Really cool guy BTW. I’m glad I was able to hang with him on the ride over.
Even though it was before official check-in time when we arrived I figured I might as well try to check-in anyway. Success, there were rooms ready! Brad and I checked into our respective rooms and headed for the hotel elevators. Walking through the lobby I whisper to Brad “hey, I think that’s JD Roth sitting over there.” I wanted to go over and say hi but he just took a call on his cell. Did I mention the first PF blog I read was JD’s? I think I did.
I went to my room and dropped my stuff off (one the way I saw Sandy from Yes, I Am Cheap), did a little unpacking, then went back downstairs. The lobby filled up a bit. Along with JD, now sat Adam Baker of Man Vs Debt and J Money of Budgets Are Sexy and Love Drop (yes, the mohawk is real). There were other people as well but I didn’t immediately recognize everyone (like Peter from Bible Money Matters who I thought was someone working for Lending Club — he had an LC shirt on). I sat off to the side, relaxing (well, actually a bit nervous as I’m not the most out-going person).
Ryan from Cash Money Life popped out of a meeting and I called him over. We had met over a year ago so being oen of the few guys I actually met I wanted to say (he’s also a great guy and has been a lot of help to me over the years).
After, I made my move to where everyone was sitting. I said hi and introduced myself to some old blogging friends that I never met before. That’s a weird thing, knowing someone for years but not ever meeting face-to-face. The weekend would have a lot of that. I got to meet JD and everyone else. I’m putting this out there — EVERYONE was super cool and approachable. The PF bloggerverse is full of really down-to-earth people. I even got to pick JD’s brain about living in Portland (we visited Portland over the summer and loved it so I wanted other perspectives). I turned fanboy and asked JD to sign my copy of his book, which he did.
The conference hadn’t even started yet.
People started showing up from all over. Some had come the day before while others were arriving. Among those was Tom Drake of Canadian Finance Blog, whom I’ve chatted online with but never met before. We ended up going to lunch with Khaleef and his wife Sherrian (Faithful With A Few).
Anyway, after lunch was the Love Drop event. We were heading over to Phil’s Friends, and organization helping those with cancer, to help put together care packages. At least that was what I thought. Phil’s Friends were in a new office and they needed help moving furniture, and such, on top of making care packages. We rolled up our sleeves and got to work! I must say we killed it and moved everything pretty efficiently, among the dust and dirt. And check this out — there was no more room on the bus getting to the event. Fortunately, Roger Wohler offered to drive a bunch of us (he lived nearby and had his car). Didn’t I say people were real nice at FINCON? I got to eat some Chicago pan pizza at the event too (love me some real Chicago pizza).
The Love Drop event was real cool. Having been in scouts it reminded me of doing a service project. That a bunch of us could get together to help give hope to cancer patients was awesome. If you can do a little something that can have a great affect on people, do it!
Here’s a link to a video overview of Phil’s Friends and what we did.
In the evening there was a speed-networking event. We all met in an outdoor tent on the hotel grounds for drinks, food, and networking. Networking sounds so greasy though, doesn’t it? Truthfully, it was an evening meeting old friends for the first time and making future friends. Among those I enjoyed meeting were Ron (Wisdom Journal) and Jeremy (Generation X Finance), among so many others. [I just re-read that last sentence. Please don't read those two names back-to-back. These are two people I'm talking about not one (and get your mind out of the gutter)].
Afterward a bunch of us hung out at the hotel lobby, getting to know each other. Good times.
Hey, I haven’t mentioned the star of the show yet — Phil Taylor of PT Money! Phil organized the conference. I remember him telling me how he wanted to put a conference together earlier in the year, asking if I would be interested (of course). Let me tell you, Phil knocked it out of the park! The conference was so impressive and ran so smoothly you would think Phil has been organizing these things for years.
The next day-and-a-half was full of sessions where we learned from the likes of JD Roth (yes Star Trek II is the best movie of the series), Ramit Sethi (I Will Teach You To Be Rich – got his autograph too), Pat Flynn (Smart Passive Income), The folks at Wise Bread, Amanda Steinberg (Daily Worth), and many, many more. If I could re-iterate everthing I learned into something kinda like concise I’d have to say that: anything is possible; the internet is still small and people are making lives for themselves everyday with it; be yourself and tell your story; go big, not afraid to fail; be excellent to each other. And… PARTY ON, DUDES! Wait. That last little bit was Abraham Lincoln, but I think it totally applies.
Some other people that were great to meet: FMF (this tall dude in a track suit appears out of nowhere and says hi, and see on his ID it’s FMF of Free Money Finance), SVB (Digerati Life – talked with her for lunch; so nice!), Pinyo (Moolanomy), Lazy Man (Lazy Man and Money), Mike Piper (Oblivious Investor), Miranda Marquit (of Free From Broke fame, haha, she writes on a lot of excellent sites), Flexo (Consumerism Commentary – always cool to meetup with), David Weliver (Money Under 30), Ben Edwards (Money Smart Life), Laura Adams (Money Girl’s Smart Moves to Grow Rich – who I shared a cab with but didn’t really get to talk to), Kyle (Amateur Asset Allocator), MBH (Mighty Bargain Hunter), Len Penzo (LenPenzo.com), Elle (Couple Money), Kevin Mulligan (kmull.com – freelancer who also puts together our roundups), Money Crashers (Andrew and Gyutae), DR (Dough Roller), Crystal (Budgeting in the Fun Stuff), Julia Scott (Bargain Babe), Kay Bell (Don’t Mess With Taxes), Mike (The Financial Blogger), and so many more! (See the rest of the Who’s Who that was there).
Regrets — There were so many people I didn’t get to meet and talk to among which are Melissa (Mom’s Plans) and Briana (20 and Engaged) who both write here. I don’t know how I missed you guys! I think once the sessions got rolling, I was running in and out of rooms and didn’t get to meet you. Totally my loss.
Also, I wish I planned the trip earlier so I could attend with my family. Flights were too expensive by the time I booked. I won’t make that mistake next time. It was tough being away from my wife and the kids for three days.
In a word: EPIC.
I’m really looking forward to a Financial Blogger Conference 2012. I can’t wait to see what Phil does next year to top this and see how much the conference grows.
Bottom Line: If you have an opportunity to go to an industry conference where you can meet the top people in your field and hear them speak, DO IT! The opportunity to make some lasting relationships in your field is too precious to give up. Imagine what one great insight or idea could possibly do for your career, and possibly your life! I know the Financial Blogger Conference will easily pay for itself.
Here are some other articles written about FINCON (if yours isn’t listed, let me know):
A Meeting of Minds: Financial Blogger Conference 2011
» Financial Blogger Conference 2011: Meeting Up With The Personal Finance Blogosphere
FinCon11 – A Recap of the First Annual Financial Bloggers Conference
» Three Things I Think From a Financial Blogging Conference (and Personal Finance Links)
How to Handle Meeting Hundreds of Colleagues
FINCON11 – Proof That PF Bloggers Do, In Fact, Know How To Party – Amateur Asset Allocator
Moving Beyond Blogging at The Financial Bloggers’ Conference — the ¢entsible life
How Can One Personal Finance Blogger Make So Many Bad Money Decisions? | Finance > Personal Finance from AllBusiness.com
Share Your Favorite FinCon Moments and Win $100! | Wise Bread
The Financial Bloggers Conference (#FINCON11) Saved This Blog | thejennypincher.com
What I learned about personal finance bloggers from FINCON11 | Mighty Bargain Hunter
What a wonderful financial weekend – Don’t Mess With Taxes
Financial Bloggers Build Community as They Share Their Stories | Millionaire Corner
Fiscally Chic: Recap of the Financial Blogger Conference
Ten Takeaways – Financial Blogger Conference | Financially Consumed
What are your Biggest Challenges with Paying Off Debt? | Enemy of Debt: Where Behavior Meets Reality
Sharing A Thought From The 2011 Financial Blogger Conference | Everyday Tips and Thoughts…
FINCON11: Stalking JD Roth | So Over Debt
My First Public Speaking Experience at the Financial Blogger Conference 2011 | The Smart Passive Income Blog
Be Epic and other Great Lessons from #FinCon11 | The Debt Princess
Paying Off Credit Card Debt is Like Curing a Hangover | Studenomics
The Financial Blogger Conference 2011 | Budgeting In the Fun Stuff
» And That is How a Conference is Rocked!
First Ever Financial Blogging Conference Highlights
1st Annual Financial Blogger Conference – Sharing the Excitement!
Would We Sponsor Another Financial Blogger Conference?
Scenes from the Financial Blogger Conference. (Now with more Klingons!)
Bloggers Give Back…#FINCON11 & Love Drop – Frugal Beautiful | Frugal Beautiful
Recap: 2011 Financial Blogger Conference | Give Me Back My Five Bucks
Who Starts A Convention With A Service Project? Love Drop and FinCon11 Help Phil’s Friends
My Third Blogversary at Narrow Bridge Finance — Narrow Bridge Finance
Financial Blogger Conference Favorite Moments
Financial Blogger Conference 2011: What I Learned About Creating A Better Blog — Faithful With A Few
Airline Seats: Another Reason To Hate Being A Fat Guy! — Fat Guy Skinny Wallet
2011 Financial Blogger Conference Roundup
Blogging and life lessons from the financial blogger conference
Bloggers are a wild bunch: Fincon11
The Dividend Ninja » The Weekly Lineup: FinCon11 Edition
Some Thoughts on FINCON11