FinCon 2016 wrapped up with a bang in San Diego, with a record 1,250 attendees turning out for a jam-packed, four-day conference billed as “Where Money and Media Meet.”
FinCon founder Philip Taylor (who runs PTMoney.com) has done a huge service to the fintech community and digital content creators everywhere by organizing what has quickly become the premiere event for those interested in creating, promoting and profiting from online personal finance content.
Though many FinCon attendees are financial bloggers, the conference’s reach extends well beyond bloggers, podcasters and other social media mavens to include folks like me, who are financial experts with traditional media backgrounds.
In fact, I had the opportunity to share some of my media tips with the FinCon16 community during a session entitled “Breaking Into The TV Big Leagues: How to Get Booked (and Re-Booked) on National TV Shows.” We had a standing room only crowd — perhaps because many people had just seen me on Good Morning America the day before.
Whether you’re a newbie to this collection of proud money geeks or you’re a FinCon veteran, there’s something for everyone at FinCon.
Here are some of the epic tales and top five highlights I experienced at FinCon16.
(Disclaimer: I apologize in advance for the length of this post. But trust me: it’ll be worth your time to learn about a small fraction of the players at FinCon 2016 – including the individuals and brands you should keep an eye out for in the future).
Highlight #1: Meeting or re-connecting with wonderful content creators
For me, the most appealing aspect of FinCon is simply the chance to meet with and learn from a bunch of like-minded individuals, who are all incredibly passionate about personal finances and money management.
At FinCon16 in San Diego, I connected with countless go-getters, including friends old and new. It was so nice to catch up with Paula Pant, for instance, whom I met last year at FinCon15 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Paula owns a great website called AffordAnything.com, where she blogs, discusses real estate investing and other topics, and helps people move toward living a life of financial independence. So I was especially excited to learn that her new podcast, which launched about six months ago, is doing so well – with about 500,000 downloads to date. Go Paula!
New Media and Traditional Media Converge
While Paula has fairly recently gotten into broadcasting, at the other end of the spectrum was legendary radio personality and finance expert Clark Howard, a keynote speaker at FinCon16, who dropped pearls of wisdom on personal finances and on running a successful business for too. The Clark Howard Show is a nationally syndicated radio program that’s been on the airwaves for well over 20 years and is at the center of Clark’s growing business empire.
I met Clark for the first time at FinCon16, right at the same time that I bumped into the incomparable Jean Chatzky, who most people recognize from The TODAY Show. Jean is a personal finance pro I’ve known for more than a decade. Ditto for my long-time friend Jordan Goodman, who’s better known as America’s Money Answers Man.
Like Clark, Jean and myself, Jordan has worked in traditional media for decades. At FinCon 2016, Jordan mentioned that he’s also now working on his 15th book, entitled Investing in the Era of Terror.
(Side note: terrorism is an ongoing and unfortunate reality in today’s world, and one that rattles investors. So once Jordan’s book comes out, if and when a terrorist attack happens, I’d bet money that producers at CNBC and elsewhere will be looking for expert commentary, and Jordan’s going to get easily booked for those segments).
I complimented Jordan on the clever, media savvy title of his forthcoming book. Then I told him about my own next book, called Bounce Back: The Ultimate Guide to Financial Resilience, which will be book number 13 for me.
“I’m trying to catch up to you!” I jokingly said.
It was great to also meet a slew of other super nice and very smart people. Some of them included:
- The Debt Free Guys, David Auten and John Schneider, a gay couple whose motto is “Live debt free. Have fun. Be #MoneyConscious”
- Melisa Boutin of com, who specializes in Caribbean finances, especially student loans
- Freelance writer Lucy Lazarony, who cranks out easy-to-understand articles on credit, debt, budgeting, credit cards, and more; and
- Yahya Mokhtarzada, the founder of TrueBill, a site that tracks all your paid subscriptions and recurring bills and lets you quickly cancel any unwanted subscription.
I’ve interviewed Yahya in the past, but it was good to put a face with a name at FinCon 2016.
Adventures With Facebook Live
After being Facebook friends with her for a while, I also met Tarra Jackson, better known as “Madam Money,” at FinCon16. She and I bonded over several meals and activities during the conference – including an impromptu Facebook Live taping we did while we waited for dinner at the Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina, just prior to me dashing away to catch my plane home Saturday night.
Speaking of Facebook Live, on Day 2 of FinCon16, I got acquainted with Belinda Rosenblum who runs OwnYourMoney.com. We instantly clicked – and you would too, if she gave you a million dollars, like she gave me!
Admittedly, it was a faux million-dollar bill, which doubled as her business card. But it still caught my eye — and made me remember her long after our conversation ended.
Come to think of it: a few other financial gurus had business cards made out of money – like Jeffrey Skinner, a Birmingham, Alabama native turned New York real estate agent and finance coach. Jeffrey’s business card was designed to look like several $100 bills folded at an angle. (In case you’re thinking: “How gimmicky” — don’t hate. It worked — because, like I said, I remember Belinda and Jeffrey!)
Anyway, after chatting a while, Belinda and I went outside to shoot a quick video together for her site. But all of a sudden, in the middle of our video segment, we got photo bombed (or should I say, video bombed?) by a woman from New Zealand – yes, New Zealand – who was broadcasting on Facebook Live and thought we were too. So she just jumped into our video – all while maintaining her own live stream — and starting talking to us, interviewing us and joining our conversation.
As crazy as it sounds, it was totally fun – and we all enjoyed the spontaneity of it. As for that impromptu video bomber, well, she turned out to be quite a kindred spirit. Her name is Catherine Newton, and she’s a money mindset coach, fearless business strategist and blogger.
Catherine introduced me to her friend, Natalie Sisson, who’s also originally from New Zealand. Natalie is the owner of SuitcaseEntrepreneur.com, and she teaches small business owners how to run their companies remotely from anywhere in the world. Natalie was a speaker at FinCon16 too.
I could go on and on about the impressive, cool and diverse group of people I met at FinCon 2016, but suffice to say: FinCon attendees rock!
Highlight #2: Connecting with a host of sponsors and brands
In addition to mixing it up with content creators at FinCon16, I also connected with a lot of representatives from various businesses and organizations.
FinCon is a gathering of top-notch professionals, not just among well-established financial services companies and newer fintech firms, but also non-profits and other brands as well.
On the first night of FinCon16, dinner with the communications team from Capital One was fantastic. It set the tone for the type of warm reception that FinCon attendees received from sponsors.
Over a scrumptious meal at Island Prime (where everything from pan roasted sea scallops to organic Jidori chicken was on the menu), we had quirky conversations ranging from credit myths to our favorite emojis.
During the last day of FinCon16, the P.R. team from T. Rowe Price held a networking lunch at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens. There, a group of us talked shop about everything from myRA accounts to Federal Reserve interest rate policy.
Over the course of the afternoon, some bloggers played bocce and other games, and most of us hammed it up taking silly pictures in a photo booth on site.
Pro Networking: Financial Speed Dating
The organized Pro Networking sessions were fantastic as well. This opportunity is free for speakers – thanks, PT Money! – but others have to pay to join in.
If you’ve never done the Pro Networking part of FinCon, the best way to describe it, is that it’s kind of like financial speed dating.
You pretty much spend 10 minutes or so connecting in back-to-back meetings with people who’ve asked to meet with you to learn more about your work; to share info on their business, products or services; or to discuss potential collaborations.
I thoroughly enjoyed every single meeting I took, and look forward to continuing the conversations and getting to know several companies and organizations a lot better.
One case in point: I actually spent 20 minutes with Shannon Austin of the Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI) because our dialogue was so nice.
On a lighter note, we chatted about our kids who are roughly the same age. But on a more serious note, Shannon completely piqued my interest by describing the Center’s work, especially some of the creative ways CFSI and various partners are striving to help the unbanked and under-served markets in America.
Unfortunately, being poor in America is really expensive. People in low-income households and those without traditional access to credit face an enormous and ongoing drain on their limited financial resources, not to mention their time and energy.
If you doubt that reality, nothing drives the point home more quickly than CFSI’s FinX experiment. It’s a simulation where you see and experience the hassles and cost associated with being under-banked and poor – everything from having to take long bus trips to cash payroll checks because there are no nearby banks, to paying exorbitant fees to access one’s hard-earned money.
Entities like CFSI – and others – play a crucial role in solving these and other economic challenges facing Americans. I look forward to supporting a host of financial literacy initiatives and brands that I learned more about from various sponsors at FinCon.
Highlight #3: Enjoying the increasing diversity at FinCon
Last year at FinCon, Prudential held a dinner reception for Black bloggers. Honestly, many of us were pleasantly surprised (alright, downright shocked!) to discover a healthy number African-Americans and others bloggers of color. “I didn’t know there were so many of us,” was a frequent refrain.
(Related Reading: FinCon Review: 10 Financial Bloggers of Color to Watch)
This year at FinCon16 in San Diego, the number of African-Americans grew even more – providing a slew of opportunities for many of us to connect, engage and share our knowledge with one another and others in a variety of ways.
For instance, while a FinCon Diversity Meet-up was going on, a group of us spun off and held an impromptu brainstorming lunch at one of the hotel’s restaurants.
We swapped marketing strategies; discussed good mobile and desktop apps to use for business; gave each other tips about working with clients and pricing our services correctly; we shared career goals; and mainly encouraged each other to keep on doing great work.
This spur-of-the-moment luncheon among African-American financial experts involved folks with incredibly diverse backgrounds, including:
- Saundra Davis, who runs Sage Financial and conducts “train the trainer” sessions for professionals who want to become financial coaches. Saundra is the past President of the Financial Therapy Association and is active in the Financial Planning Association San Francisco Chapter Pro Bono Committee, and has served on the FPA’s Diversity Task Force
- Rich Jones, a tech recruiter who works in Silicon Valley for Google; and Marcus Garrett, an Austin, Texas-based auditor for the Inspector General’s office. Despite their different backgrounds and locations, this duo teams up weekly to do a popular, humorous podcast called Paychecks & Balances, which focuses on money and career issues facing Millennials, most of whom are people of color. Though they’ve been podcasting together for a few years, incredibly, Rich and Marcus just met in person for the very first time at FinCon 2016. Marcus was one of many Black authors I met at FinCon, something that inspired me. I dare you not to get a few chuckles, and a lot of knowledge, from his new book, Debt Free or Die Trying: How I Buried Myself in Over $30,000 in Debt and Dug My Way Out By Age 30
- Talaat and Tai McNeely, a married couple from the Chicago area, who run the blog HisandHerMoney.com. They started out as financial opposites: he was a spender; she was a saver. Now they both help individuals and couples better manage their money. We met last year at FinCon and I continue to appreciate Tai and Talaat’s selflessness in giving away a massive amount of free content, advice and financial help in service to others. I’m sure that their generosity will continue, because that’s their true nature. But I also suspect that 2017 will be a transition year where more of the financial blessings to be derived from their business will align with the huge blessings they’ve bestowed on others
- Wilson Muscadin, who works for Fidelity in the Washington D.C. area, does marketing analytics on 401(k) retirement plans. And when I say “works for” Fidelity, I should be a bit more specific. He’s actually the Director of Segment Management within the Workplace Investing business unit at Fidelity Investments, where he oversees the analytics, reporting and strategic insights for Participant Segmentation. Fancy title, right? Well, talk to Wilson about long-term finances and inside of five minutes you’ll mainly be impressed – as our group was – with the keen, spot-on revelations that Wilson shares about what’s happening with Americans’ retirement savings, and what can be done to help people of all backgrounds become more financially stable
- Tarra Jackson, who I previously mentioned as “Ms. Madam Money,” is doing her thing on radio in Atlanta, as well as teaching people everywhere how to avoid, ahem, Financial STDs. That would be Substantially Tremendous Debts. Tarra is known for her “real talk,” and she isn’t afraid to draw comparisons between finances and sex. Think I’m kidding? Just peep the title of her book, Financial Fornication (Curious? Go read it!)
As if learning from all these African-Americans wasn’t enough, on another day at FinCon, I participated in a podcast organized by financial coach Toni Husbands, who runs Debt Free Divas, an online community focused on eliminating debt. Our podcast centered on the state of finances in the African-American community.
A cast of wickedly smart and talented Black women shared excellent advice and insights during this podcast. Guests included Millennial money expert Tonya Rapley, owner of MyFabFinance, who won a Plutus Award for the Best Finance Blog for Women; Patrice Washington, who blogs at Real Money Answers, and can be seen regularly on The Steve Harvey Show; and Tiffany “The Budgetnista” Aliche, who continues to flourish and share her gifts with countless women in her Live Richer Challenge.
Regardless of whether you’re Black, White, Asian, Latino, or Native American – or you hail from any other background – if you’re a money nerd and you ask someone about the vibe at FinCon, many people describe it as feeling like a family reunion.
That’s definitely true – and it’s a nice testimony to how FinCon welcomes everyone.
Highlight #4: Getting inspired by the “Big Ideas” speakers
Another highlight of FinCon 2016 was the kick-butt speakers on the main stage.
I especially enjoyed Jean Chatzky’s live podcast, which ended with a slew of financial confessions by different FinConners. And I’ve already noted Clark Howard’s insights into how he’s maintained a successful brand amid a shifting media landscape.
Jeff challenged us all to take a “free day” and learn how to unplug from work, get rejuvenated, let our creativity bubble up, and – most important – not forget about our families, loved ones and the things that matter most.
If you do take that free day, be sure to message Jeff and let him know how things worked out for you. I know* I’m going to take up the challenge one day soon (*says the workaholic Money Coach and author who’s writing this post at 9:58 p.m.)
Noah had us laughing and learning simultaneously. He regaled the audience with witty stories; made fun of stereotypes about the wealthy; urged FinCon attendees to adopt more profitable business models (like creating webinars, digital courses and software); and offered up a stream of bold, loud proclamations such as: “I’m rich!”
By the way, since many people were buzzing about one aspect of Noah’s presentation: I think it’s safe to assume that YES, he really is quite rich – but NO, he probably doesn’t have $300+ million in his bank account as he showed on a PowerPoint slide. (That was humor, people, humor)!
Whatever the case, Noah definitely showed his generous side when he donated his speaking fees to the entire audience and handed out $50 and $100 bills (real ones!) to every single attendee in attendance at FinCon16. He urged people to do something good with the money to grow their businesses.
It was a dramatic gesture – but one that also highlighted Noah’s approach to everything he does: Go big or go home!
Highlight #5: Learning new technologies and strategies for success
Last year at FinCon was the first time I’d ever heard of Periscope, the live streaming app.
I came back raring to start scoping and my husband and business partner, Earl Cox, signed me up for Periscope.
But what’s happened since then? Frankly, I got bogged down with everything else work-related and I’ve yet to use Periscope at all.
After a year of not taking the plunge, I’m now committed to changing that — and I have financial whiz Sandy Smith to thank for my change of heart and renewed inspiration.
Sandy, who you’ll find online at YesIAmCheap, showed off her considerable Periscope skills and made it look nearly effortless during a really cool round-table demonstration of the power of this live stream platform.
And oh, did I mention that Sandy has successful monetized her efforts too? She recently earned $20,000 in one month just from her Periscope activities.
Having a subscription-based business is all the rage too. There’s no question that developing digital, passive streams of income, such as membership sites or subscriptions, is a smart idea.
That’s why I also enjoyed a very practical, and highly tactical session on building a subscription business at FinCon 2016. That’s another goal of mine: perhaps for 2017.
Though everyone has his or her own financial niche, preferred platform and business model – or is figuring it all out – the quality, range, and depth of knowledge at FinCon is unmatched.
As the tales and highlights above illustrate, FinCon is an incredible way to network, learn, grow and help promote financial literacy – as well as your own business or brand.
That’s why countless money nerds – myself included – have already put FinCon17 on our calendars for next year.
If you haven’t already saved the date, do so immediately. FinCon 2017 will take place in Dallas, Texas from October 25-28, 2017.
Hope to see you there!