FinCon 18- My Best Yet!

This past week, I went and hung out with a bunch of money nerds. Two thousand of them, to be exact.

FinCon, created by Phillip Taylor, is a conference that started as a way for the personal finance media (mainly bloggers and independent outlets) to get together and converse. It’s hard being a money nerd online, imagine how much harder it is in person! The conference has substantially grown over the years and is now the place where media and finance meet. Not only are big names now keynotes (Chris Hogan & Rachel Cruze this year alone) but major financial players are now sponsors and exhibitors in the expo hall. To quote one of my fellow personal finance nerds Eric Rosenberg, “It’s kind of a big deal.”

Now, a lot of people argue whether they should, or shouldn’t, go to FinCon. I’ve gone every year since 2012, only missing the very first one. It wasn’t financially feasible for me to do so but I go, if only for a few days. I’ve gone when I wasn’t that serious about blogging and I’ve gone when I’ve felt really motivated, like this year. I’m going to happily share my recap along with points why I think you should go, even if it’s only a hobby for you at this time.

The Relationships

Seeing how it’s my 7th FinCon, it would be obvious that I know some people at this conference. But, some of these people I’ve met at this conference are now some of my good friends.  I even met my BF at FinCon.

I hate the saying you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. However, I do agree with the saying that birds of a feather flock together and like attracts like. Some of my friends from this conference aren’t only my colleagues and partners on certain projects but they are successful on their own terms. I learn from them and I’m inspired by them daily. They are good people who I hang out with outside of the conference. That’s amazing.

It’s important to have people understand you in all stages and areas of your life. The really important part of that is to recognize they won’t always be the same people. Just like some of my friends can’t understand what it’s like to be a teacher, some aren’t going to be able to understand how excited I get over learning SEO. Some aren’t going to understand why after my day job I go home and run my business for an additional three hours. And that’s okay. Because I have a support group of others who will pick up where someone else leaves off.

The Professional Opportunity

I go back and forth on what I want to do professionally, like so many others in their thirties. I love that I got my degree in criminal justice and criminology. I love my career in the non-profit sector. But like so many others in my age bracket, I have champagne tastes on a beer budget. And I wish my career alone covered everything I want to do during my time here on Earth. I also suffer from several autoimmune disorders so let me tell you, it’s expensive being sick.

So, I’m happy FinCon allows me the chance to combine my passion for helping others with a passion I learn about daily, personal finance. I’ve found like-minded people to collaborate with. I’ve found brands to work with who actually want to help the consumer and not take advantage of them. And I’ve also found clients who help me achieve the goals I’ve set for myself and help cover some of my living expenses when I’ve needed it.

One of the greatest things about FinCon is knowing that I have the possibility to make a living online if the day comes where I can’t physically go into the office every day. And that’s freeing.

The Growth

When I attended my first FinCon, my intention was to just meet my online friends in real life.  And sure, sometimes I’m more focused than others but the majority of my time has been sightseeing and catching up with friends. This past FinCon, it was about making money. What changed?

I can’t save what I don’t earn. 

And quite frankly, I’m tired of being broke. According to the National Partnership For Women and Families, Latinas make 54 cents for every dollar a White Non-Hispanic male makes. This isn’t okay, on so many levels that as a Money Smart Latina I don’t even have to get into. But my real takeaway, and what I want you to remember, is this:

“You can’t save what you don’t earn.”

It’s mathematically impossible and one of my biggest gripes that I can’t even get into right now but definitely will soon enough. But no matter how many times I pack a lunch, I can’t save it if I’m not earning it. And I took advantage of earning it this year, at FinCon. I met with as many brands as I possibly could. If someone offered to make a connection or introduction, I took them up on it. I talked to almost every table at the expo this year and walked away with a few client offers.

I set the intention to have a positive attitude and make money. And sometimes it is right, your attitude will determine your direction. It certainly did for me in this case. Now I have a new perspective on what I hope to accomplish for myself, for my brand and how I want to serve you, the readers.  And I have FinCon to thank for that.

The Community

I already raved about the relationships I’ve been blessed with because of FinCon. But right now, I’m going to take the opportunity to rave about something else directly related to this- the community.

The majority of people in the personal finance community are so giving. I say the majority because you know, not everyone is perfect and it’s not everyone’s passion or job. And quite frankly, that’s okay. It’s not everyone’s job to serve or help you. But in my personal experience, I find that the more giving and helpful I am, the more my cup seems to be filled. And I love that I can connect with so many others at this level at this conference.

Along with a community service project sponsored by NEFE, there is also philanthropy at every corner. This year, I had the opportunity to meet with the Center For The New Middle Class. What amazed me more was when I stopped by their booth to play trivia. Not only was an Amazon GC up for grabs but so was the chance to pick out someone’s loan to be paid in full on their behalf. I’m highly competitive (just ask my FinX team!), so I was happily surprised and proud when I won. But, I invited all of the other bloggers playing trivia to help me pick out who’s loan to forgive. It was a meaningful experience for me and aligned perfectly with my mission to help others.

Another way the community is supportive is through the Plutus Awards and the Plutus Foundation, both founded by Harlan Landes. With full disclosure, I do help with the Plutus Awards and I’m close to several members on the team. But in all honesty, I love when the community can come together and acknowledge people who work hard on their websites, brands and serving others. My heart was especially full when my friend Crystal over at Sophisticated Spender was given the Plutus Foundation Service Award. She owns a boutique called Sip and Sew Old Town and took it upon herself to make over 100 cloth bags full of supplies for victims of Hurricane Harvey and Maria. Talk about someone with a big heart!

And I can’t end this part of the community without talking about another project which is quickly becoming near and dear to my hear, the Elevate Financial Influencer Conference. I met the founder, Sandy Smith, years ago at FinCon and she’s not only become a mentor but also a friend. We were able to meet with more members of our mastermind and break bread while discussing what we want the next year to look like leading up to our conference and how we can strategize to best help the communities we serve. Definitely stay tuned for this Latinas!

To Experience Something New

The last reason I would highly suggest coming to Fincon is to experience something new. Attending this conference has helped me in more ways than one and all of it comes from trying something new!

Before FinCon, I had only been to two conferences for my career and had never attended a networking event. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing when introducing myself and was winging it for the most part. I have a hard time with change sometimes so when I find myself comfortable, I tend to stay. My level of comfort stunted me professionally but I had no idea because when something is all you ever know, it’s all you ever know.

By going to this conference, I was taken out of my professional bubble and given new opportunities that have advanced me professionally. I learned how to properly network with others and utilize it to my advantage. People actually refer to me as knowing everyone or “will know someone who…” and it amazes me that I’ve grown so much. I’ve mastered my pitch and while I love storytelling, I can get to the point if needed. I’m a better writer which has helped me academically and professionally. And I’ve traveled all over the U.S, all thanks to FinCon!

In Closing

This has definitely been my most successful FinCon to date! I had a blast, took time to relax when I needed it and networked my butt off. I hung out with friends old and new, and I also spent time with my BF for a few days afterward in a nearby city. This was definitely needed seeing how I had to hit the ground running when my plane touched down in Phoenix.

I definitely have a lot more to share about a few of my experiences this year, which warrant their own individual posts. I’m also going to be pivoting my direction with my website and what resources and information I start providing here. Sure, I want people to save pennies but again, we can’t save what we don’t earn.  So, Mondays will be related to money (earning, investing, manifestos, some frugal living since I don’t like spending money I don’t have to) and then Thursdays will be related to life aka thriving (relationships, travel, life hacks, etc.). I feel good about this direction and about partnerships and products I’ll be sharing here.

Did you go to FinCon? If so, how was it for you? And if not, what’s stopping you?

 

Money Smart Latina Reviews…It Is Only Money

All progress takes place outside the comfort zone

For years I’ve taught life skills in a low socioeconomic neighborhood. While I never imagined myself being a teacher growing up, I ended up loving it. I loved my administration, my peers who taught by my side and my students, who I was blessed to serve. When I got a promotion this summer, it was bittersweet to leave the classroom. While I had so much fun with my kiddos, I knew it was time to leave and go on in my career into administration myself.

Part of the life skills curriculum I taught were financial literacy and education. I can tell many a stories of my students realizations but one that hits home the most was the time all of my students thought everyone got food stamps. They were very confused that I had to use actual cash and then told me if I had a baby, I could get food stamps too. While shocking, I was just like these kids when I was in junior high. I knew you could buy food in cash but after my mom and dad separated, things were financially rough. My mom was disabled and we received government assistance including, but not limited to, food stamps.

Since realizing how important financial literacy is, I have a soft spot for making sure my students, despite their socioeconomic status and culture, know what a budget is. Culture and religion, along with your socioeconomic background, may influence the way you think about money and your mindset around it moving forward. That was a major reason behind starting Money Smart Latina, so I could make sure Latinas had options and knowledge.

I was happy to be given a copy of It Is Only Money- And It Grows On Trees! by Cara MacMillan to read and then review here with the rest of you. This book is a nice read about a teacher who goes into a classroom with multi-ethnicity students to learn about other’s mindsets towards money and wealth. Learning about the Jewish culture of money and wealth was especially fascinating to me. My BF happens to be Jewish and I spent last summer in Israel studying counter terrorism, so this culture and it’s people have a special place in my heart. It was fascinating to learn about their jar system and how they give so much away to help others.

Along with learning about different cultures, it was full of ideas to share with others to help with their mindset of money. For instance, do we need to spend more than what we make or even the same? Can we live below our means instead and save for a rainy day? Do we have to have the nicest of everything all of the time or can we make do? It also gave great tips and takeaways, such as looking to expand your skills and building a small business on the side. As a young single woman who lives on her own, I think having multiple streams of income is key to building your wealth and financial stability for yourself.

This book also comes with worksheets to help discuss and think further into your own mindset about money and finances. I know that lately, realizing that money wasn’t just something I should be good at but instead, realizing it was part of my security, made a big difference in my mindset. I need to feel like I am saving for something and my peace of mind knowing I am taken care of helps a lot. This also makes me realize I need to save more!

Check out It Is Only Money for a look around the world at mindset and money through the fun eyes of students and their teacher!

Money Smart Latina Reviews… You Only Live Once

All progress takes place outside the comfort zone (1)

I met Jason Vitug a few years ago during FinCon13. Actually, another blogger had mentioned that he would be there and I was friends with her so she mentioned to both of us we should connect. We happened to bump into each other on the dance floor of a party I was throwing.

At FinCon, people don’t really discuss their dance skills but rather their projects, passions and purpose. Jason was filled with all of the above and since meeting him all those years ago, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know him along with working on projects with him. I’ve spent time staff writing for him as well as meeting up with him on his famous grassroots mission, The Road To Financial Wellness. One of Jason’s passions is to make talk of finances less taboo and really get dialogue started to help you think about the life you want to live. 

Jason recently released a book after coming off his award winning collaboration on the road and before going out for his second tour, You Only Live Once. He’s taken the YOLO acronym millennials are so fond of using and instead of using to make it rain at Starbucks, he’s implied it in a purposeful way to help you think about creating the life you want. And maybe I’m the one who makes it rain at Starbucks but I digress. 

You Only Live Once is different from the usual finance book in the way that it actually can be broken up into a self help book as well. I know some people groan at the word self help but I find that since becoming a self help groupie a few years ago, my mindset on life and what I can accomplish has changed. Sure, I was taking care of my finances but I’d always find myself back at square one with just about everything and that’s because my mindset never changed. 

Mindset is a big part of keeping your finances on the right course and aiding in your road trip to a purposeful life, which is discussed in this book. It doesn’t necessarily tell you about The Secret or staying positive, but it discusses personal core values. Quite easily, people are able to say certain things matter but don’t spend time or invest in it financially. If you don’t invest time or money into something, like a goal of traveling, it’s easy to get caught up in just talk and not action. 

Along with speaking of our core values, it also discusses the notion of time. What do we really spend our time on? Is it something mindless like TV watching or FB scrolling or is it something making our lives more productive, such as reading a book or spending time with a loved one? Both things that people say they value but don’t necessarily make time for, then get upset they aren’t living a life of purpose. 

When making the choice to go back to school as an adult working full-time, I convinced my roommate to actively cut our cable. I had found myself wasting hours on consumption on the TV in the living room set and knew I needed to limit as many distractions as possible in preparation of getting an education. To this day, I pride myself on not watching TV. I watch four shows and refuse to get sucked into any new ones. I own a TV but I usually forget I have it since it was a gift from my dad when I got my own apartment. As a matter of fact, it collected dust in my living room for three months before I hooked it up and then it was another month before I watched an episode of AHS on it.

Jason’s book is filled with real life examples and stories like the one I provided above as well as financial advice for beginners. Along with the great credit avalanche/ snowball debate, he also talks about budgeting, investing and spending on your core values. After making a list of my values, which I’ll be sharing next week, I realized some of my spending aligns but not all. With a recent promotion and my birthday within a month, it was a great time to sit back and think about the upcoming year. 

I highly reconnect You Only Live Once and I can’t wait to see what else Jason has in store!