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Well last week I officially became an ex-con, having attended my first FinCon conference.
FinCon has become a mecca where financially oriented individuals undergo an annual pilgrimage so that they can be immersed in activities with other like-minded individuals.
One of my biggest regrets after starting this blog in April 2018 was not attending the 2018 FinCon held in Orlando, Florida because of a bad case of Imposter Syndrome (IS).
I therefore set out to rectify this mistake and purchased FinCon tickets for 2019 the very moment they became available.
Armed with over a year’s worth of blogging experience and over 200 posts, this time I felt a little more worthy to join the ranks of previous FinCon attendees (however that did not necessarily mean I completely conquered IS).
A not too auspicious start.
Sometimes the best laid plans can indeed go to waste.
My fiancée had just recently moved to Florida because of a job promotion and thus required us arriving in this year’s FinCon location, Washington DC, separately.
No problem, I bought airline tickets for both our departing cities and even coordinated the flights so we would arrive within an hour of each other.
Unfortunately mother nature interjected and created quite an interesting situation with Hurricane Dorian bearing down and projected to go right through her area around the time she was supposed to leave.
A little bit of scrambling around and fortunately the crisis was averted as she was able to get on a flight 2 days earlier.
On top of that, my fiancee somehow was also able to score a room at the site of the conference (Hilton) with a rate that was far better than even the one I received with the FinCon attendee group discount booked months in advance ($105 vs $169 per night).
In the end, the peace of mind that came with her getting out of Florida and arriving in DC unscathed was worth far more than the additional cost accrued.
The last few days of work are always painful before a vacation so I absolutely could not wait to jump on a plane and join my fiancee in DC.
Thankfully that day arrived and I made it to DC without a hitch (unlike a lot of poor folks who were trying to make their way, sometimes unsuccessfully, to FinCon while dealing with Hurricane Dorian).
I arrived the night before the official start of FinCon (Wednesday Sept 4-Sat Sept 7).
I was humbled and honored to be invited to a private party at Pizza PI by a big time blogger, John of ESI Money fame, and former Rockstar Finance owner.
I remember telling my fiancee when I first got the invite that this was one of the best signs that I am actually making it as a bonafide blogger.
Besides meeting John, who is 55 years old but looks like he is in his 30s and living proof that early retirement can do wonders for your well being, there was a star studded lineup of bloggers I got to meet firsthand that night including one of the biggest names in my niche, Leif Dahleen of Physician on FIRE fame.
I can tell you that Leif is every bit as genuine in person as he is on his website and is completely down to earth.
I somehow got lucky enough to sit next to him at the dinner table and even got a tip on which beer to order from the brewmeister himself.
My fiancee and I got to sit across from Camilo and Francisco (who happens to be a radiology resident) of The Finance Twins and truly had a blast hanging out with them.
As a complete FinCon newbie I did not know what to expect.
Peter Kim, of Passive Income MD, was kind enough to give me advice earlier saying that the best thing you can do is make connections and don’t worry about trying to attend every single session (which was impossible anyway as there were always multiple sessions going on at once).
Fortunately, with the early registration I did for FinCon passes, a bonus I received was a free virtual pass of all the sessions which were being filmed (this virtual pass normally costs $199 but regular FinCon attendees that did not qualify for the early bonus were able to pick them up for $99).
I did want to see the opening Keynote presentation that featured two highly esteemed individuals in this space.
Tanja Hester from Our Next Life and author of the book, Work Optional: Retire Early the Non-Penny-Pinching Way was the first to take the stage.
She was very witty and delivered a powerful underlying message that we need to stay true to our character and not pretend to be something that we are not just because that is what you think people want.
Ramit Sethi, wildly successful author of I Will Teach You to Be Rich, closed out the opening keynote presentation and probably had the greatest impact on me.
Ramit is an incredibly engaging, charismatic individual and I was just in awe to be able to witness him in action firsthand.
I certainly can do no justice to how the message was originally delivered but I will share it with you anyway.
Ramit first goes on about the concept of a rich life.
Too often we equate rich with money but nothing could be further from the truth.
You can be wildly wealthy but still not have a rich life as JP Getty clearly demonstrated.
A rich life is a life where you have the ability to use money as a tool to bring happiness into your life.
Making money just for the sake of money is not leading a rich life.
Making money and then using that money to share incredible experiences with your friends and loved ones is how one truly is considered living a rich life (Ramit gave his own personal example of taking his parents and in-laws on his honeymoon with upgraded airline seating etc as a way he lives a truly rich life).
Ordering from the menu without regards to cost but with regards to what you really want is another example Ramit gave.
“Have a tough time choosing between two appetizers? Just get both.”
One concept Ramit put forth really resonated with everyone in attendance.
He implored us to loosen the purse-strings and spend unashamedly on things that we love and counterbalance that with “cutting mercilessly” the expenses on things we do not.
He gave us a thought exercise, asking us to first imagine what we truly wanted if money was no object.
Travel and food were a common theme amongst the audience.
He asked us to envision a life where we spend 10x more than we do now on that very thing we want most.
Getting to the level where we can do that without guilt is indeed living a rich life.
Finding my tribe.
Far and away the best thing about FinCon was getting to meet my online virtual friends in this wonderful community and make them real world, in the flesh, friends.
It was hard not to contain your excitement when you met someone you follow online for the first time.
True superstars of the blogging world walk around like every day mortals and are quite approachable.
Some of the oddest moments I felt were when people came up to me and were excited to meet me.
One famous blogger who runs a 7 figure/year website was Harry Campbell, aka, The Rideshare Guy.
Harry actually came up to me and said I know you! I come across a lot of your comments.
[My commenting prowess on other people’s websites has apparently given me great notoriety as it was often used as an ice-breaker by someone who met me for the first time.]
Of course I gravitated to, and felt most at home, with other fellow physician bloggers (I believe someone counted over 20 physician attendees).
Actually meeting other anonymous physician bloggers, including the original gangster in the space, Wealthy Doc, as well as Dr. McFrugal, made me feel like I was part of a super secretive club.
Major props were also to be given to Physician Zen, who, unlike me, broke through the Imposter Syndrome barrier and attended his first FinCon just months after starting his great blog that is gaining traction.
And with the exception of meeting Jim Dahle, I was able to meet the remaining members of the White Coat Investor Network and they did not disappoint, Peter Kim of Passive Income MD and Jimmy Turner of The Physician Philosopher.
Both of these great individuals are as friendly and supportive as their online personas indicate.
In fact the physician blogging community, both online and in the real world, is one of the greatest communities I have ever been apart of.
There is no vying/competing with each other.
Everyone genuinely wants each other to do well, and I know I could ask anyone for support and receive it without strings attached.
I also consider myself lucky that I was able to run into a couple of non-physician bloggers and had some great, although way too brief, interactions.
In particular, meeting some my personal favorite bloggers in person, such as Dave of Accidental Fire, the anonymous blogger behind Full Time Finance, and Fred Leamnson of Money With A Purpose, will have a lasting impression on me.
Considering there were some 2,500 attendees at this conference, finding certain individuals is akin to a needle in a haystack.
Bust A Move.
I have to say that the FinCon organizers really know how to throw a shindig.
The first night welcoming party entailed securing the entire Smithsonian National Museum Of The American Indian.
That’s right, all 5 floors.
Each floor was packed with food and unlimited alcohol which flowed so freely that it would make any Roman emperor proud.
Coupled with a wall of doughnuts, appropriately called, “the Doughnut Wall,” the organizers were assured that every guest had access to an unlimited supply of calories.
There was even a live band and dance floor, which an anonymous physician radiologist blogger who shall not be named, may or may not have been busting some serious dance moves on.
Not to be outdone, the farewell party was even more livelier with the dance floor packed and bumping to the tunes of a DJ spinning some great mixes (again with an undisclosed anonymous physician blogger who happens to be a radiologist taking part in).
Those two parties alone were well worth the $200 FinCon pass I paid for the entire week.
Swag and Frugality: A Match Made In Heaven.
You know you are frugal when you cruise Sams Club and get excited when they give away free food samples.
Well turn that notch up about 1000x and you still would not be able to comprehend what FinCon Central had in store for its attendees.
Everywhere you looked there were vendors and big name companies who were giving away some seriously nice swag that made the luggage on the return trip much heavier.
Every attendee had the opportunity to have a professional head shot made with a professional photographer (both my fiancee and I took advantage of this).
One of the funniest moments I experienced in the land of swag was at the Ally Bank display:
Ally Bank had this incredible contraption that took a photo of you and put it on a Macaron.
I had my picture taken and was waiting patiently for the confection to be created.
The lady manning the tray of products would look around and match the macaron with the attendee and presented said individual with a presentation box proudly displaying the creation.
I kept waiting and waiting for mine to appear, to the point where there was only one Macaron left.
The Ally lady looked around, couldn’t find the owner and proceeded with her duties.
My fiancee joined me as part of the next wave to have it done and when I saw her Macaron appear before mine I thought something surely was wrong.
It turns out that the previous lone Macaron survivor, which I actually thought was an old lady from my vantage point, was indeed me!
Even the Ally lady kind of laughed when she realized that it was supposed to represent me (and now you know the real reason why I used an MRI image to represent me on this website).
Some of the more notable swag that I received included:
- A stainless steel coated Vanguard tumbler.
- A really nice portable 5000 mAh power source on a keychain from TIAA.org.
- A laminated photo by AARP where they created a magazine cover with you as the star.
- Numerous laser pointers, pens, and even gold playing cards.
It is no wonder some former attendees had advised bringing an extra bag to the conference to carry all the stuff home.
With some pretty impressive packing skills (and her insistence of not wanting to check any bags on the return flight) my fiancee did her best impersonation of a Sherpa, leaving DC with an absolutely stuffed to the hilt backpack and a carry on to boot.
I will admit it.
I used to have a distorted view of non-medical conferences, most notably ComiCon which my best friend from college frequents annually.
I would sort of laugh to myself at the people dressing up in their favorite superhero characters, etc.
But after attending this conference I totally get it.
Who cares if you are judged by people on the outside.
This is not for them, it is for you.
We may be a merry band of misfits (or financial nerds) but something magical happens when we find ourselves surrounded by like-minded individuals.
I cannot stress how important it is to find your tribe in the world and be part of a community that gets you, whatever the focus may be.
Humans are meant to be social creatures.
Social media strips away at that, as these important social interactions, become relegated to the impersonal and distant virtual world.
It is real world physical interactions that truly solidify your place in the universe and that does wonders for your well being.
[I have not even touched on the amazing food scene DC offers and because of the length of this already long post will do a post featuring that aspect in the following weeks.]
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Ex cons unite! It was great meeting you too Doc, and your fiance.
Thanks Dave. I have a lot of memories from that conference and glad I went.
It was great meeting you finally and great wrap up. Any new plans for the site after the conference?
Thanks FTF. I am actually waiting on the virtual pass so I can see the majority of sessions I had intended to go to and hopefully get tips to improve site.
Thank you for sharing your FinCon experience with us all. Still hopeful that next year I will be able to attend and meet you and hopefully your fiancé in person.
I am sure our paths will cross sometime and hope at the latest by next fincon ?
Thanks xrayvsn!! Amazing post like always! It was so great meeting you. Your energy and enthusiasm are second to none. And your fiancé is awesome. You guys make a wonderful couple. Will always remember those moments at FinCon with you and this tribe. Thanks again for dinner!! Till Long Beach.
Appreciate it Vi. Looking forward to Long Beach as well. We will both have 1 year experience under our belt 🙂
Very important tip at the bg of this post that should not be overlooked: never assume the conference rate you’re offered is the best available. I’ve had this experience, too. Glad you had a great time!
Thanks Johanna. I was quite naive for sure thinking a group discount rate would be the best achievable. I am not sure how my fiance scored such low rates but perhaps there were unexpected vacancies due to Dorian. If I was smarter I would have tried to rebook the tickets the moment I found out as I still had a cancelation window available.
What a wonderful recap! I didn’t go to FinCon in 2018 for many of the same reasons you mentioned, and missed this year’s event because we already had conflicting travel plans. But next year! FinCon2020 will be my first time, and I’m excited to do all. the. things. and meet more PF & FIRE bloggers. I hope our paths cross!
That is awesome you are planning on going to FinCon 2020 and I do hope to see you there. I am sure it will be even better as it seems to snowball in awesomeness. Look forward to meeting you as well 🙂
It is often so hard to find people that are anonymous online, trying to look at the blog name in the small print on those badges. It was great to meet you at the last minute — the big closing party. Even if brief, you are right, these real moments make the difference. Seeing the smile on your face and meeting your fiancee was really great. I could instantly connect the humor and intellect I find from reading your comments here and there. I’ll see you out in the FI world and now feel I know you just a little.… Read more »
Thanks Susan. I was happy to have fortuitously run into you at the last minute. Dave of Accidental FIRE saw me earlier and told me you were looking out for me.
I’m not in this finance world and have never heard of this conference. Appreciate the synopsis! I love the distinction between being rich and wealthy. Allowing yourself to balance and using money as a tool for things that brings you joy, while being conservative in other areas makes sense. One still has to be sensible, but passing up opportunities on experiences that offers happiness is sad to me. But so much of the general financial FIRE related discussions makes it seem that is what we should be doing. The clinical practice world can be hard and stressful. So striving to… Read more »
Hey Michelle. Thanks for the comment. I too really never heard of the conference until I started blogging in this space. Next year will be the 10th anniversary so it has been going on for a bit. I too was moved with Ramit’s speech and that concept really struck a chord with me. I have written previously about my father, also a doctor, passing away at age 50 and working hard always thinking about time to enjoy later (time which never came). As I am quickly approaching that age (I’m 48) I really want to get some memorable experiences under… Read more »
I agree 100%. Thank you for that refreshing follow up. So sorry to hear of your father. I didn’t see that post. My mother is the one pushing for me to try to enjoy life more as she feels I work too much and very hard( I agree). But felling I need to make up for lost time due to career change and then my divorce. I have always been an aggressive saver “for retirement” but with the downtime for school etc I haven’t given myself a real break. This summer I took two weeks off and the self imposed… Read more »
You just made my day with the last two sentences of your wonderful comment (please spread the word as it has been a struggle to build up an audience (which still is dwarfed by the bigger sites) but as I found out with life in general there is a lot of upfront work before results come in. Your mother sounds like a very smart woman and her advice is very sound. You seem to have a very similar personality to my fiancee who also is always on a productive kick. She feels guilty if she does not have something productive… Read more »
By the way this is the link to my post about my father if you did want to check it out: https://xrayvsn.com/2018/06/26/my-inspiration-for-fire/
Glad you had so much fun. It’s a shame that we couldn’t meet up, but there’s always next year!
Yeah I hope to meet even more next year.
Look forward to meeting you next year in Long Beach, my friend. Glad you had such a wonderful first – it really is a merry band of misfits, and what a pleasure to feel the others take you under their wing!
I am looking forward to meeting you as well. I am sure the organizers have something amazing again in store for us.