Why I’m Not Going to FinCon 2016

FinCon is the place to be if you’re involved in personal finance. Many bloggers descend on this conference once a year to share ideas on how they can leave a bigger impact. Or so I’ve been told. Despite all these great things, I’ve decided not to attend FinCon2016 and I’ll share why.

Before I started Distilled Dollar earlier this year, I had a naive approach to blogging. I didn’t realize how much work was involved until I sat awake at 2 AM, editing a last minute article, only to discovering the image doesn’t integrate correctly in my WordPress theme.

Last minute technical difficulties in blogging turned into a rite of passage for me. The same can be said for basically any profession these days.

You might consider this overly optimistic for starting something new or what’s known as the planning fallacy. Either way, it led to a lot of headaches the next day.

When I first heard about FinCon 2016 being hosted in San Diego, my immediate thought was that I needed to be there. After all, if I am serious about building my blog and I know there are a hundred different realms I can improve upon, then why not go and learn from the best?

So, I came up reasons why I shouldn’t go and I weighed them against the reasons I should go.

Here’s my recap on why I’m not going to FinCon 2016:


1. Common Values

The first step is always understanding our shared values. In my relationship, my girlfriend and I always make sure we’re on the same page.

This year, we’ve put a focus on doubling our savings rate. Attending FinCon would be such a large exception to our plan that it would lead to us failing on that goal.

I find that once we make one exception, the next one becomes a little easier. Slowly and piece by piece, the entire plan starts to fall apart.

Thanks to being held publicly accountable this year on my blog , I’ve had a clearer decision making process. This has led us to staying on track for our goal and we’re accelerating ourselves towards financial freedom faster than ever.

I also learned here that I need to make my goals more flexible next year. The point of pursuing financial freedom is to have some F-You money in place so I can jump on exciting opportunities like FinCon.

While I love optimizing my budget, I’ve made a point to slightly expand my F-You fund in 2017 to allow for more impromptu opportunities.

2. The Work Left Undone

For me, I know there is still a lot of work I need to do on the site. There are pages I need to build, design tweaks I should make, and useful tools my readers would find helpful. I’ve had several requests to share the excel file I use to track my net worth, but I haven’t gotten around to making it publicly available.

Part of the reason is because I’m starting to enjoy the benefits Personal Capital has to offer in terms of keeping track of my net worth for me. But, the biggest reason is because I’m having a hard enough time maintaining my three posts a week schedule.

To solve this, I’ve set a goal of creating a large pipeline of posts so that I’m not up at 2 AM writing. My mental psyche would much prefer to have everything set to go days ahead of time.

To accomplish this, I’ve started to organize my schedule by having alternating weekends between work and R&R. My end goal is to have a pipeline of at least 4 weeks of posts by October.

By creating enough space in my schedule, I’ll develop the space to take on new opportunities.

3. We’re Still at the Mercy of our Employers

Another big reason has been the lack of PTO days available.

I have close friends and relatives spread across the country that I’ve already made plans to visit this year and early next year. By going to FinCon 2016, I would need to reschedule a visit.

So with all that said, here’s my final say:

The surface layer truth is that this blog is about my pursuit of financial independence. The more nuanced layer truth is that I want this blog to serve ANYONE on THEIR path to financial freedom.

With these truths in mind, I’m committing now to attending FinCon in 2017.

While I wish I could attend FinCon in 2016, I know the reasons against it are too strong to ignore. It would be irresponsible at this stage of my life.

If I treat my blog as a business, then the majority of my earnings should be reinvested back into the business. From this standpoint, spending a couple thousand dollars between the conference tickets, flights, hotel/AirBnb, etc. will be a wise investment of my resources in 2017.

With personal finance changing so much in the last few decades due to the reshaping of the global economy, I know many of the writers today will be seen the same way we view the first cars or airplanes.

There will naturally be many more developments in personal finance that will serve to better help people. I’m excited to be a small piece in such a larger movement.

For those attending in 2016, I wish you the best as you learn and share your knowledge. I look forward to joining you in 2017!

Will you be attending FinCon in 2016? Are you planning on not going this year but considering attending next year? Do you find conventions helpful in your career or profession?

Master Distiller

38 comments… add one
  • [email protected] Smarter Decisions Aug 12, 2016, 7:06 am

    Hey Matt! I was thinking of going too and am not going for many of the reasons you listed. I’m too new and still need to get this all figured out. And I just took a temporary job now, so I’ll actually be working… But all is good! I hope that everyone has a great time and we’ll hope to go next year as well. I’m not a fan of conventions in my profession but I think this would be a total 180 of what I’ve experienced.

    • Distilled Dollar Aug 15, 2016, 5:33 am

      Based on what I’ve seen, I definitely agree with your last comment. This convention looks to have a lot value, whereas many others do not.

      Hope to see you in 2017! 🙂

  • Ty @ Get Rich Quickish Aug 12, 2016, 8:58 am

    As a part-time blogger (at best) I’m not sure if I’m quite ready to commit to FinCin this year. I’m on the fence still. Whereas you seem to be cranking posts out like a pez dispenser, I’m putting out fewer and fewer each month. Between my wife, four kids, and job I simply don’t have the time I want or need to blog right now. While I do have the budget and PTO available to attend, I’m just not sure I can justify it this year.

    • Distilled Dollar Aug 15, 2016, 5:37 am

      True – If the level of our non-blogging commitments shoots up, then we would need to reevaluate our decision. I feel like we’ve added a lot recently when we adopted a kitten – haha, so I can only imagine the time involved with FOUR kids!

  • Matt @ Optimize Your Life Aug 12, 2016, 9:02 am

    I saw the title and expected a contrarian argument about FinCon not being valuable or being a waste of time. Every concern that you listed is completely valid and definitely worth considering before diving into spending time and money. Thanks for the analysis!

    • Distilled Dollar Aug 15, 2016, 5:39 am

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post Matt! I had every intention of writing a post on “Why I Am Going,” but I couldn’t justify it to myself or my girlfriend. In the end, I still have plenty of work to do on the site over the next few months.

  • Elsie @ Gundomoney Aug 12, 2016, 12:08 pm

    I’m not going either, I couldn’t justify spending the money even though I live a couple hours away and I have free lodging there. I feel like it goes against what we preach to shell out for an event like that. I say we all meet up for free and share ideas. That makes more sense to me.

    Welcome to the Absent Fincon club Matt

    • Distilled Dollar Aug 15, 2016, 5:42 am

      Hopefully you can win the free ticket Staci mentioned elsewhere in the comments!

      I’m crossing my fingers I’ll be able to drive to the location next year. Although, making an excuse to travel to California wouldn’t be as bad with the planning ahead of time.

  • FinanceSuperhero Aug 12, 2016, 12:10 pm

    I’m right there with you, Matt. I had the desire to go to FinCon this year, but the timing and financial implications just don’t reconcile with our goals. As you said, once you start making exceptions, it can become nearly impossible to achieve your initial goals.

    I don’t think I’m ready to make a commitment to attending FinCon 2017, but it is definitely something I am considering. It is hard for me to project what my life will look like at that point, and as you pointed out, PTO is a precious commodity!

    • Distilled Dollar Aug 15, 2016, 5:45 am

      A projection more than 12 months out is definitely plenty of time for new factors to weigh in on the decision making process. At least I’ll be able to better organize my PTO ahead of time! 🙂

  • Stefan @Mllnnlbudget Aug 12, 2016, 12:17 pm

    Share many of the same beliefs as you regarding this amazing event Matt. It certainly seems like a great opportunity however it was not in my budget nor do I have the funds to attend currently.

    My blog is far too new to justify going to this event but it is on my radar in the coming years.

    • Distilled Dollar Aug 15, 2016, 5:46 am

      Sounds like we’re on the same page. I imagine I would learn a tremendous amount this year, but I know much of that learning would not be put to good use as I’m still so new. I’m looking forward to hearing recaps from other bloggers when they attend this year.

  • Tawcan Aug 12, 2016, 12:18 pm

    I was planning to go, especially it’s in San Diego so it’s a lot closer to Vancouver than other eastern locations. However due to work travel, I’ll be in Europe the week after FinCon. Being away from home for 2 weeks straight and leaving my wife with 2 little ones is not good. I also came up with similar conclusions as you. I’ll definitely try to attend FinCon 2017.

    • Distilled Dollar Aug 15, 2016, 5:48 am

      Great call! 2 weeks away would never work in my situation, even thought we don’t have kids.

      Business travel and lack of PTO days – its as if they don’t want us to work on side gigs! 😉

  • Kumiko Aug 12, 2016, 5:27 pm

    Matt, I am right there with ya:-) I wanted to attend but ultimately decided my wallet just couldn’t afford it. I hope to see you there in 2017!

    • Distilled Dollar Aug 15, 2016, 5:49 am

      Yep! We’ll be able to budget more for it next year without compromising on our goals. We hope to see you in 2017!

  • Staci @Streamline365 Aug 13, 2016, 11:52 am

    Your reasons are all completely valid! I’d love to go, but can’t now that we have moved to Kuwait. This means I have a ticket that I’m giving away, so Elsie and anyone else within driving distance who would go if they had a free ticket, head over to streamline365.com to enter. I’m truly hoping someone who really could use and benefit from it wins! Maybe I’ll be able to make it to Fincon 17 and see some of you there!

    • Distilled Dollar Aug 15, 2016, 5:50 am

      That is a FAR way to travel! Sounds like the learning you’ll receive is right where you are already. 🙂

      A FREE ticket! I couldn’t believe that when I read it, so it is great to see you’ll be giving it away. You’ll make someone’s day very soon.

  • Finance Solver Aug 13, 2016, 4:26 pm

    If costs weren’t an issue, I would definitely be going to FinCon. However, it’s so expensive and I can’t justify spending that much money to attend an event when I’m like Ty up there being a part-time blogger at best. I also just started work so I can’t justify it to my employer that I’m taking a PTO so early at my job!

    • Distilled Dollar Aug 15, 2016, 5:52 am

      Yep – the time & money constraint is real. I’m crossing my fingers the convention will be held in another new city for us. This way, we’ll at least be able to make a mini vacation out of the trip.

  • Jon @ Be Net Worthy Aug 13, 2016, 4:47 pm

    I would imagine that there is a ton to learn at FinCon, but I’m too new to be able to take advantage of it. There are far too many things I still need to do on my site, the basics, before I’d be ready for something like that.

    In addition, I want to site to make money eventually and throwing a couple grand of expenses into the P&L would set me back quite a bit!

    I wonder if they post any of the speakers on YouTube so we can all check them out later?

    • Distilled Dollar Aug 15, 2016, 5:54 am

      I haven’t seen any presentations directly on youtube, but I’ve basically found all the information is out there…if you take the time to find it. Many of the presenters will speak elsewhere or have summaries of similar thoughts in different posts. I’m sure you would agree, but the advantage with FinCon ( I imagine) is having all the knowledge condensed into a crash course on various topics.

  • Dividends Down Under Aug 13, 2016, 11:44 pm

    Hey Matt, all your reasons make sense and if I were in your shoes I’d have come to the same conclusion. But good for you on committing to next years, that way you’ll definitely be there 🙂

    Good job on sticking with your main goals first and foremost. And 2AM blogging? Wow. Sounds like getting a pipeline is definitely the right thing to do.


    • Distilled Dollar Aug 15, 2016, 5:55 am

      2AM blogging is NOT fun! Most of those late nights for me was when I faced a technical issue while preparing a post. I think I’ve worked through all the kinks in the process but I’m crossing my fingers.

  • OB @ Out of State Investor Aug 14, 2016, 11:39 pm

    On the bright side, you’ll save 50% by registering as a super early bird for 2017 FinCon.

    • Distilled Dollar Aug 15, 2016, 5:58 am

      Wow, didn’t realize it was a full 50% on the early bird. That will definitely help us in terms of our budget!

  • Paul Andrews Aug 16, 2016, 11:01 am

    You know, you could almost make an argument at the early bird pricing, but with lodging/travel/food, you’re looking at quite a price to pay! Though part of me thinks there are enough personal finance bloggers in Chicago to justify a small conference there… thoughts? 🙂

    • Distilled Dollar Aug 17, 2016, 5:51 am

      Brilliant! I know others have suggested the name FrugalCon! Haha.

      There are a good amount of bloggers located in the Midwest and I’m sure more would travel if it was big enough, so it is not a bad idea at all. Coordination and planning though…not my greatest strengths. 🙂

  • Julie @ Millennial Boss Aug 16, 2016, 1:24 pm

    I’m going to FINCON this year and can’t wait! I went to the Chautauqua in Ecuador last year with MMM, Mad Fientist, and Go Curry Cracker and can say the return on our spend has already happened. Sometimes it’s not just about what you learn from these conferences, it’s about the motivation and the community of support you build for your goals. I’ve also been to TBEX and FTU (travel blogging and travel hacking respectively) in the past so I’m into conferences. Personal education is a significant part of my spending. I also love being around other people who have similar goals since I don’t get that in real life. See you in ’17!

    • Distilled Dollar Aug 17, 2016, 5:54 am

      That all sounds amazing. I like your attitude about being around like minded individuals. This year (my first year blogging) has really amped up my frugality and sense of reaching FI because of all the conversations I have with other people on the same path.

      It is no longer a sense that I need to motivate myself, but a sense that I’m excited to share in the journey and excited to learn more about ways I can optimize my budget, lifestyle, etc. This type of excitement just doesn’t exist in my 8-6 job, so I’m glad I put myself out there via this site.

      Thanks for the comment and yes, looking forward to learning more in 2017! 🙂

  • Gwen @ Fiery Millennials Aug 16, 2016, 2:33 pm

    I didn’t go to FinCon last year for basically all the reasons you listed above. I had already planned out all my vacation days and didn’t really have the spare cash lying around.

    I will say though, that events like these are well worth the money. I’ve been to multiple local (ish) meetups, the Chautauqua in Ecuador and Camp Mustache this year. The community I’ve developed through these have given me more returns than the market ever could. See you next year 🙂

    • Distilled Dollar Aug 17, 2016, 5:55 am

      Sounds like you and Julie are on the same page! 🙂

      I’m looking forward to connecting more with people within the personal finance realm. I’ve learned a lot throughout the years from reading other blogs so it’ll be nice to finally meet some of the people as well.

  • Stefanie O'Connell Aug 24, 2016, 6:40 pm

    The first year I went to FinCon I spent just over $100 TOTAL. Got the scholarship, couchsurfed and travel hacked the flights. The next year I went to FinCon, I was a full time blogger with triple my previous income 🙂

    • Distilled Dollar Aug 24, 2016, 7:14 pm

      That’s awesome! Very encouraging for 2017! 🙂

      I would love to couch surf but I know my girlfriend would prefer we get our own place. I’ve got the travel hack part down for flights and I’ll even set up a card that I can use for AirBnb for next year…so the travel costs should be zero. I’ll also be able to “budget” my PTO better.

      I’m not aware of any scholarships – care you expand more on that? I’ll have to look into it. Either way, I’ll be happy with the early bird pricing vs the “full” rate.

  • Philip Taylor Aug 25, 2016, 11:46 am

    Matt, thanks for sharing this, and thanks for considering FinCon. Good to see another CPA / money blogger. I created the event for folks like you so I’m always disappointed when I hear someone can’t attend. But I get it…a conference is more that just the price of attendance…you’ve got flight, hotel, etc. It’s a $1,000 proposition before you know it. I’m not sure I would have paid that my first year of blogging. Stefanie is referencing our annual scholarships which I created for guys just like you: http://www.finconmedia.com/fincon-scholarship/ We’ve already selected the winners for this year. But I do have a few partial scholarship’s still available. Contact me if you’re interested in that. And regarding Chicago, check out this local meetup group: http://local.finconexpo.com/illinois/chicago/ Save the date for #FinCon17: Oct 25-28. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts on the event. Hope to meet you soon.

    • Distilled Dollar Jan 25, 2017, 9:50 pm

      Just realized I never replied to this comment PT! Thanks for leaving the links and stopping by my site. I’ve already picked up my #FinCon17 tickets and we’re excited to be going!

  • Syed Dec 6, 2016, 4:33 pm

    I had many of the same doubts about attending FinCon 2016. But I’m committing to go to FinCon 2017 because I’m tired of seeing almost no growth on my blog for years. I used this as a reason not to attend but a prominent PF blogger turned that on me. I told him I wasn’t big enough to go to FinCon. He said if you want to get big then you need to come to FinCon!

    • Distilled Dollar Dec 6, 2016, 5:39 pm

      That’s a great way to flip the equation on its head. I had a similar event not long ago where I basically asked myself why I was pinching pennies on the site but willing to spend hundreds of hours. If I truly felt it was valuable to myself and valuable to others, then I should invest into it with more than my time. So, I made a switch and started doing more for my site — including FinCon 2017 tickets!

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