The 5 Biggest Things I Learned at #FinCon18

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The 5 Biggest Things I Learned at #FinCon18

Well, that was fast. Somehow #FinCon18 has already come and gone — and boy what a few days it was. Not only did I manage to make it to nine of the 10 sessions I wanted to attend but also got to sit on some great keynotes, be introduced to several interesting products and services, and of course meet a few fascinating fellow bloggers. Over the course of just four days, I learned a ton and seemed to find inspiration in every breakout session, panel, and conversation I found myself in.

On that note, I wanted to take the time to highlight what I think are the five biggest lessons I learned from FinCon and how they’ll inform what I do going forward:

Figuring out Pinterest

Before heading off the this year’s FinCon, I wrote that one of my top priorities was gaining a better understanding of the elusive Pinterest and figure out how to make it work for my site. Well, not only did I learn a lot about the platform but it turns out I knew even less than I thought.

Up until this point, my Pinterest strategy (as far as there was one) was to hunt down group boards that seemed like a good fit, hit up the owner of said boards in hopes of getting an invite, and then try to post my pins to those boards without being spammy. As it turns out, this was likely all a waste of time as Pinterest has apparently now disclosed that they’re not big fans of what group boards have become and, while some may be helpful for driving traffic, there are far better options. Needless to say, this was quite a revelation and I feel much better about the new strategy ideas I obtained from that Wednesday Workshop. As an added bonus, at the same time I was learning about the search benefits of Pinterest and how to properly repin, I also discovered that my social media scheduler Viraltag now has access to the Pinterest API, making my life just that much easier.

Diversify without overdoing it

Another goal I had going into the expo was to get some ideas for a possible Money@30 podcast. On that front, I definitely got some great advice and I feel I’m getting closer to nailing down exactly what I would want such a show to be. Simultaneously, something I was reminded of again and again during various FinCon sessions was not to get too carried away with trying to do everything.

To be sure, there’s definitely value in diversifying your revenue streams to help protect yourself. For example, if you’re relying on Facebook for 90% of your traffic, one little algorithmic tweak could severely impact your income. However, it’s easy to get wrapped up in trying to chase every new hot thing and end up spreading yourself (and your content) too thin. With “quality over quantity” proving another recurring theme of the event, I’ll be sure to choose any new avenues I pursue carefully and make sure I can do each one justice.

Money is a wide net

During her opening night keynote, Jean Chatzky hit on an aspect of personal finance that could help explain why I enjoy writing about it so much: it’s a huge tent. Contrary to popular belief, covering finance and money doesn’t mean you’re talking solely about technical analysis, taxes, or interest rates. Instead, you have the ability to talk about money in a broader sense and approach a whole range of stories from a different perspective.

Sometimes learning just means hearing things you already knew but having that validation solidify the thought in your mind. That’s definitely what happened here and it was a nice reassurance that, when I think I’m out of topics to discuss, I’ve only scratched the surface.

Finding my niche

Stepping outside of the many great sessions I attended at #FinCon18, one of the largest lessons I learned actually came from the opening night parties. No, this isn’t a story about drinking too much and ending up on some Hangover-esque romp — it’s about realizing that I haven’t done a great job at explaining where my site fits into the larger personal finance space.

Up until this week, the tagline for Money@30 was “In Pursuit of Financial Independence.” When I chose that, I understood what the traditional meaning of “financial independence” was but had intended on putting my own spin on it. Unfortunately, I haven’t really followed through on that goal and so this motto might have led some to think my site was angling in on the FI/RE phenomenon, which I can’t say that I am.

What got me thinking about this issue was the welcome reception (presented by USAA, as I’m sure P.T. would like me to note) where several of the tables in the hall bore the names of various finance niches, allowing minglers to meet some likeminded folks. That’s when I realized that I wasn’t quite sure which niche I would place myself. While “frugal,” “travel,” “credit cards” and, yes, “FI/RE,” would all apply somewhat, none seemed like a true fit.

Ultimately, I’m happy to be “in all” as opposed to “all in” when it comes to nailing down a niche, but I’ve decided to change my tagline to something that I think better explains my site and my philosophies on money: “Practical tips for prioritizing your money.” By “prioritize your money,” I both mean making your finances a focus of your life as well as managing your money in such a way that it enables you to live the kind of life you want. Hopefully moving forward under this new refocused banner will allow me to better express what I’m all about and find the right audience for my work.

Staying at the host hotel 

Finally, on a personal note, there’s a big part of me that’s really regretting not taking up residence at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort during the FinCon festivities. While I greatly enjoyed staying in my way-too-big three bedroom, three bathroom Wyndham timeshare courtesy of my generous in-laws, the drive from the resort to the convention was about a half hour each way each day. As a result, once I decided to retire to my unit, I was in for the night — meaning I missed some of the later events, like the closing night party.

Thus, next time around, I think it’s probably worth it to spend a little extra, stay on-site, and get the full FinCon experience. This is especially important for #FinCon19 and I’m already very much familiar with the horror stories of D.C. traffic and their intentionally-confusing street layout. With that, I’m betting that skipping the hassle and staying at the hosting hotel will be well worth the price I pay.

I really can’t say enough good things about my #FinCon18 experience. In fact, the biggest compliment I can pay the event is that I’ve already purchased my pass for 2019 — something a procrastinator like me is not inclined to do too often. Before I sign off, I just want to give one more huge “thank you” to all of the speakers, volunteers, hosts, and staff of FinCon for an outstanding event and a “nice to meet you” to all of my fellow attendees who I’m sure learned just as much from the conference as I did.


Kyle Burbank

Kyle is a freelance writer and author whose first book, "The E-Ticket Life" is now available on Amazon. In addition to his weekly "Money at 30" column on Dyer News, he is also the editorial director and a writer for the Disney fan site and the founder of

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