Pursuing a Triple Bottom Line at FinCon 2019

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It’s an exciting time to be blogging at the nexus of personal finance and sustainability. As my blog continues to gain traction and I find my feet in this online realm, I’m receiving more and more positive feedback for the value and need for this work. I would very much like to improve, expand, and monetize (in ways that don’t compromise me or my readers) this website of mine. After hearing others in the financial independence/retire early (FIRE) space rave for the past two years about an event called FinCon, I decided to jumpstart my efforts by attending this self-proclaimed gathering of money nerds, which was held in Washington, DC earlier this month.

People Matter

This conference for those working in the realm of personal finance (pf) media (think bloggers, podcasters, YouTubers, authors, freelancers, and so many more) attracted 2,500 people. FinCon is all about building community and fostering collaboration between these pf media professionals, which is why so many people love it and return year after year. Some even pay extra for the virtual pass so they can watch the sessions when they return home. Then they spend their time onsite exploring the future potential to earn money partnering with the companies represented there, and promoting their own brand or business, but most especially interacting with old and new friends, recording podcast and video interviews with each other, as well as contemplating ideas for future collaboration.

FinCon 2019
New FinCon Friends – Jenifer Mah & Melissa Lagerquist

There are many people to meet and connect with at this event. I was struck during the orientation session for first timers presented by FinCon Community Manager Nick True of Mapped Out Money, when he made the point – People Matter. We were encouraged to speak with as many people as possible while always focusing on the person with whom we were speaking and not looking over their shoulder to see who else was in the room. In a session on Networking for Introverts Jillian Johnsrund of Montana Money Adventures noted that at FinCon she tends to have 300 three minute conversations. I’m not sure I had as many as 300 conversations, but I sure did have numerous brief conversations with many different people.

As a newcomer I was fortunate to know a few people from my hometown, who attended (shoutout here to Jen from Modern Frugality and financial independence fiction writer MK Williams). I also saw some familiar faces from Camp Mustache (CM), which I wrote about here. I was delighted to be reunited with fellow FIRE and sustainability blogger Michelle from Frugality and Freedom. I don’t think I conveyed to her how grateful I am for all the tweeting and other social media promoting she’s done for this blog of mine, so Michelle if you read this “thank you, and know that once I’m more social media savvy I’ll return the favor.” It was fun sharing in Rosemary’s joy as she and her husband reorient their blog to highlight the connection between physical and financial health at Flourish Fundamentals. Other CM friend sightings included Lynn from Nurse Numbers, Diania the force behind making the upcoming Econome conference a reality, Cheryl Anne who is pondering the post-FI/RE life at Crow and Jar, and Michelle, who just launched her new business accounting website Thrive.

Most of the people, exhibitors, and vendors attending FinCon are NOT focused on a more socially responsible way to manage money so I prioritized the niche meetups where I thought some of the energy of the margins that we permaculturalists value so much might be percolating. social justice investingThat was certainly the case at the Equity & Justice: Finance Folks Who Care meetup organized by Adam Kol of AHK Coaching. At least thirty people showed up to discuss how the work they do and/or their personal interests connect with the topic. I may be one of the only ones so far factoring equity and social justice issues into my investing decisions, but that may only be because most people don’t even know that less extractive, more equitable investing opportunities exist. I knew I was in the right crowd for me when I saw this Black CFPS Matter t-shirt.

I also took a nice walk a little north of the conference site to lovely Kalorama Park for the Frugal Friends meetup. Being a Florida girl, who prefers to be outside in a natural setting, I greatly appreciated this choice of venue in which to chat and get to know financially savvy people who think twice before spending money and consuming more resources often flexing their creative $$$ saving muscles instead to find alternatives. Another gathering I appreciated for the people as well as the location choice was the Women’s Personal Finance (Women On FIRE) Facebook group meetup held on the outdoor patio at the conference hotel. This FB group now numbers almost 9,000 people and at least 100 of them chatted face to face at this meetup.

Turns out Hadassah from Ride Free Fearless Money was also in attendance. Too bad I found this out after the fact. I discovered her website this past year and have really appreciated her more alternative, social justice oriented voice on the subject of financial freedom. I especially enjoyed the observations she shared from FinCon19 as well as her perspective on financial independence.

Planet

Having seen so many niche meetups on the FinCon schedule, but nothing focused on sustainability I reached out to Nick True to see if something could still be added to their already robust agenda. The FinCon planning team recognized the value of this suggestion and added the Sustainability & FI meetup. I had no idea what to expect being this was my first time at FinCon and the first time an environmentally focused meetup had appeared on the schedule.

I was not disappointed when over forty people navigated a large space in which multiple niche meetups were occurring to find us. We broke up into small groups sharing how we weave (or plan to) environmental concerns into our work in the personal finance space. Many people lingered and continued conversing well beyond the thirty minutes allotted on the schedule. We passed around an email list and over forty of us signed-up to stay in touch to promote each other’s work, cross-pollinate, and increase the visibility of environmental conversations in personal finance, including at next year’s FinCon. Even some people who weren’t able to make it to the meetup requested later that they be added to the email list. (If you are a pf media person interested in sustainability and would like to be added to the list feel free to either let me know in the comments section below or email me directly at Triplebottomlinefi@gmail.com.)

This Sustainability & FI meetup was the highlight of FinCon for me. I even met some other money-minded people practicing permaculture. I look forward to exploring their blogs, podcasts, YouTube channels, and more and sharing these new resources with readers.

Loved meeting the green minded FinCon influencers at the Sustainability & FI meetup (note: plastic swag is not eco-friendly)

At the end of the previously mentioned Equity and Justice meetup Adam Kol suggested we all work together to help FinCon founder Phillip Taylor of PT Money and his hard-working team green this event in future years and make it more eco-friendly. I would very much like to see those of us that attended the Sustainability & FI meetup join this effort as well.

Washington, DC is not a great place for dumpster diving so I didn’t do it while I was there. I did however, meet someone else I’ve referenced on this blog who has highlighted its benefits. Like me Kevin from Financial Panther was drawn to the outdoor terrace. I introduced myself when I saw him sitting out there and told him I had previously linked to his article about the money has has made selling some of the very nice items he and his wife find in and near the dumpsters of their apartment building.

sustainability; sustainable; environmentally friendly
The most eco-friendly looking item I saw at FinCon


Profit

So I did come to FinCon with profit on my mind as well as people and planet. I want to make this website so much better and I recognize to do so will take a great deal of my time and must be accompanied by meaningful income opportunities (to keep it sustainable for me personally, but also because we need to find ways for this more regenerative vs. extractive work to be compensated).

I knew that I wouldn’t find as many brands or companies at FinCon to collaborate with as other attendees simply because most of the booths lining the exhibition hall were for mainstream companies. Luckily, a few cutting-edge booths dotted the hall as well. I look forward to revealing more about these forward-thinking companies in future posts. Rest assured more and more investing opportunities that direct our money away from Wall Street towards more meaningful (or at least “less bad) ventures and are accessible to us “retail investors” (that’s a new term I learned at FinCon for non-accredited investors/people with a net worth of less than $1 million or minimum annual salary of $200,000) are coming online.

One of these companies that not only exhibited at FinCon, but managed to secure probably the only investing focused slot on the agenda that diverged from stocks, bonds, or real estate towards something much more innovative and impactful was Worthy. Founded by Sally Outlaw Worthy bills itself as “a fairer, more human face of finance.” The company sells bonds to investors at 5% interest and uses the proceeds “to help fuel American small businesses.” I purchased Worthy bonds about six months ago and have watched my returns steadily roll in since then. You can receive an additional $10 bond when you use this link to open a Worthy account and purchase 20 bonds ($200) or more.

This being my first year at FinCon I didn’t spend as much time in hallway conversations as others. Because I am so far behind in my blogging/technology learning curve compared to most people at this event I attended lots of meetups and sessions instead that will help me improve my website. I found every session I attended extremely informative and useful. I especially want to mention three of them:

Ten FinCon Breakthroughs that 3x’d My Blog and Business – Nick Loper of Sidehustle Nation

made a presentation full of helpful nuggets in a way that reinforced the power of lifting up fellow FinCon community members = home run.

Inspire Your Instagram: Grow Your Following, Grow Your Influence – Having only recently created my Instagram account (Triplebottomline_fi) I found this session led by Allison Baggerly from Inspired Budget extremely enlightening and encouraging.

Thank you Allison from Inspired Budget for this great presentation

Blog to Business: How to Grow Profits in Less Time by Systematizing and Outsourcing – Learning about this topic was one of the primary reasons I wanted to attend FinCon. My tech skills (and enjoyment of all things technology) lag a good ways behind most in this field so I know that my site will benefit tremendously by bringing the right freelancers on board to assist me. Business systems and outsourcing expert Kayla Sloan (KaylaSloan.com) did not disappoint. I took pages of notes and feel much more confident about proceeding in this direction. (If any of my readers freelance in WordPress, SEO, or social media please feel free to contact me at Triplebottomlinefi@gmail.com. I would very much prefer to work with people already wrapping their minds around this more socially and environmentally conscious approach to pf.)

Plutus Awards

Each year the Plutus Foundation celebrates excellence in financial media by hosting the Plutus Awards ceremony during FinCon. The complete list of 2019 winners can be found here. I wanted to share a few awardees in whose work I find value from this year’s list of winners in no particular order….

Blog of the Year – Rich & Regular

I am very impressed with the role Kiresten and Julien are playing to bring the FI/RE discussion to communities of color as well as prompting us to acknowledge the role that privilege can play in the pursuit of FI/RE.

Best Investing Podcast – Afford Anything

My favorite voice in the personal finance space belongs to Paula Pant. I don’t think I’m alone in this sentiment. She really has a smooth voice, but that’s not why I’m including her podcast on this list. I also find her extremely intelligent – she asks some of the best questions – along with her proclivity to cover topics that improve listeners’ mindsets, productivity, and net worth.

Best Personal Finance Podcast for Women – The Fairer Cents

With its tagline – Women, Money, and the Fight to Break Even – this podcast is all about disrupting the status quo. It’s co-hosted by Tanja Hester and Kara Perez, two very bright and vibrant personalities in the personal finance space.

Community Builder Award – Tanja Hester

A recent New York Times article identified Tanja as the matriarch of the women of FI/RE. In addition to partnering with Kara on The Fairer Cents, maintaining her much-loved blog Our Next Life, and recently releasing her book Work Optional: Retire Early the Non-Penny-Pinching Way, this past year Tanja also launched Cents Positive, a retreat for women to talk money and financial independence. I owe Tanja a debt of gratitude for the name of this blog. As I struggled to find a name that encapsulated all that I wanted to cover on this blog I stumbled upon her Our Triple Bottom Line//Balancing Frugality with our Values post. I was already familiar with the concept of the triple bottom line, a framework that encourages companies to commit to focus on social (people) and environmental (planet) concerns as much as on profits, but hadn’t thought about it in this context until finding her blog post. Attending FinCon I finally met her and thanked her in person for this inspiration.

Best Financial Independence/Early Retirement Blog – Tread Lightly/Retire Early

Angela is widely-known in the FI/RE community for the importance she places on environmental issues. In the past year she has become equally renowned for the list she maintains of women in the financial independence movement.

Best Entrepreneurship/Side Hustle Podcast – Sidehustle School

I’ve been a fan of this podcast since it’s inception. In each episode, Chris Gilbeau, founder of the audacious World Domination Summit and author of The $100 Startup and other books, provides a brief synopsis of an innovative side hustle breaking it down and making listeners feel they too could do something like that.

Best New Personal Finance Blog – The Fioneers

I admit to having not read many articles on this newer blog yet, but I really like that they are drawing attention to the concept of Slow FI (another name I considered for this blog), which the couple behind this blog define as an incremental pursuit of financial freedom – “When someone utilizes the incremental financial freedom they gain along the journey to financial independence to live happier and healthier lives, do better work, and build strong relationships.” I also like that they attended the Sustainability & FI meetup.

Putting FinCon 2019 to Bed

FinCon 2019 delivered and reinforced my decision to improve this blog and make the most of it. At the end of this four day event I felt armed with many more tools and contacts to help me do just that. I’ve returned home motivated to tackle the very long to-do list I developed at the conference. I must have liked it because I even went ahead and purchased my discounted tickets to FinCon 2020.

So dear readers, I’ve returned home with that long blog related to-do list as well as quite a lengthy personal to-do list as I get ready to move into a new home. The website changes are coming, but they will be slow and incremental just like the Fioneers pursuit of financial independence. Watch for more significant changes to start appearing here in early 2020.

PS – If you find yourself intrigued about FinCon and wanting to read more Jim Wang of Wallet Hacks (another 2019 Plutus awardee) compiled a list of articles by others at the end of his own recap.

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