4 min read
Last week I attended my first FinCon, a massive conference where 2,000+ money nerds meet to talk about all things personal finance.
Here are my four biggest takeaways from chatting with hundreds of fellow money nerds.
Most People Don’t Want to Fully Retire and Sit on a Beach Forever
Nearly every person I met who had already achieved financial independence (and there were dozens) was still working in some capacity, whether full-time or part-time. Some were working for a corporation 20 hours per week, some were freelancing full-time, some had started their own small business, and others were doing podcasting or blogging purely for fun.
I have written before that meaningful work plays an important role in leading a good life, but to actually talk with people who had enough money to never work again and who still chose to work really drove home this point for me.
Most people who are on the road to F.I. don’t actually hate work. They just hate the traditional work environment and the annoyances associated with it. Most of the people I talked to said they simply wanted more freedom to define what “work” looked like, to choose exactly what projects they spent energy on, and to have the option to work less hours if they felt like it.
I recently tweeted out my own thoughts on this topic:
Of the people I talked to who had not yet achieved F.I., many said that they too enjoyed doing work as long as it was the right type of work that brought them fulfillment. And for this reason, many people were not actually chasing complete F.I. (saving up 25 times their annual expenses or more), but rather enough to be comfortable with taking the leap to a new work situation that allowed more flexibility and independence.
For many, the end goal is not to fully retire and sit on a beach forever. Rather, it is to have the financial means to pursue a work situation that doesn’t completely engulf all their time and energy.
Part-Time Travel > Digital Nomadism
Most people I talked to loved to travel, but had no desire to be digital nomads. Instead, they craved to have a “home base” city where they could live most of the year and travel for 1-3 months each year, often during times when the weather is worst in their area.
In particular, I talked to dozens of people from Minnesota who said the state was gorgeous during warmer months, but could be a bit of a tundra during the coldest months. Many said they enjoyed where they lived, but would love to have the financial means to pursue extended travel during these coldest months.
This trend kept popping up in conversations. Most people had no desire to travel full-time. They liked having a home base. They liked being a member of a community. They enjoyed living near friends and family.
Just as meaningful work plays an important role in leading a good life, having strong social connections also plays a crucial role. And digital nomadism (traveling full-time) can make it challenging to form lasting social connections.
I share this sentiment. I love the idea of traveling for a few months each year, but I also want to be close to my friends and family. Maintaining a “home base” city and traveling for a few months each year seems to be the perfect hybrid approach to getting the benefits of both travel and community.
Learn as You Go
In regards to creating blogs, podcasts, books, or small businesses, most people said they learn as they go. They don’t have a grand plan mapped out, they just work on their passion project a little bit each day and see where it takes them.
On one of my favorite podcasts, How I Built This, Guy Raz interviews people who have successfully built multi-million or billion dollar businesses. A trend I have noticed in these interviews is that most of the entrepreneurs never had plans to build a massive business. They were simply solving a problem they faced in everyday life. They were scratching their own itch, pursuing their own curiosity. Over time, they picked up small wins here and there, and eventually a tiny business grew into a behemoth.
I noticed this same trend among a few people I talked to at FinCon who had built successful brands and were earning a full-time income online. Nearly all of them started writing or podcasting in a niche they found interesting. Over time, it grew into something much larger than they could have predicted and they simply picked up the necessary skills over time to grow their brand.
I think this mentality can be applied to any new endeavor. You don’t need a grand vision ahead of time. You don’t have to see the finish line (often there is none) when you start, you simply need to get started, follow your curiosity, and be a voracious learner as you go. Everyone you look up to who is successful was once in your position.
Creation is Contagious
Being around so many people who were creating amazing things made me want to create even more. This made me realize that creation is contagious and that I want to surround myself with people who are creators in my everyday life.
I met people who were working on e-books, financial apps, websites, podcasts, and a host of other cool things. The more I hung out with these people, the more I felt the desire to create. And although I know very few people in my everyday life who are creators, I plan on surrounding myself with fellow creators via the internet.
Zach is the author behind Four Pillar Freedom, a blog that teaches you how to build wealth and gain freedom in life.
Zach's favorite free financial tool he's been using since 2015 to manage his net worth is Personal Capital. Each month he uses their free Investment Checkup tool and Retirement Planner to track his investments and ensure that he's on the fast track to financial freedom.
Although the bulk of his net worth is invested in index funds, his favorite place to invest in individual stocks is M1 Finance, a site that allows you to build a custom portfolio of stocks for free.
His favorite way to save money each month on his recurring bills is by using Trim, a free financial app that negotiates lower cable, internet, and phone bills with any provider on your behalf.
His favorite place to find new personal finance articles to read is Collecting Wisdom, a site that collects the best personal finance articles floating around the web on a daily basis.
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