My Three Biggest Takeaways from FinCon 2019


4 min read

Last year I attended my first ever FinCon, a conference where over 2,500 money nerds meet to hang out and discuss personal finance, investing, and all things money. Upon returning home from the conference, I wrote a post that outlined my four biggest takeaways from chatting with other attendees.

This past week I had the opportunity to attend my second FinCon in Washington D.C., so I figured I would continue the tradition of sharing my biggest takeaways.

Here are my three biggest takeaways from talking with fellow attendees this year.

1. Slow FI Is Gaining Popularity

From talking with dozens of fellow bloggers, I noticed a trend: Many people seemed to be trading the traditional path of saving up 25 times their annual expenses in favor of a different approach, which my friends Corey and Jessica from The Fioneers define as Slow FI:

Slow FI: 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.

Basically, more people want to experience the benefits of their savings before they have so much saved up that they never need to work again. 

According to the traditional definition of “financial independence,” a family that spends $40k per year needs to save up ($40k * 25) $1 million to be financially independent. However, it seems a bit silly that this family could save up $500k and not be able to experience any of the benefits that come with that amount of savings until they accumulate another $500k.

Thus, Slow FI offers a simple solution: Instead of waiting until a decade (or more) from now to enjoy the freedom of financial independence, you can actually gain freedom now through combining your existing savings with some type of part-time enjoyable work.

This way, you can ditch your time-consuming full-time job long before you have enough money saved to never need to work again.

Granted, it will take longer to achieve complete financial independence, but more people are beginning to ask the question, “So what?”

If you don’t achieve financial independence until your 50s or 60s, but you take an enjoyable freedom-filled path there, that might be preferable to hitting F.I. in your 30s or 40s but taking a miserable freedom-less path there.

2. The Abundance Mentality is Life-Changing

Another trend I noticed from talking with fellow attendees is just how many unique ways people are earning incomes.

Off the top of my head, I met people who were generating income in the following ways:

  • Blogging (surprise, surprise)
  • Podcasting
  • Freelance editing
  • Personal training
  • Tutoring
  • Doing freelance web design
  • Doing freelance Pinterest design
  • Coaching people in public speaking
  • Selling t-shirt designs online
  • Owning rental properties
  • Doing guided city tours
  • Charging electric scooters
  • Renting spare rooms through Airbnb
  • Delivering meals through DoorDash/Postmates

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Thanks to the internet and the rise of the connection economy, there are thousands of unique ways to earn money doing something that doesn’t involve sitting in a cubicle for 9 hours each day.

Of course, many of these alternative income streams could be considered “side hustles” and are unlikely to provide a full time-income, but let’s revisit my first takeaway from above: If you embrace Slow FI, you don’t necessarily need a full-time job. If you have a decent existing level of savings, these alternative income streams could easily be enough to cover the remainder of your expenses. 

The larger point to be made here is that the abundance mentality is life-changing. When you stop obsessing over minimizing your expenses and you start focusing on expanding your income, you begin to see just how many unique and diverse ways there are to earn money.

It’s a bit like bird-watching. Birds are all over the place, but it’s not until you start actively looking for them that you realize just how many there are literally everywhere.

Similarly, there are an endless amount of ways to earn money, but it’s only once you start looking that you realize just how feasible it is to monetize almost anything.

This doesn’t mean minimizing your expenses is a bad idea. It’s always good to cut the fat from your spending, but it’s important to recognize that there exists a limit to how low your expenses can go while there exists no such limit on how much income you can earn.

3. High-Flexibility Jobs > High-Status Jobs

When I landed my first corporate job straight out of college, I was excited to wear a suit and tie. It signaled status.

My job is important.

That feeling of excitement eventually wore off after I got bored of the commute, the strict schedule, the strict dress code, and all of the other bullshit that comes with a corporate gig.

What I have come to realize over the years, and what many of my fellow FinCon attendees also agreed with, is that high-flexibility jobs are better than high-status jobs.

With a job that is highly flexible, you get to:

  • Work from home
  • Choose your hours
  • Work at your own pace
  • Wear casual clothing

Conversely, with a job that comes with a high status, you have to:

  • Work at a specific building
  • Follow a strict schedule
  • Meet strict deadlines
  • Wear fancy clothing

It’s the difference between “get to” and “has to.” 

An investment banker on Wall Street has to work in a certain building, report to work at a certain time, adhere to deadlines, and wear a suit and tie.

A freelance software engineer who works remotely in a highly flexible role gets to work from home, work during a time when they’re most productive, work at their own pace, and wear pajamas.

The attention from your peers that comes from a high-status job eventually wears off. The comfort that comes with working from home in your pajamas at your own pace never gets old.

Looking for more FinCon Recaps? Check out the compilation of posts that Jim from Wallet Hacks has put together.

Zach

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 micro-investing app is Acorns, a free financial app that takes just 5 minutes to set up and allows you to invest your spare change in a diversified portfolio.

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.

Zach

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