Last updated: November 27, 2023
Last month Mrs. EYFI and I went to our third FinCon conference, and we had a great time.
This year it was located in New Orleans, which was my seventh visit to the city and Mrs. EYFI’s second.
For us the most important part of attending conferences is the people we meet, so that’s the main focus of this post.
We’ll also discuss our most and least favorite aspects of the conferences overall, and mention some of our favorite sights in New Orleans from this trip.
If you couldn’t care less about financial conferences, please feel free to skip this post!
We met a ton of great people this year, and saw some folks we had met previously, which was really nice.
Both Mrs. EYFI and I felt like we had and made substantially stronger social connections this year at our third FinCon. Which makes sense – we’re starting to see some people multiple times over multiple years, which typically means stronger connections.
Below is a list of folks that I can remember seeing/meeting, alphabetical by last name. HOWEVER, it’s now been over a month since the conference, so I KNOW I forgot some folks – please let me know if I did!
Trying to recap everything I remember discussing with all these people would make this post ridiculously long (and I already write way too many posts that are way too long), so I’ve tried to try to keep it to one or two short comments per person.
- Brad Barrett – great to meet him in person after all these years listening to ChooseFI (and he sounds EXACTLY the same in person) – told him how he finally convinced me to start travel hacking
- Scott Carson – fellow Austinite, focuses on buying and investing in distressed loans / notes, and a strong podcaster with the Note Closers Show Podcast
- Chad Carsen – one of the few people significantly taller than me at FinCon, Chad is well known in the real estate investing and FIRE community, and I really admire his “knowing what is enough” mindset, as well as how to approach challenges with a healthy “game” mindset (instead of as a stressful ordeal)
- Maya Corbic – focused on teaching kids about money, it was great to see her again and meet her husband as well
- Doug Cunnington – great to see him again this year, Doug’s podcast is one of my favorites (about FI and overall) – I remember we had an interesting conversation about calorie counting and how it’s like tracking your expenses
- Carly DeFelice – another fellow Austinite, and in fact the FinCon local rep for Austin, so I see her more often than anyone else on this list I think
- Ryan Ermey – senior reporter from CNBC Make It, it was great to have lunch with him at our FIRE lunch (see below)
- Kevin Estes – helps T-Mobile employees with financial planning (riches are in the niches!) – he and I had a lot of interests in common, especially regarding FIRE and tax planning
- Amberly Grant – met through Doug Cunnington, she also hails from Colorado and joined us for the FIRE lunch (see below)
- Calvin Gribble – met via one of the official FinCon dinners – had a really interesting conversation about Las Vegas real estate (his hometown) and geography in general, along with Darius Smith
- Jordan Grummut – otherwise known as “Doc G”, Jordan’s Earn and Invest podcast is one of the most established in the FIRE community (looking through his episode list I think he’s interviewed nearly everyone I’ve ever heard of!)
- Andy Hill – last year I managed to lose a rock-paper-scissors contest with him for a drink ticket, but he very generously still gave it to me – he’s been one of the FinCon main stage hosts in the past
- Dan Hinz – Dan gave what I believe was the best talk of the conference: how to better use storytelling to engage audiences – I’m going to try to use a lot of his advice going forward
- Jaylynn Jackson – a fellow engineer from Texas, Jaylynn also got to FI through an engineering salary, and now he’s a financial coach and advisor
- Alise Jackson and Eric Landblom – we met Alise and Eric at the FinCon closing party, where they told us a great deal about the EconoMe conference – their info and passion was a big reason Mrs. EYFI and I decided to attend EconoMe for the first time next March, where we look forward to seeing them again
- Shonnita Leslie – it was very nice to meet in person after only knowing each other from zoom meetups (it actually took a while for us to remember why we looked so familiar, ha), Shonnita also joined us for the FIRE lunch
- Diania Merriam – founder of the EconoMe conference, I’d heard great things about Diania for quite a while, so it was great to finally meet her – talking with her was also a major reason we decided to attend EconoMe for the first time next March
- Sean Mullaney – at the 2022 FinCon, Sean was able to answer a question during his presentation that I couldn’t find an answer to anywhere else, so I was excited to meet and talk with him much more extensively this year – I think Sean and I probably had the most shared interests of anyone I met at FinCon this year, as we’re both passionate about FI, tax analysis, and looking at the numbers to guide financial decisions – Sean told me I should attend the Bogleheads conference, which I’ve thought about doing for years, so we’ll see if I make it next year
- Kyle Nolan and Olivia his fiance – founder of Projection Lab (affiliate link), which has become one of the most popular financial projection tools in the FIRE community (and pretty easily one of the best in my opinion) – Kyle is another great technical-minded guy I really enjoyed talking shop with – I plan to do a full review of the pros and cons of Projection Lab in the future (and given how much I talk about building your own tools, that’s quite rare for me)
- Justin Peters – another fellow Austinite, host of The Struggle is Real podcast and founder of SimplePod Studios – we met Justin via one of the official FinCon dinners, though hopefully we’ll see him at a future Austin FinCon local meetup
- Sherri Van Ravenhorst – met via one of the official FinCon dinners
- Matthias Richter – it was a treat to meet Matt, as he is also comfortably FI and has been part of the FIRE community for a number of years now (he even took some kind of glacier train ride with JD Roth) – it was also great to talk with someone who became FI outside the United States, as international folks are not as well represented in the FIRE community as I would like
- Emily Roberts – hosts the Personal Finance for PhDs podcast and has a PhD in biomedical engineering – the first fellow PhD in engineering I’ve ever met at FinCon (I think) – we talked about Roth vs Traditional IRA contributions in grad school, which led to my last post
- JD Roth – one of the “godfathers” of the FIRE movement, and as it turns out one of only ten (I think it was ten) people that have been to every single FinCon
- Jeremy Schneider – founder of Personal Finance Club, which became crazy successful via Instagram – and now also founding a new company called Nectarine
- Shane Sideris – we met Shane last year at FinCon very shortly after he joined Personal Finance Club, and it was great to see him again this year – also one of the founders of Nectarine
- Darius Smith – Darius and I first met, along with Shonnita Leslie, via a series of FinCon zoom meetups, and Darius was easily the most dedicated person in the group of folks I met – it was really great to meet him in person and catch up since we last talked a while back
- Vivi Ton – like Shane and Jeremy, we met Vivi last year at FinCon after she joined Personal Finance Club, and it was also great to see her again – also one of the founders of Nectarine
One event where we met a lot folks was the official FIRE lunch meetup that Mrs. EYFI and I put together. The official name was actually FinCon Friday Frugal FIRE Fans Food Fun – I went a little overboard on the alliteration.
We came up with the lunch because we saw essentially no FIRE-focused panels or discussions anywhere in the program, so we decided to create our own event!
I honestly thought we’d get maybe 10 people max for the lunch, but in the end we got 37!
We ended up at a great restaurant called Copper Vine, which thought we were arriving with 10 to 20 people and then BOOM had to handle nearly 40. But they handled it brilliantly, I was impressed. And it was definitely some of the highest quality food for the price we had on the trip.
We got a lot of great feedback from folks that attended the lunch, so we plan to do another FIRE lunch at FinCon next year.
Here’s a group photo we managed to get at the end (with some folks missing because they had to get back ASAP):
Best and Worst Aspects of the Conference
Let’s start with the good stuff:
- We really liked that it was in a walkable urban location this year, which meant that it was much easier to get to many places outside the conference.
- The (Android) app was better this year, especially the formatting of the talks. And this year I pretty consistently got notifications for messages and connections.
- Some of the panels were really phenomenal.
Now for the bad stuff, which we provided in feedback to the FinCon organizers:
- All attendees were forced to wear wristbands the entire conference, and you could not (nominally) take them off the entire time (even while showering or sleeping) – bleh! Everyone disliked them. I hope those are not used next year, or at the very least I hope they are detachable.
- Annoyingly our names were not printed on both sides of the badge (unlike the past two years) – so many times I couldn’t see someone’s name because their badge was accidentally flipped.
- The WiFi was so weak and spotty that I had to use cellular data on my phone for essentially the entire conference – which unfortunately has been the case for multiple FinCons.
- While the app was better this year, there were still tons of bugs (including not being able to connect with people for a while), and some really irritating ads (including every time I opened the app).
- A bit too many talks felt like extended company/product pitches/advertisements.
- The first impressions workshop format felt mostly really awkward. It would have been better if the panelists had looked at the sites/podcasts/YT channels in advance and presented their findings, instead of trying to do it in real time.
- There were zero talks/sessions focused on FIRE content.
- As in previous years, the main rooms where the opening and closing parties were held were crazy loud – so we’ve now learned our lesson and only hang out in the hallway outside (which at least half the people there seemed to do as well).
I know the above “bad” list is longer than the “good” list, but overall it really is a great conference. I just nit-pick because I hope to see it improve even further every year.
Favorite Sights in New Orleans
I’ve now been to NOLA a fair number of times, but it had been a few years since my last visit (2017 I think, for another conference).
While we love so many aspects of New Orleans, let’s start with the main thing we did not enjoy about NOLA during our stay: the infrastructure. Which, I suspect, is due to the challenge of maintaining a really old city in a hurricane prone area. A ton of the sidewalks in the downtown and French Quarter area were crumbling (including huge holes covered with just a single loose board), there was terrible to non-existent street lighting in many of the highest traffic areas, and there were absolutely horrific smells on a really high percentage of the streets we walked.
I really hope they’re able to make some infrastructure improvements going forward, but it’s going to be a huge challenge I suspect.
Now for the places we really enjoyed from our trip:
- Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden – one of the most impressive sculpture gardens I’ve ever seen, by far
- New Orleans Museum of Art – including a really fantastic cafe where we had lunch
- Mahogany Jazz Hall – one of the best music venues we’ve to, very small, we saw a phenomenal Jazz band there
- Bamboulas on Frenchmen St – we saw a really great 1930’s swing band there
- Mother’s Restaurant – I ALWAYS go to Mother’s at least once or twice (or MORE!) every time I visit NOLA
- Copper Vine – see FIRE lunch above
- LUFU NOLA – really good Indian food, nice atmosphere for a date night
- Audubon park – phenomenal trees
- Tartine – cafe near Audubon park, they had fantastic food as well (only open breakfast and lunch though)
Finally, we were also very lucky to be in town for the Krewe Of Boo Parade (New Orleans’ Halloween Celebration) – it was my first New Orleans parade since Mardi Gras back in 2005! And we had no idea it was happening until the day of the parade. See pictures below.
Overall we had a great time, and I look forward to FinCon24 next year in Atlanta – hopefully I’ll be able to see a lot of folks mentioned above again.