A Tired and Happy Roundup from #FinCon18


The Tiller Team is headed home after an amazing #FinCon18.

What made it amazing? The many conversations we had about money, investing and spending with people deeply concerned about our shared economic future.

The creative people we met who are inventing new ways of thinking about personal finance and experimenting with new forms of finance-related media.

The sessions we attended, where experts and influencers shared hard-won advice with people just starting to discover their voices and build their platforms.

Plus #FinCon18 was incredibly fun.

We got to talk about Tiller with two thousand money nerds who understand the power of an automated spreadsheet. (And one morning we woke up early and bought coffee for hundreds of people. Surprising people with free coffee is one of the most fun things possible.)


— Darby Rowe (@DarbyJ_Rowe)

This is the second FinCon reflection I’ve written headed home on an airplane.

Last year I noted a few things at FinCon17 I hoped to see at #FinCon18:

  1. More conversations about cryptocurrency and blockchain…
  2. More conversations on how tech is disrupting financial coaching and advising…
  3. More discussion around specific marketing tools and workflows. 

A year later, and there were indeed more conversations about crypto, but not necessarily organized in sessions.

But I did notice many sessions online tools that might disrupt traditional in-personal financial services – more on that below.

And there were more discussions around specific workflows and tools. Indeed, from a tactical perspective, #FinCon18 offered a ton of advice and concrete suggestions about growing a financial media platform.

Last year I also noted that “the audience for personal finance and money media is vast. The creators working in this space are surprisingly open and generous.”

That was even truer in 2018.

Here’s what else I noticed at #FinCon18:

FI/RE, FI/RE, Everywhere

For several years, the FIRE movement (financial independence, retire early) movement has been catching on across America. Indeed, early FinCon bloggers and voices helped spark this, uh, fire.

And it now appears that the FI/RE (financial independence / retire early) movement is about to go as mainstream as chia, minimalism, and skinny jeans.

In other words, it’s about to become trendy.

As Jean Chazkey mentioned in her FinCon keynote, the New York Times article “How to Retire in Your 30s With $1 Million in the Bank” was that publication’s #1 article for five days in a row. A later follow-up article also went viral.

Similar articles, videos, and stories have popped up all over the web. And in the past year, the concept began to trend on Google.

FI/RE was everywhere at #FinCon18. There were meet-ups and side-groups and overflowing presentations on the topic. Mr. Money Mustache closed the event with a powerful keynote. And a trailer for a new feature documentary called “Playing With Fire” debuted at FinCon.

The doc features footage from FinCon17, and includes interviews and profiles of several people like J.D. Roth who are influential in the financial independence movement and have been involved in FinCon since its beginning.

See the rousing trailer below.


Everyone Agrees the Classic Model of Retirement is Busted

Everyone at FinCon seemed to agree on one topic: the classic concept of retirement as a mid-60-year-old is over. It’s as obsolete as VCRs and CD-ROMs.

People, of course, have been talking about this at FinCons past, but this year the conversation seemed to take on a new urgency.

First, there’s a disruption understanding that many Americans won’t be able to retire at all. Pensions are over. Savings are nil. More and more people are forced to work full-time jobs into very old age.

Many of the financial planners and advisors at FinCon were focused on solving this retirement problem for others. The FI/RE folks were focused on solving retirement for themselves, and as quickly as possible.

For some, the goal is retirement in their 30’s and 40’s, not the 60’s and 70’s. For others, a leisurely retirement isn’t the goal at all, but instead, a life of self-directed service and creativity free from a traditional job.

New Online Financial Services Displace Classic Models

We talked to several companies that aimed to disrupt traditional financial service industries by bringing them online and reducing dependence on in-person human agents.

For example, Grove provides personalized financial advice accessed solely online. “Like working with a personal trainer at the gym, you’ll work with a Certified Financial Planner who will review your financial situation and discuss your goals.” Certified Financial Planners on demand.

And Fabric is life insurance you apply for and manage online, without an agent. And in most cases without a medical test. Great for busy young parents.

Services like these (along with a new generation of algorithm-driven news and information portals) are already disrupting the personal finance space. FinCon will look very different in eight years. Will it be disruptive (like how Uber changed taking a taxi) or will it be evolutionary (like how some media outlets profitably adapted to digital).

Women As a Powerful Financial Force

Women were a powerful force at #FinCon18, at every level and in every way.

From ‘s opening keynote slide declaring that “by 2030, women will control 2/3 of America’s wealth” to the many female bloggers, creators, and coaches who lead sessions, ran workshops and won awards, there’s no doubt that women aren’t waiting for some dude to tell them how to get heard, grow wealth, and ensure their financial independence.

Here’s to #FinCon19!

The next FinCon will kickoff in Washington, DC. The Tiller team will be there – all of us. Here’s to an epic year ahead.


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What a great @finconexpo! See you next year – next time we’re bringing the whole team to Washington. #fincon18 #fincon18

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