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Is spending $1162.52 on a conference worth it?


Now most of you know that I am frugal to a fault. So why would I spend $1162.52 to attend the Financial Blogger Conference (FinCon) in Denver? Isn’t that going against my frugal nature?

Flight (2) $461.20

Conference Ticket (just me)

Hotel $340.80
Transportation $67.00
Food $144.52
Total $1162.52


It’s good to be frugal, but more importantly, you need to invest in yourself and your business to grow your income. FinCon cost over $1000, but I learned many things that I can incorporate into Retire By 40 and any future online businesses. It was the right time for me to attend because I’ve been blogging for almost 2 years and I need to figure out where to go next. Many successful bloggers attended and the opportunity pick their brains was worth the price of admission.

30 million dollars

Our field reporter/chief editor went out to see what $30,000,000 looks like at the Money Museum at the Federal Reserve Bank.

Personal Connections

A personal connection is priceless in today’s online world. A blog is an online venture and you might think that an online connection is enough, but this is 100% FALSE. It is priceless to meet other bloggers and corporate representatives face to face for that personal connection. In truth, it was a bit overwhelming to meet so many people in such a short time. By the 3rd day, I was tuckered out. I’ll be more prepared for the experience next year now that I know what to expect.


I know many bloggers through their sites and I converse with them through email frequently. It’s great to be able to put a face and voice behind the email. We are human and making a face to face connection is essential. When you make a personal connection, the level of trust goes way higher than by just talking online. I met up with Sam @ Financial Samurai, Don @ Money Reasons, Corey @ 20s Finances and many other blogger friends. The most common comment was – “I thought you’d be taller.” I would love to be about 4 inches taller, but I’ll make do with what I have. Besides, I don’t think I’d look good in heels anyway. Making a personal impression is the key to future collaboration with your online colleagues. I highly recommend meeting with other local bloggers.

Corporate representatives

It was nice to meet the corporate reps too. I met quite a few reps and will follow up on a few of the opportunities presented. Blogging is a lot of fun, but we need to think about monetizing as well. Bloggers need to be able to at least pay for the domain name, hosting fee, and the annual FinCon trip. Think of it as incentive to bring better materials to readers. A little monetary reward goes a long way and frankly, we have a lot to learn because we are not doing a great job at monetization currently.

Experienced bloggers

Like I alluded to above, it was great to meet successful bloggers and see what they are like in real life. All of them have different approaches to blogging. JD Roth of Get Rich Slowly is a master story teller and he doesn’t care much about SEO or the other technical details. Jim Wang of Bargaineering is more technical. He loves to do split tests and those behind the scenes tasks. Mr. Money Mustache is a great guy who built a huge following by being a cult figure. There are many successful bloggers out there and you can probably find one who has a similar style and personality as you. Meeting them face to face and asking them questions was a great way to connect and learn how to improve Retire By 40.

Here are just a few of the successful bloggers I met and what I learned from them.

  • Pete of Mr. Money Mustache – Read a lot. It will help your writing and improve your Financial foundation. Every advertisement you add to the site will have a negative impact on the reader experience.
  • Sam of Financial Samurai – Sam is my hero. He can get along with anyone and talk about anything. He is hands down the best networker I’ve ever known.
  • Jim Yih of Retire Happy Blog – If your blog is a business, you must treat it like a business to be successful.
  • J Money of Budgets are Sexy – J Money is so genuine and an all around awesome guy. It was great to meet him in person. He is just like I imagined him to be.
  • JD Roth of More Than Money (He’s leaving Get Rich Slowly.) – Focus on the narrative and tell a story. JD is such a nice guy and it gives hope to nice guys everywhere that they can win it too.
  • Len Penzo dot Com– Reach out to successful bloggers. They are great people and many are willing to help.  Write a headline that pulls readers in. The $ sign attracts readers.
  • Jim Wang of Bargaineering – Do split tests to maximize your monetization.
  • Jeff Rose of Good Financial Cents – if you have a winning personality and good looks, use videos to your advantage.
  • David Ning of MoneyNing – Hire a quality freelancer if you need help.
  • Will Chen of Wise Bread – Blogging is a business and finding the right hired help is the key to growth.
  • Greg Go of Wise Bread – Bloggers need to do better in Facebook.
  • Andrew Schrage of Money Crashers – Face to face meetings can facilitate online conversations. Andrew is a great guy and I’m looking forward to future collaborations with Money Crasher.
  • Eric of Narrow Bridge Finance – Take advantage of your location and get your name out there. Eric lives in Denver and by the end of the conference, everyone knew him.
  • Steve Chou of my wife Quit her job – Shouldn’t have quit my job until my site makes six figures/year…
  • Kylie Ofiu – Make a media kit and reach out to sponsors.
  • Kathleen of Frugal Portland – High energy and sparkle is a winning combination.
  • Kim Olson of Kim Olson Photography– Stick with the 50mm prime lens until you are comfortable with composition.

It was worth it

Both my chief editor (Mrs. RB40) and I went to Denver so the cost is actually closer to $600 per person. Grandma came by to take care of baby RB40 and this was the first time we’ve been away from the little guy. Both of us needed a little vacation from baby RB40. Lately he has been developing a personality and throwing a lot of tantrums. Hopefully, he’ll get over this phase soon.

All in all, I had a great time at FinCon and would recommend it to someone who has been blogging for about a year. If you are new, there are a lot of things you can learn online that will keep you busy. It wasn’t cheap to attend, but it’s an investment that will pay off in the long run.

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. He spent 16 years working in computer design and enjoyed the technical work immensely. However, he hated the corporate BS. He left his engineering career behind to become a stay-at-home dad/blogger at 38. At Retire by 40, Joe focuses on financial independence, early retirement, investing, saving, and passive income.

For 2018, Joe plans to diversify his passive income by investing in US heartland real estate through RealtyShares. He has 3 rental units in Portland and he believes the local market is getting overpriced.

Joe highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. He logs on to Personal Capital almost daily to check his cash flow and net worth. They have many useful tools that will help every investor analyze their portfolio and plan for retirement.
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{ 32 comments… add one }
  • Ernie Zelinski September 14, 2012, 12:45 am

    I agree with you that spending money on a conference or seminar can be rewarding in many ways.

    T. Harv Eker in his Millionaire Mind Intensive advises that one should spend 5 percent on one’s income on one’s self-education, including books, seminars, and conferences.

    I am going to Brendon Burchard’s seminar on book publishing and marketing in Las Vegas ( http://www.authormasterclass.com/ ) in October even though I am more successful than 99 percent of authors. The trip will likely cost me between $1,2oo and $1,500. Yet I know that authors, the whiners and the complainers, who need Brendon’s advice the most will not go. They expect everything to be given to them for free because they have a sense of entitlement and suffer from the world-owes-me-a-living syndrome.

    Of course, this seminar will not help me retire totally by 40 because I already semi-retired when I was 40 and my net worth was minus $30,000 (due to student loans). This seminar may, however, help me increase my present semi-retirement income from around $100,000 a year to over $150,000 a year if I learn more or create the right partnerships with the connections that I make at the seminar.

    Ernie J. Zelinski

    Interenational Best-Selling Author, Innovator, and Prosperity Life Coach

    Author of the Bestseller “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”

    (Over 150,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)

    and the International Bestseller “The Joy of Not Working’

    (Over 250,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)

  • Manette @ Barbara Friedberg Personal Finance September 14, 2012, 1:48 am

    Consider it as an investment. I believe that it is not bad to spend over a thousand dollars in a conference where you can build network and learn a lot that you can apply on your blogs.

  • Roshawn @ Watson Inc September 14, 2012, 5:19 am

    I definitely consider conferences worth it. You spend so much of your time online, it is a BIG part of your life as well as your business. Based on how you have laid everything out, it was easily justifiable.

  • Michelle September 14, 2012, 5:25 am

    I think it’s definitely worth it. I still regret not going.

  • RichUncle EL September 14, 2012, 5:48 am

    It’s worth it if you see yourself doing it for many years and if you plan to turn your site into an income producing business. Thanks for sharing all the great info, while reading your post I wondered what did PF bloggers wear during the conference, Suits or business casual or Jeans?

    • retirebyforty September 14, 2012, 4:46 pm

      Most bloggers were wearing casual cloths, jeans and slacks. Everyone was really friendly and down to earth so it was easy to approach them and talk.

  • Financial Samurai September 14, 2012, 8:18 am


    It was great to meet up man! I still maintain you have the best retirement blog on the web 🙂

    I’m still recovering from the conference as it was quite a lot of energy spent.

    The great thing too is that everything about the conference is obviously a business expense!

    Best, Sam

    • retirebyforty September 14, 2012, 4:47 pm

      Thanks! I think so too. 🙂
      JD is right about having to be “ON” the whole weekend. I was doing pretty well the first couple of days, but I petered out after that.

  • 20's Finances September 14, 2012, 8:31 am

    It’s seems we were thinking the same thing. I absolutely agree! Invest in yourself and it will expedite your growth and success.

  • Silly Lily September 14, 2012, 9:01 am

    How was baby RB40 behaving with Grandma? This is the very first time he didn’t get to be with either you or Mrs. RB40, right? I hope Grandma is okay. :p

    • retirebyforty September 14, 2012, 4:48 pm

      He did really well actually. At least that’s what Grandma said.

  • [email protected]&More September 14, 2012, 9:47 am

    I was bummed I missed out but your post makes me even more excited for next year! Can’t wait! I will be trying to implement some of the lessons you learned as well!

  • Jacob @ MPFJ September 14, 2012, 10:54 am

    Great recap of the conference! Thanks for sharing. So now that you’re two years in and given what you learned at the conference, what are your thoughts about the direction that you want your blog to grow?

    • retirebyforty September 14, 2012, 4:49 pm

      For the next year, I’m going to focus on writing and continue my grass root efforts. I’m not ready to hire freelancer for Retire By 40 yet. I’ll give myself a year to grow and decide next year if I should treat it more like a business.

  • Kathleen @ Frugal Portland September 14, 2012, 11:18 am

    That was the nicest thing anyone has ever said about me on the internet, Joe! I needed a pick-me-up today, thank you.

    Also, tell your editor that I am serious about babysitting — I’m happy to, any time!

    • retirebyforty September 14, 2012, 4:50 pm

      Really? At least it’s Friday. Hope you have a great weekend!
      How about tonight for babysitting? 🙂 hahaha. Let’s have another Portland bloggers meetup soon.

  • [email protected] September 14, 2012, 12:07 pm

    The cost will actually be less because you can write it all off on your taxes. I haven’t obviously done Fincon, but eye conferences always get you fired up about what you are doing, even if you have been doing it for a long time and are getting a bit burned out. Always a good investment, in my opinion.

    • retirebyforty September 14, 2012, 4:52 pm

      Yeap, that’s why I added up all the receipts right away and filed them away. It was a great way to get energized and the main lesson was to refocus on the reader.

    • Elizabeth @ Broke Professionals September 15, 2012, 1:10 pm

      Kim, I’m with you – I was thinking about the tax write off! Shocked it wasn’t mentioned. This is one of the main reasons why I know I’ll be able to afford it (and won’t worry about the money) for next year’s convention!

  • krantcents September 14, 2012, 4:00 pm

    I am sorry I had to miss it. Timing was bad again. I wonder if it could move it to June or July?

  • [email protected] September 15, 2012, 1:41 am

    Thanks for writing this; I so much wish I could have joined you. Conferences are certainly a great way to exchange knowledge and network. In fact, next week we are having our own ‘little one’ in the UK (Leeds) where we will be going and I’ll be taking part in the panels – looking forward to it.

  • Buck Inspire September 15, 2012, 7:16 am

    Awesome recap Joe! Hopefully FinCon13. Being “on” can be draining. I petered out near the end of BlogWorld last year. Forced myself to keep pushing like the tail end of a good workout! Baby RB40 acting up, is it the terrible two’s? Out of the big heavyweights, which style matched yours the most? Will you try to emulate them more in the future?

    • retirebyforty September 15, 2012, 7:47 am

      I’ll have to pace myself more next year and be more selective about who I spend my time with. Yeah, Baby RB40 is a bit ahead. At FinCon, many parents said the 18-24m period is actually the tough one for them.
      I like the story tellers like JD Roth and Mr. Money Mustache. I need to improve my style and writing skills, but that’s the way I’m going for this next year. Wisebread’s model is cool, but I don’t think treating a blog like a business is for me.

  • Crystal @ Prairie Ecothrifter September 16, 2012, 9:15 am

    I think FinCon is an excellent investment for any blogger. I didn’t spend quite as much since hubby didn’t want to come and I had a roommate, but I would attend even if it was $1000+. I think this year, it came to about $600 for me – totally worth it!

  • Rob Bennett September 16, 2012, 9:49 am

    I thought it was well worth it. I spent the money last year too and I will spend it again next year. But I am glad that someone is asking this question. It’s a mistake to spend that amount of money without being sure how you will obtain value from it.


  • LaTisha September 16, 2012, 7:23 pm

    It was great meeting you! I agree that the conference was totally worth the money. See you next year hopefully!

  • Don September 17, 2012, 3:51 pm

    Great breakdown on the costs!

    I have to admit, for me half of the fun is just meeting all the great people in the pf blogosphere!

  • Sandy September 19, 2012, 7:22 pm

    Joe is was great meeting you at the conference! Now that you’ve seen how crazy we all are I hope that we don’t scare you from another conference.

  • nicoleandmaggie September 20, 2012, 4:06 pm

    Sounds like fun!

    The best thing about conferences in my field is that someone else pays for them. 🙂

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