On the night after the night I got back from #FinCon16, I’m all but forced to take a look at everything that happened. As last year, it was a whirlwind. I got closer with the good friends and clients (who are really also friends) that I met last year. I met new amazing people that I learned so much from, many of whom I’m hoping to work with in the future. I was forced to evaluate my priorities and overall mission as I sat through sessions.
It’s an amazing place to be, although I will admit there were a couple of times that the environment made me feel uncomfortable. Part of that was due to introversion. The other part—well, we’re starting #FeministFinCon to work on addressing that. Check us on Twitter.
But one of the biggest things I took away from this week surprisingly came not from the conference itself, but from the people on the peripheral.
Talking about Money is Important, Wanted and Needed
I can’t tell you how many times I got asked what the heck we were doing in San Diego by people on the outside. By people who worked at the venues we were paying patronage to. By Uber drivers. By people that were at the same venue as us to hear a French DJ.
These conversations affirmed to me in my moments of questioning that what we’re doing is important. Not only because it feeds our kids, but also because money conversations are needed and affect people’s lives in deep and meaningful ways each and every day.
Moving to Better Your Family
I talked to two people on the peripheral who had moved to San Diego to give their family a better life. One had left the rough streets of Chicago to give his kids a healthy environment. I got to see videos of his teens playing trampoline basketball and doing all kinds of other fun stuff that wouldn’t have been available in his own hometown. Mobility was necessary for their family’s happiness, safety and economic stability.
I talked to another man who also moved to benefit his family. He had grown up in a gang-ridden neighborhood of NYC in the 90s. Gang-ridden neighborhoods in Pittsburgh in the 90s were a rough thing—I can only imagine the reality of an even bigger city.
Moving to San Diego, where people were friendlier and there were less issues, also gave them economic stability and access to opportunity they wouldn’t have otherwise had.
Being a Qualified Woman
Another conversation revolved around a woman whose best friend was hired by the same employer as she was at the same time. She had qualifications like experience and a much more robust education, but her pretty, white friend got hired on at the same position for a higher salary despite these disparities in qualification.
“Was she paid more because she was pretty and white?” I was asked. I was asked because I told them I run a blog about women’s finances and enjoy exploring social equity.
I don’t know anything about this situation other than what I’ve been told, but unfortunately, my gut feeling is yes. We’ve come a long way, but we’ve still got a long way to go. Black women are among the most highly educated demographic in our nation, yet they are not compensated accordingly.
The Disparaged are Muted
I also had an amazing conversation with a historical writer about how the voices of the dominated are often silenced, even when their ideas are far more valuable than those of the oppressing culture. He saw this in his own locale, where the Santa Ana winds come in and dry everything up, making fire a frequent and destructive occurrence.
He then told me about a famous man, I cannot remember who, who built a home there in the 1940s. He wanted to build it out of adobe, because these structures fare much better in the fires, but had to commission an artisan from out-of-state to build. He couldn’t find anyone locally that remembered the craft well enough to execute his plans, despite the fact that this type of building was originally native to the region.
I didn’t see too many buildings made from adobe during my stay. But after that I started looking for them.
The Under-Served Don’t Trust the Financial Industry
I had another conversation where my motives were questioned because I wrote in the financial space. I must be abusive. I must be taking advantage of people. When I started talking about my own journey and my mission to help others overcome poverty and social inequality, the conversation softened. I was promised an email, because I want to hear the story of this college student really and truly. If you’re reading, I’m truly hoping you’ll keep to that promise.
I don’t blame people for not trusting the financial industry, though. Even though I don’t consider myself a part of it, I do work with it. I’ve seen people shut out of it. I’ve seen people taken advantage of. But there are so many good companies out there, and a lot of great startups acting as alternatives, that I think it’s important we recognize this hurt as we frame our narrative. There are good things going on, but we can’t pretend everything is or has always been hunky-dory for everyone. Otherwise we lose our credibility and alienate people with justified concerns.
What Taking on Peripheral Vision Taught Me at FinCon
Talking to these people and hearing their stories encouraged me. There were times during the conference where my confidence waned. Is money truly the most important message I could be bringing to the masses? But knowing that these conversations are wanted, needed and important to others outside of our community was enough to sustain me.
What we are doing is important, and it’s important that we keep on doing it.
Stay tuned. I’ll have a whole separate post about the fun we had gallivanting around San Diego tourist-style.