Peripheral Vision at #FinCon16

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This post discusses experiences at a conference I no longer attend.

THIS is why the work of the #FinCon community is important.

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.

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, some of us are working to address that.

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 who weren’t there for our event. By people who worked at the venues we were paying patronage to. By Uber drivers. By people at the same venue for very different events.

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 who had moved to San Diego to give their family a better life. One had left 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 he said 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  neighborhood in NYC without a lot of opportunity in the 90s. Moving to San Diego, where there were less issues according to him, 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.

12 thoughts on “Peripheral Vision at #FinCon16

  1. Done by Forty

    I always fantasize about going to FinCon, but then use up all my vacation days on other trips.

    Maybe someday. Though this year would have been really great, as the missus and I are from San Diego.

    Glad you got so many perspectives from outsiders. Like any community, we can get in a bit of a bubble, so it’s nice to be reminded that not everyone’s into retirement, budgeting, frugality, etc.

    1. femmefrugality Post author

      Haha I hear you. I pay for FinCon because I can deduct it, then use my points for other things.

      And I don’t think it’s so much that people aren’t into that as much as the fact that there are outside issues that impact how they interact with retirement, budgeting, frugality, etc. What I heard were a lot more “whys” and lot less nuts and bolts “hows.”

  2. Emily @ JohnJaneDoe

    I thought about FinCon this year but the timing didn’t work. I’m thinking about next year but that seems a heck of a long way away timewise for an evidently non-transferable ticket.

    But it’s really interesting that of all the things you chose to write on after the conference, you’ve chosen to write about important conversations you had outside the conference with nonattendees. The conference just gave you the opening to discuss them.

  3. DC @ Young Adult Money

    I heard FinCon was bigger than ever this year and there were a lot of great parties and happy hours. I honestly hid under my desk for five days pretending that it wasn’t going on – I wish I could have been there! I even bought a ticket this year but it just didn’t work out. I definitely will be considering FinCon 2017 though.

    “The Under-Served Don’t Trust the Financial Industry” This is huge! I think a lot of pf bloggers naturally write to people who already have a base of financial info, perhaps because they are the ones who seek out extra information, but there is a whole demographic that does not trust the financial industry. It’s tough to blame them as I think they have been taken advantage of in the past (and currently).

    1. Femme Frugality

      It was huge! And there were some pros and cons to that. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to meet in Dallas!

      I think there’s money to be made if people actually addressed their questions. It’s being done on large scales other countries.

  4. Fruclassity (Ruth)

    “The Under-Served Don’t Trust the Financial Industry.” This is something that is important to me. In November, I’ll be giving a talk at the main branch of our city’s public library – about our journey out of debt. I was told that this will be the first time the library will feature a talk on personal finances from a “personal perspective”. I think all previous presentations have been done by “experts”. I’m hoping to reach the under-served in a way the experts can’t. Imperfect and inexpert as I am, our debt is coming down. From $257,000 4.5 years ago to 5-figures as of this month. I hope some day to go to FinCon too. You make it sound very worthwhile : )

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