My first EconoMe – Lessons learned

“There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about.” – Margaret J. Wheatley

Why EconoMe?

What is EconoMe and why does it apply to me? I’ve listened to thousands of hours of podcasts, read hundreds of articles, etc. on Financial Independence. Am I actually going to see any value?

I can say with a resounding YES!

1. Community

I’ll use myself as an example. I’ve been following the principles of the Financial Independence movement fairly diligently since 2014 when I started reading Mr. Money Mustache. I’ve gone on to read and listen to many content creators in the space since then.

Additionally, I’ve been attending meetings in my local ChooseFI chapter since 2019. Once, I started attending these gatherings it was a great way to revitalize myself in what many call the “Messy middle”.

I had gotten past the initial excitement of making large, but generally simple, strides of reducing expenses, increasing automation, etc. that are generally associated with the beginning of a Financial Independence journey.

Meeting others who were on a similar path was a great way to feel like you found “your tribe” as following this movement can be isolating at times if you don’t have others who understand the actions you are taking.

However, a common issue I noticed in our chapter was that we tended to go to a local Brewery and have conversations to meet others. I was fortunate enough to have many interesting people within my local chapter composed of both local practitioners like myself and national content creators such as Fiery Millenials and Student Loan Planner. However, over time this tended to get a bit stale when you were familiar with someone’s “elevator pitch”.

In steps… EconoMe!

While there were certainly elements of EconoMe that were similar to the Brewery activity listed above (and don’t get me wrong I do love a good beer!), it was on a much larger scale (500 attendees!) and was partnered with educational programming/discourse as well.

Another interesting facet of EconoMe was meeting some of the content creators whose content I’ve followed for a long time and meeting a myriad of new creators. Shout out to Mr. 1500 Days, Mrs. 1500 Days, Niche Site Project, The Donegans, ChooseFI, to name a few.

First, each of these creators are giants in their own right. I want to once again say how thankful I am for how approachable and gracious they were with their time, conversation, and even some beer. It’s easy to think that at an event like these, they are approached non-stop, and yet every single person I spoke with was extremely kind and present in our conversation.

While it may sound like I was geeking out to meet some of these creators (I was…), that was hardly the reason for going to the event. It was amazing to hear from people from all walks of life across the globe and hear about their journey and what strategies they are using to accomplish a common goal. The transparency and ability to go deep into conversation immediately about numerous topics were invaluable.

Also, the diversity in social opportunities from an Urban Hike, speed “friendshipping”, Fowling, mealtime conversations, to evening conversations in Hotel Lobbies all provided a way to pull you into the community and ensure that you did not feel alone in the mass of the 500 attendees. These activities helped me remember a face and form friendships that have persisted since the conference.

2. Content

Going into EconoMe, I’ll admit that I didn’t think there was much from the “educational” portion of the conference that I thought I hadn’t already uncovered through my research.

By in large the topics may have been familiar, but the depth that was explored was great. The mainstage speakers were energizing and spoke about varied topics from lifestyle design, college scholarship hacking, tax strategies for building wealth via Real Estate, Flat-fee financial planning, mandating financial education in high school, to even prenups.

Next, there was an opportunity for a deep dive session in which you could choose which topic felt more interesting to you. I had the opportunity to delve into the topics of Entrepreneurship and Travel Rewards which both interest me. I think the deep dive session helped me transition from information intake into the meaningful actions I would take after leaving the conference.

Something I truly valued at the conference was also that there was an opportunity for downtime in between sessions. I’ve been to several conferences where it is so jam-packed with content that you are exhausted by the end of the day. I think this showcases the thoughtfulness of Diania Merriam who puts on EconoMe. The design allows it to be educational, while still focusing on community and living out the conference motto, FI is better with Friends!

Later in the afternoon, we had an opportunity to attend Breakout Sessions over a diverse set of topics. I had met Amy Minkley the previous evening and heard about the FI Freedom Retreats in Bali. My family and I are interested in geo-arbitrage and therefore thought that was a good selection. Amy was the leader of the breakout session topic and after giving a short background we split into small groups and discussed our exposure, hopes, and goals.

Each night there was also a social activity. Friday night, there was speed friend-shipping. Saturday night, a joint ChooseFI and Earn and Invest podcast episode was filmed live that featured EconoMe attendees. On Sunday night, there was a social at a Brewery (on St. Patrick’s day no less!)

The final piece of educational content I want to speak about was the Case Study that Diania has popularized in local ChooseFI chapters. The running joke (or maybe not..) was that the FI community is more apt to become fiscally naked with each other than physically. While I won’t comment on the validity of the statement, I had numerous honest and open conversations about finances with individuals throughout the conference.

The case study is where a brave soul had volunteered ahead of time to “get financially naked” in front of the whole audience. During the case study we heard about the person’s numbers (income, expenses, savings, assets, etc.) while a panel of experts diagnosed her fiscal life from an outsider’s perspective and provided their feedback.

These case studies have been fantastic for local ChooseFI chapters and I would credit them to a resurgence in attendance for my own chapter. I think they are such a great idea that I’ve decided to participate myself in a couple of months.

What do you think? Would you participate in a case study yourself? Why or why not?

Overall, I’d highly recommend attending EconoMe! I’ve already got my ticket for 2025 so if you plan to attend let me know and we can meet in person in Cincinnati!

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