As I’ve mentioned a couple of times in the last few months, this past weekend I was in Denver as I attended the inaugural Cents Positive retreat, and the first time I was away from my son for more than one consecutive night since he was born almost four years ago, plus the first time I’d been away without my husband since then. And honestly, I can’t think of a trip that would have been better for that first no kid/no husband experience. Though it did help that I was so busy the entire weekend that I didn’t have a ton of time to think about missing the little guy.
That said, there were plenty of breaks and down time for those who did want a break, but as I joked with Stephonee Sunday morning, as the serious extrovert I am, I didn’t really need any more solo time as I did sleep at night and got some alone time that way. Other than that, the only time I really spent alone the entire weekend was during my run Saturday morning and Sunday breakfast to take a break from the noise (plus it was a great way to take a few minutes to work on this post, from my phone, of course). But again, this was absolutely by choice and there were plenty of ladies who chose to spend a little more solo time throughout the weekend, so I don’t want anyone to think that this event wouldn’t be for them for that reason.
A little more about the event, from the Cents Positive website, which feels like a very accurate description of what it was all about:
Cents Positive is first and foremost a social event where women can meet others on a similarly unconventional life path, pursuing financial independence instead of the standard script. You’ll leave with new friends and a strong support network you can lean on as you continue on your FI journey.
Friday: Blogger Day
When I initially signed up for Cents Positive, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to actually go, and even less certain about making it to blogger day on Friday since it was a work day, but I am so glad that I flew out Thursday night and made it to the Friday part after all. I didn’t technically arrive until 1AM Friday morning and crashed as soon as I got in from the airport, but since the event didn’t start until 9:30AM I still got enough sleep, if not plenty.
Since the blogger add-on was a much smaller group, just 25 women compared to the 82 at the full event, we had time at the beginning of the day for all of us to speak a bit about ourselves and learn a little about everyone in the room. While I really loved the size of the full conference, it was great getting to know a few ladies really well, and I feel like the smaller size really allowed for that to happen.
As I’ve spoken about a number of times before, this blog is not meant to be a business and my goal is not to make a living through this outlet. I absolutely believe bloggers do excellent, hard work that deserves to be compensated, but for me, it isn’t a route that would be good to head down at this point in my life – namely because of my struggle to say yes to only the very most important things in my life and to otherwise leave space in between those things.
Tanja did a fabulous job facilitating through the day and the whole conference, and she asked some really great questions that got me thinking about the future of this blog, namely my long term goals. Because this blog has been first and foremost an outlet and an accountability tool for me as well as a way to better connect with the larger online community surrounding personal finance, I really haven’t had any concrete goals for what I want this blog to be in the future other than knowing what I didn’t want it to be, namely a full time job.
I’ve realized through this weekend that the no goals approach really isn’t going to be good enough for me moving forward. I still won’t have hard metric goals related to page views or referrals or anything like that, but I do want to be more mindful about how I use this platform.
Inclusivity and Diversity within Personal Finance
When I first dived into the world of content creation instead of passive consumption of personal finance blogs, I fell into friendships and connections with quite a few bloggers, and a number of those have become real life friends who I’ve been lucky enough to see a number of times now in different places. I really can’t say enough about those people who are now in my life through this blogging experience, because they feel like they will be close friends for the rest of my life.
Beyond my closest friends in the personal finance space, I read and interact with quite a few other blogs and podcasts that I’ve connected with and learned about over time as well. And when I began my Women’s Personal Finance series a couple of months ago, I found it was easy to find great content to share just based on the blogs I read regularly as well as others that show up on my Twitter feed from time to time.
Part of the discussion on Friday during the Blogger time centered around inclusivity and diversity within personal finance. Within that space, while it still is ultimately a very positive, uplifting place on the internet, it is easy to allow our biases to color what we believe is out there and who is creating it.
When I wrote my Women of Financial Independence post back in January, even I had a perception that there weren’t that many women writing about personal finance in general, let alone financial independence. Through a lot of effort from a lot of different women this past year, I feel that narrative is finally shifting, albeit slowly.
So when Michelle brought up the number of women – and men – of color who are also writing and creating in this space, I realized she was absolutely right in talking about how much we end up in silos even within this small community. While I have shared some articles from just a very few of those women, it has not been a conscious effort, and I have absolutely been focused on the blogs and podcasts within the silo I’ve found myself in online.
If I really am going to share the best content out there, and expand my knowledge of who is creating in this space, I need to make an effort to be conscious about what and who I am reading. This is a promise to pay attention here on out and make sure I reach out beyond those sites that are already showing up for me.
Friday dinner marked the end of the blogger add on portion, and Saturday after breakfast the full conference kicked off. One of my very favorite parts of the structured part of the day was “FI speed dating,” where we would split the room based how we fit different categories – Financial Independence vs Early Retirement focused, kid(s) vs childfree, low/middle income vs high income, public vs private sector career, split vs shared finances, single vs partnered, etc.
With a group of eighty-odd women, it’s impossible to really get to meet and interact with everyone, but I felt like the speed (five (?) minute) rounds, I got to talk to quite a few different women who had stories that were similar to mine in one way or another. While you head down a path so different from most of the people you interact with on a daily basis, realizing the women at this event had some really big things in common with me felt really amazing, and it made it easier to expand on those conversations later on in the day during less structured time.
On that note, there was quite a bit of unstructured time, which meant we had the ability to really forge deeper or new friendships in a way that constant presentations and big group discussions just can’t do.
Saturday afternoon brought five minute Ignite talks, and I couldn’t help but throw some shade at Tanja and her freezing house (in the most loving way possible), plus some discussion on zero waste opportunities, especially zero waste periods.
Dinner was on our own, and after that was the onesie and fascinator party, which was absolutely ridiculous in the best way possible. While completely unrelated to personal finance, it was a good time and a way to just enjoy an evening with a whole lot of awesome ladies. That, and the Lyft driver who dropped us off at the Airbnb at the end of the night will probably always remember that ride he gave to a group of grown women in ridiculous onesies.
Sunday morning after breakfast was more discussion and impromptu presentations, including an informal round table with the women at the event who were already early retired. Almost all the big news about those who have already retired has been about the men who have done it, and it was so powerful to have a chance to hear it from an entirely female perspective for once.
After that, it was time to say goodbye and head to the airport and back to the husband and kiddo, who I seriously missed over the weekend. It was amazing to get away and have this experience, but hugging them after three nights away was totally awesome.
Outside of the flight, lodging, and actual conference ticket costs, I spent almost no money on this trip. While the hotel was definitely a cost effective option, I opted for an Airbnb* two miles away with Erin, Emilie, and Bethany (and Military Dollar Saturday night only), and my share of the cost was just $66.36. (*If you haven’t used Airbnb before, use this link for $40 off your first stay. Absolutely worth it.)
We did have a decent walk to the hotel, but even paying for a Lyft back Saturday night we saved a decent chunk of money by making that decision. The weekend was also spent almost entirely inside and mostly seated, so I actually really appreciated the walking back and forth that we had to do, and I had really decent step counts each day, which likely wouldn’t have happened if I had stayed on site.
The majority of the meals were also included as part of the event, so I really did spend almost nothing while I was there. For the cost of the event, I feel like we got an amazing value, and all the thanks in the world to Tanja for focusing on creating an event that wasn’t expensive but that was also no less wonderful for the lower cost.
The Not-So-Perfect Parts
To make sure this recap doesn’t sound like all sunshine and rainbows, I did want to spend just a short time on what didn’t feel perfect and amazing about Cents Positive, though overwhelmingly those are my thoughts and feelings about the weekend.
Since I became partially deaf almost two years ago, I really struggle in loud places, especially ones with a lot of background noise. As you would expect, a room filled with eighty two women engaged in discussions that excite them is generally not a quiet room. While most of the time I could hear what was going on, there were points that were a bit overwhelming and I had to step back from the discussion because it was just too hard to strain to hear what was being said. Which is why I ended up eating breakfast alone Sunday morning in a quiet alcove just to give my ears and brain a break.
Spending an entire weekend inside, when I usually try and be outside more often than not, was a bit disorienting and had me wondering if there was some way to have a bit more outside nature time in the future if (when?) I attend more of these kinds of events. The same is true for my lack of exploration of Denver during the trip. We usually find ourselves doing a ton of exploring when we are in a new place, especially when it comes to food and drink, nature, and libraries. Outside of Saturday night, I didn’t get a chance to explore a local spot of any sort.
Perhaps the only way to remedy that sort of thing would be to tack on an extra day at the beginning or end of the trip to get that time in, but it did feel a little unfortunate not to experience a city I hadn’t visited since high school.
All in all, I had high hopes for a financial independence conference just for women, and Cents Positive did not disappoint. There is something absolutely special and not replicable about a group of women who are all there to support and lift each other up. For anyone who believes that any coed event is gender neutral and all that is needed in a space, take note. It was absolutely different, and absolutely worth creating the space. and I can’t wait to see more of these happen in the future.
I also want to take a quick note to all you wonderful women I met this weekend who told me you read and love this blog. I was absolutely humbled and floored to realize so many of you do read my words and that they have impacted you in some positive way. I am so glad to have met and connected with you and I hope we stay in touch from here on out. Please do email me.
Ps. apparently I am the only reptile owner who attended Cents Positive this year (thanks again to Tanja to including that impossible scavenger hunt task of finding another to check off the list). If you own one – shout out to you! There must be more of us out there! Or maybe everyone just likes dogs. Me too.