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.

Lovely bike/pedestrian trail for a run

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.

Amazingly good pedestrian access for an area that doesn’t walk much

Saturday

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.

Love Emilie

Sunday

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.

Costs

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.

Hey look! At least a few of us walk around here.

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

64 thoughts on “Attending The First Ever Cents Positive: A Financial Independence Retreat Just For Women

  1. Look at you being so on the ball! It was so great to meet you and next time I’m trapping you in a corner so we can have more time to chat.

    1. Ha yeah, helped to have the block of kid-free time on the plane home 🙂 And please trap me – I feel like we didn’t get near enough face to face time.

  2. i’m glad you had a good/productive time. i used to wait on a lot of convention goers in new orleans. the ones who had the best time broke free to explore so i agree with you on that one. i’m not sure i would make a very good conference or convention attendee because i like smaller groups.

    1. Hard because we only had a few days for the conference, but I really think I’m going to need to build in exploration time for future trips 🙂

  3. Awesome review! Is Cents Positive going to be an annual thing? I may try to go to the next one!

  4. Now patiently waiting for you to plan and host a PNW’ers gathering 🙂
    My wife has been away at a convention/conference all weekend and no matter what we do, it is nice for us to get away from the family every once in a while to enjoy ourselves. I think it is a healthy part of being in a relationship.

    1. Yes yes yes…… planning will happen now apparently 🙂 And I agree – it is so easy to fall into always doing things together, but not all interests have to overlap perfectly.

  5. I’m so glad you had such a good time on your first child-free weekend. I’ll bet it was nice seeing his little face when you got home though!
    Sounds like a great conference. 🙂

  6. Thanks for the summary of your experience ~ sounds like an inspiring weekend! I especially appreciate your thoughts on having goals and a plan outside of making blogging a business or measuring metrics.

    1. I’m not sure why I thought I didn’t need goals or a plan, but I’m realizing I absolutely do!

  7. It sounds like such a great time was had by all! I’m glad your first trip away was busy enough for you to enjoy it pretty fully. I do need a lot more downtime than you do but it’s tough balancing that need with not wanting to miss out on all the opportunities of a short conference. I don’t usually have FOMO for anything but when I’m attending something like this, I want to make the most of it too.

    Looking forward to a lot more years of your blogging!

    1. Yeah, I realize that MOST people probably need more down time than I do. As much as I would have loved it being a longer conference, the fact that it wasn’t meant it much much easier for me to attend.

    1. It was definitely a lot of indoor time, which was the best part of the walk to and from the Airbnb. That would be so incredible to meet you face to face at the next one! You had a good reason to miss this one though 😉

  8. Nice post, Angela! It was great to meet you this weekend. For anyone who is worried about being around so many people for so long, as an introvert, I can say it was not too much for me. I had plenty of time alone after dinner on Fri and Sat. I skipped the onesie party and took walks by myself. I can’t speak for all introverts, of course. I am guessing, though, that if you have a hotel room to yourself and/or quiet roommates and a willingness to skip out when necessary, you’ll be fine.

    1. It was so good to meet you! And thanks for responding to the introvert aspect, because I obviously can’t speak to that from experience 😉

  9. Sounds amazing and I am hoping I can participate in one of these in the future. There is something about women sticking together.

    I need to check out some Airbnb’s for an upcoming ski trip so I’m going to use your link since it’d be my first time.

    Love the onesie 🙂

    1. Yes I hope you can make the next one!! And hooray for Airbnb! I hope you get hooked like we have – and thanks for using my link 🙂

      Alas, the onesie is not mine, so I’m going to have to return it soon.

      1. Bummer on returning the onesie but I’m all for borrowing.

        So I couldn’t use your link since I already created my Airbnb log in, but my friend used it to book our place. Ski trip in Jan!

      2. Exactly! Especially because I wasn’t going to break my clothing ban for a onesie lol.

        And bummer! I did the same thing with my first Airbnb trip and missed out on that $40 savings. Have a fabulous trip though!

    1. I at least have a ticket for fincon! No promises yet if I’ll get to use it though. Hard because it’s a weekday conference.

    1. Oh that would be amazing if you did! Would love to meet you in person someday 🙂 And yes, very much hoping to attend the next one, though obviously can’t promise until the date and location is set.

  10. Thanks for the write up Angela – it sounds like an awesome weekend was had by all.

    And I love the inclusiveness of the event, and the opportunity to see things from a non male focused perspective.

  11. Man, not sure how I didn’t even know this gathering was being organized! Sounds like a it was a great event!

    Were there any topics in particular that came up that struck you as it may not have been discussed if the event was co-ed?

    1. How did you miss it?! Maybe you can make the next one. As far as topics, the entire event had a different feel than if it was coed. And of course, lots of female focused healthcare discussions, support of family members, balancing children, etc etc etc.

    2. I would say that there was a large emphasis on the emotional aspects of FI (supporting family members, for example) as much as the practical aspects. Everyone was very generous in sharing their personal experience, which may not have happened as openly with a coed group.

      1. That is so very true – I feel like less than half of the weekend was about money in terms of actual dollars and more about the “rest” of it.

  12. Sounds like a wonderful experience! I would love to hear more about the blogging side of the conference. Like you, I don’t intend on making my blog a business, but I would like to do the most good that I can. What did you learn?

    1. A lot of the blogger day was about impact and goals and how we shape the bigger conversation, so absolutely worthwhile even if your goals aren’t monetization based 🙂

  13. Sounds like a successful and worthwhile event! From looking at that picture of you and Emily in your onesies, either Emily is taller than I thought she would be in real life or you are shorter than I picture you to be. 🙂

  14. Awesome write up. It sounds like it was a wonderful conference. The inclusivity and diversity is huge. I particularly like the diversity because I really enjoy hearing stories and ideas from other people who have a uniquely different perspective than mine. The “Fi Speed dating” speed rounds sound like a lot of fun and perfect for an extrovert like you 🙂

  15. Great write up on your experience on the retreat. Sounds like it was productive and it helped out create goals for your blog.
    How was the adjustment being away from your family during the retreat? I haven’t been away from my family since my son was born so it will be quite an adjustment for me if I go to FinCon by myself next year.

    1. It was definitely different traveling on my own! The weirdest part was probably sleeping on a single bed by myself since the three of us bedshare. Otherwise, I was so busy the whole weekend that I didn’t have a lot time to dwell on missing the little guy. Was definitely ready to get back to snuggle him Sunday night though 🙂

    1. Ha, here’s to hoping it’s not on the East Coast 😉 And I bought a ticket to FinCon at least… we shall see.

    1. Right??? It was an amazing weekend! Crazy to finally have gotten away on a girls trip. Very much needed.

  16. Great recap, and so nice to meet you in person! I’m enjoying seeing comments from the other Cents Positive ladies as well. (I attended under a different name, but gave the Ignite talk on slow FI and F(I)mposter syndrome.) I’ll vouch for the event being supportive of introverts and inclusive of women at different stages of FI. Hope to attend the next one as well!

  17. Sincere honor and pleasure to have met you and I so appreciated your ignite talk! I don’t read a lot of blogs (for a myriad of reasons but mostly because I try to severely limit my computer time) but now I’m kind of excited to dip back into the space and find some blog content from women with pure motivations to share topics and information that are relevant. Cheers, Angela! And thank you for your contributions.

    1. Hi Liz! So good to have met you as well! And please do email me – I would love to keep in touch 🙂 And I can definitely understand the want of minimizing computer time, which is an interesting thing to try and balance with a blog.

      1. I’m still riding the stoke from the weekend myself. I can’t imagine trying to find the balance with a blog! Keep it up though because you have important things to share.

      2. Yeah, perhaps balance isn’t a great word because I’m not so good at balancing all my plates 😉 Can’t help it though – like you said, I feel like I do have important things to share.

  18. It was nice hearing the conference was a success. I’ll be interested to see if shining light on more non-tech/engineer, non-white, non-male financial independence stories makes more people feel financial independence is an accomplishable goal. I think spreading awareness will do wonders to motivate people to pursue a lifestyle of financial independence.

    Thanks for sharing your perspective on the event!

  19. Angela, your online persona is so authentic – it felt like I already knew you by the time I met you in person!

    I am a little sad to have missed the blogger day, but it was really nice to get out and enjoy the mountains and Denver scenery a bit on Friday. And that did give me a little outdoor time that I would have missed otherwise.

    Perhaps we will meet again at a future CP or FI event. (And get in that run I missed!)

    1. Awww well thank you for that! ☺️ mountains vs blogger day is definitely a trade off. I definitely would have made the same choice if I’d had my husband and kiddo in tow like you. Rain check on that run!

    1. So good to see you! But never enough in person time. I told you – time to use your travel hacking points 😜

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