The inaugural Cents Positive in Denver last year was the very first personal finance conference or event that I’d ever attended. I had gone to local meet ups and met friends that way, but an organized event is very different from an afternoon at the park or a brewery.

The weekend was absolutely magical, and that experience absolutely factored into the reason I ended the year attending FinCon this year – and then extending my trip at the last minute. Cents Positive made me realize how much it was worth my time and money to make dedicated space for face to face conversations with others in the personal finance community.

However, exactly because FinCon was just five weeks prior, I almost didn’t sign up for Cents Positive again this year because it almost felt like too much to commit to so close together. That said, it was actually IN Seattle this year (and round two in Chicago next weekend for those more local to that area).

With the location just across the lake from me, I just had to say yes, and I am so glad that I did. If I consider not making time for Cents Positive next year, I’m putting it here to remind myself to go. Just got. It’s worth it. The fact that it lands over a weekend makes it so much more accessible as well since you can get away with no (or few) days off from work.

There is something so special about spending a few days with a group of women who share an interest in personal finance and specifically financial independence. As much fun as FinCon was, Cents Positive is a very different experience. Both are worthwhile events, but very different from each other. Which makes sense when you consider it. FinCon is 2,500 people, most of a work week, about all personal finance generally, and intended mostly for content creators.

Cents Positive, on the other hand, is fewer than 80 women, over a weekend, specifically about financial independence, and while a few of us there were content creators, we were very much a minority. For all those reasons, it is a very different experience. If you’re on the fence about next year and you can afford it, just go. I promise you will not regret it.

Pretty Seattle day

Friday

Since Cents Positive didn’t start until late afternoon Friday and it was mostly just registration and dinner as well as the welcome event, I brought the kiddo with me. I picked him up after work and we headed down on the bus. He’d met Felicity and Moriah before, but with a large group it took him a bit of time to warm to to them.

He ended up hanging out for the welcome part of the evening and kept raising his hand and wanting to be involved in the discussion, but was otherwise a really easy kiddo to have along. Near the end of the night, he started to get really tired and fade, so my mother in law (who was also in attendance), took him to bed at her house, and I picked him up after dinner and headed home for the evening.

Since the event was local, I went home each night, albeit late, which meant I was able to spend some time with the kiddo and my husband each morning. While I do enjoy the solo trips I’ve taken, it was nice to be able to go back home each evening, especially so soon after my trip to DC for FinCon.

Making silly faces on the bus to the hotel

Saturday

Saturday was a full day of group conversation, presentations, and break out time for smaller chats, very similar to last year. At the end of the day, a large group of us (approximately 30+) went to Jade Garden for dinner. We ended up taking over most of their back room and each table shared dim sum and otherwise had a great meal.

The night ended with a karaoke party in the main conference room and then spilled out into the main lobby after we had to shut down the room for the night. While I usually go to bed between 8PM and 9PM on a normal night, I didn’t head home via Lyft until 11:30PM. I didn’t get quite enough sleep, but as these events are rare enough, it’s worth staying out late and being a bit tired the next day.

Kara’s talk

Sunday

Sunday morning saw more small group time and a similar end to last year. Unlike last year though, I was able to head back home to pick up the kiddo and then join in for more hang out time after Cents Positive “officially” ended.

An event that spans just two half days and one full day never feels like enough time (and unlike last year, there was no blogger add on for Friday during the day). By being around for the rest of Sunday made the event feel considerably longer, which was great. It will definitely be tempting in future events to tack on some extra time on either end, but it’s hard to do with the kiddo and work.

Seattle Center hang out Sunday afternoon

A Very Different Kind of Financial Independence Retreat

Beyond the black and white differences I mentioned at the beginning of this post, Cents Positive really is a very different kind of conference when it comes to money and financial independence. The energy and the feeling of a room full of women is a completely different thing than a mixed gender space. In some ways, it feels like a FI-specific manifestation of my Women’s Personal Finance group on Facebook, and in fact I got to meet a number of women from that group for the first time there.

In a space that has been traditionally very male dominated – and still has a stigma that the narrative is one for white, male engineers, a women-centered space is dynamic and important. A year after my first Cents Positive, I have a number of closer female friends, both from that event and that blogging space, and I left this year with deeper friendships as well as new ones. When you spend a lot of time thinking and writing about a community that isn’t very populous in everyday life, spending a weekend with your people feels extra special.

While the event last year wasn’t blogger specific, there was an extra day focused on blogging, which meant that perhaps a third of the attendees were bloggers. This year, that ratio was perhaps just ten percent or so, whether or not it was related to that deletion or not. I love my blogging friends, as is clear by my love of FinCon this year, but there’s something to be said about getting together with the women who aren’t publicly sharing their journey online.

I met some really wonderful ladies this year and last year who don’t blog, and since they don’t blog, I wouldn’t have ever met them if not for an event like this one. Some of them have become real friends and ones I talk to regularly, which is something I treasure.

There aren’t many weekends you can attend and walk away with friends, but Cents Positive is one of them. And spending more face time with the friendships that already exist is so precious when those friends don’t live locally, so in person time is rare.

Changes From Last Year

The biggest complaint I had from last year was the sound volume of the conference room that we spent most of our time in. This year, the room was triple the size and we were spaced out with tables, which made for a more comfortable space both in terms of noise and the ability to spread out when we were sitting for a while. We also had room to spread out to another conference room and the hotel lobby, which made break out sessions even easier.

The event was a bit more expensive this year in part because of the additional space, but it was worth every penny. It was also more because a portion of each ticket went to funding a few scholarships, which included lodging. I feel strongly that anyone who wants to be able to go to an event like this should be able to, do I strongly support a portion of each regular ticket going to funding this opportunity.

And then, on top of that, childcare is now included in the event, which was amazing. Last year, there was one stay at home mom in attendance, and we discussed how having on site childcare could make a big difference to who the event was accessible to. While I didn’t use it this year, my husband almost had to work on Saturday, in which case I would have. And in future years, I’ll be more likely to attend when I can bring the kiddo with me.

Thanks to this change, FinCon also provided childcare this past year, for the first time in the nine years it’s been running. If we really want to be inclusive, it’s those kinds of changes that need to happen, and I am so happy that Cents Positive is leading that change.

And finally, a special thanks to Tanja for creating this event. It was needed, and I am so glad that it exists. Thank you friend, for making a safe place for women to talk about money and all that goes with it.

Have you been to any personal finance conferences or retreats? If not, do you think you ever will?

26 thoughts on “Cents Positive 2019 Recap (Seattle)

  1. Thanks for sharing your experience! I’m so looking forward to attending the first Canada edition of it Glad you were able to bring kiddo along and be close to home, especially this close to FinCon. Isn’t it fabulous how the childcare offer influenced FinCon to offer it as well? So inspiring to see these types of changes in action for such events to become more inclusive!!

    1. Yeah, considering how much we’ve traveled this year it was nice to have this one close to home 🙂

  2. Fincon was my first conference and my goodness, it was SO big! I bet a small event feels a lot less overwhelming. And I can totally see how an all-women event would be fun too.

    1. It’s a completely different experience (though both are fun). Would highly recommend it.

  3. Great recap! I had a great time hanging out with you and the other ladies too! So grateful that a space like Cents Positive exists for those of us who want to hear and be heard, but aren’t content creators.

  4. I can imagine what a unique atmosphere it would be with a smaller group of all women. It’s great that this event exists and is becoming even more accessible to more women. I may have to pencil it into my plans over the next year or two!

  5. I’m so happy to hear how this second event went. I loved it so much last year, and will definitely attend another event. It is so nice to be in a space where you can talk openly about financial topics and feel heard.

  6. What a cool event: one of the best ideas in personal finance, for sure.

    “In a space that has been traditionally very male dominated – and still has a stigma that the narrative is one for white, male engineers, a women-centered space is dynamic and important.”

    Couldn’t agree more, Angela. I think these sort of events and spaces are critical.

  7. This was the first time I attended a conference and I completely agree that getting that face to face time is so important. Just being able to be around a bunch of cool people who get it is a great thing. We got to cheer each other on, learn new ideas and share our own in a place without judgement.

    I also loved meeting you (and your kiddo)! Can’t wait to go back to Seattle 🙂

  8. Wow I had no idea they offer childcare in these events! That’s awesome. Thank you so much for sharing your experience! I still haven’t attended any in person event for personal finance and cents positive is the one that I kee thinking about. I almost do a 10h drive to Chicago this weekend but I had already committed to something else. I will plan better for next year 🙂

    1. It’s SO worth doing! If you haven’t done even a local meetup yet, I would absolutely start there 🙂

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