This past weekend I did something I’ve never done before. I hopped on a plane to Denver for the specific purpose of meeting a whole bunch of internet friends in real life. To some of you that might sound weird, crazy even, but for me, it was a way to build a stronger connection with a community I’ve grown to love.

The excuse for making the trip? The very first Cents Positive retreat. An event with the purpose of bringing together women who are on a path towards financial independence.

Before I go any further, I want to send a gigantic thank you to Tanja for organizing and hosting us all. It was clear the effort that went into the retreat, and I’m incredibly appreciative of it all!

What I’m Taking Away

The retreat was exactly that. Not a conference, but a place to have an open discussion about what financial independence means to a variety of women. There were no lectures on growing your blog traffic or increasing your affiliate income. Instead, we spent the time talking about how we can promote diversity and inclusion in the personal finance community, how emotions and money go hand in hand, and we ate a lot of tacos.

FI Seekers Are Diverse, But There’s Still A Diversity Problem

I was happily surprised by how many different age groups, jobs, and communities were represented at Cents Positive. From the people I spoke with, I’d say the age range went from 25 to 55. We had a few ladies who were already retired, some who are getting close, and others who are just recently on the path. It was very cool to hear from all different sides.

There were also people from all over. I was the only Canadian in the group, but there were ladies from all over the US. I didn’t keep notes, but I bet almost every state was represented.

The career paths were also incredibly diverse. We had lawyers, accountants, health care workers, software engineers, teachers, a stay at home mom and many more. Many women who were working towards financial independence so they could leave jobs, and others who loved their jobs and instead wanted a safety net.

That’s about where the diversity ends. A significant majority of the group was white. And there were a lot of high-income earners; I’m classifying that as over $100k. It’s fantastic to see and talk to women earning high incomes, but it’s not representative of the greater population. We need to work on being more inclusive. And we will. There was a long discussion about what we white women can do to spread the narrative and seek out those with different stories.

Community Is Everything

I knew this before stepping on that plane, but it became even more apparent after spending a weekend with these ladies.

The first day of the event was specifically for bloggers and was a smaller group than the full retreat. These were my people. I had chatted and connected with most of them through their blogs and on social media for months or even years. I’d never met them in person before this, but I felt like a knew them.

What I found especially cool was getting to talk to all of the people who arrived later and weren’t bloggers. I had questions. Why FI? How did you find out about Cents Positive? What brought you here? And the answer to the last question was the same across almost everyone I spoke with. They love money but didn’t have a place at home where it felt comfortable to talk about it. They were seeking out like-minded women who would be willing to have those discussions. I’m thrilled that we all found that space, but it makes me sad that money is still a taboo topic.

I really hope that we can all go home and be inspired to start these discussions. As Tanja said:

“The first rule of Cents Positive is to talk about Cents Positive!”

Money Is Emotional, Embrace That

How many of you have heard the old cliche about keeping emotions out of money management? I’m guessing everyone. That’s advice that comes from the old boys club and, I believe, is a reason women feel left out of the finance discussion.

It’s bad advice though. Money is inherently emotional which means it’s impossible to separate the two. Yes, you need to be careful about letting your emotions rule, but they will also give you insight into how money fits into your life. Feeling stress over the ups and downs of your investments doesn’t mean you need to get out of the market, but it might mean you need to lower your risk. Strong feelings towards your spending habits will let you know what you value and what areas of your life should be the focus of spending.

Being good with money is striking that balance between being rational and being emotional.

I’m coming at this from a female perspective but it one hundred percent relates to men as well. Money is emotional for them too. And they’re almost at a disadvantage because it’s not considered ‘manly’ to discuss emotions. It’s easier for women to bring up topics like emotional spending.

Health Care In The US Is Craziness!

Ok, I kind of knew this going in but after listening to a talk on health care my mind was blown by the complexity of it all. We hear a lot about the high cost of insurance and health care in the US, but I was in the dark about how it actually worked.

Although I’m pro-universal health care and think Canada is doing a lot of things right, that’s not what I’m getting at here. You can be on either side of the universal health care debate and still agree that the current system in the states is confusing AF. Give me 30 minutes and I could explain the basics of the Canadian system to a complete newbie. I sat through that 30-minute talk about US health care, and I’m probably more confused than when I went in. The Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, high deductible plans, HSA’s, co-pay, PPO vs. HMO ??? Over my head.

There has to be a simpler way.

Travel Costs vs. Value

I’m walking away from Cents Positive with some new perspective, new connections, and motivation to promote by voice through blogging. It wasn’t free though. Tanja focused on making it as cost effective as possible, but it still wasn’t cheap when you factor in travel costs. I believe I got enough out of it to justify the expense, but I want to break down the numbers so you can decide if future retreats might be worth it to you.

One note, the retreat was in the US, but I’ve converted the values back to Canadian dollars. Our dollar has not been great, so that did not work in my favour.

My ticket with the blogger add-on day was $376.25 and included breakfast and lunch each day and two of the three dinners.

I flew West Jet and got a great deal because a friend passed on a discount code for me to use, but my flights still totaled $324.97.

The hotel cost $175.57. I shared a room with two roommates which lowered the cost significantly. Shoutout to Felicity and Little Green Revelation for being the best!

I also paid for one dinner out, food at the airport, and wine and that totaled approximately $100. This is a pretty close estimate, but I paid cash and didn’t keep all my receipts. Bad personal finance blogger!

That gives a grand total of $976.79. That’s expensive but overall not bad for a weekend away, and it did feel like a mini-vacation. Although, I’d love to go back to Denver and actually see the city!

I had a fantastic time meeting all the women at the Cents Positive retreat and will definitely consider attending more in the future. Maybe in Canada one of these times 😉 If you were there I’d love to hear what you came away with? And if you weren’t, would you consider going in the future? 

This post was proofread by Grammarly.

Image Credit: Ian Schneider


  1. I’m so happy you had a good time! I hope I can go next time so I can bring up the Canadian cohort to 2. It sounds like it was an amazing time and I would pay $1000 for something like that. It’s amazing that Tanja spearheaded something like this and I can’t wait to see where it goes in the future.

    • Sarah Reply

      I would so love for you to come and increase the Canadian contingent!

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