Financial Independence Case Study: How to Reach FI in Your 30s

Writer. Creator. Mentor. Speaker.

Intro by JL’s Team:

Think you need a 6-figure income and 20 years to reach Financial Independence?

As the market goes up and down (like it always does), you may be wondering how you’ll ever achieve FI with all this volatility.

The answer?

Your mindset, your habits, and your determination.

This post is a story of how those three traits are the building blocks to financial independence…


I want to introduce you to my new friend, Jillian.

While I’ve only gotten to know her over these past few months, already I can’t recall exactly how she came to my notice.

I had heard of her some time ago, but really didn’t pay too much attention. Then, suddenly, it seemed every time I turned around someone was telling me “You really need to get to know Jillian.”

They were right.

She is an incredible person. The kind of friend we should all seek. The kind of friend who uplifts us by the sheer, compelling nature of how she has chosen to create her life.

With that in mind, I asked her to write today’s guest post.

When she sent me the first draft, which is what you’ll read here today virtually unchanged, it felt perfect. Exactly what I had asked for.

And yet…

Something was missing.

It took me awhile to figure it out. 

Jillian had a tough start in life and she hasn’t chosen the easiest paths. But she is not one to focus on that and so she left it out.  As a counterpoint to all those bitter commenters who wallow in their difficulties while claiming the path to FI is open only to those of privilege, this is refreshing beyond words.

Still, to see how far she has come, it is worth noting where she started. At least a bit. Since she didn’t, I will.

Jillian grew up in rural poverty. She has six kids. Two are biological, four adopted. Her first she adopted when she was 22. The child was 11.

She and her husband started with $55,000 in debt. Their average annual earnings have run ~$40-50,000. They have never earned more than $80,000 per year, combined. 

As you’ll read, she was FI by age 32. Not what most would have predicted with that profile. Not what I would have predicted, and I’m the guy who wrote this post: Can everyone really retire a millionaire?

Truth is, most people with that profile will never achieve FI. Neither will most people born to privilege.

Achieving FI is a matter of choice and mindset, not beginnings.

Here’s Jillian….


One of my favorite quotes is from a Mary Oliver poem: “Tell me what you want from this one wild and precious life.”

There is so much power that comes from knowing what we want. And I feel like it’s so easy for that to get watered down or cluttered.

There are so many things in life that we could do or feel like we should do. There are a lot of stories about what success looks like.

At one of my old jobs, I referred to myself in an offhand way as successful to a coworker. It caught her off guard. She looked at me with questioning eyes, and said “How exactly are you successful?”

I don’t think she meant it as a criticism. But she said it with strong disbelief.

I didn’t have the obvious markers that define most people as successful.

I didn’t live in a big or overly expensive home. I drove an old Honda Civic. We rarely ate out. I didn’t spend a lot on name brand clothing. I wasn’t working in a glamorous job. I was earning about $30,000-$40,000 a year, and my husband even less.

How dare I consider myself successful?

George Bernard Shaw said: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

It appeared as though I wanted less than the average person. But it was only because I wanted much more than the average person. I wanted the unreasonable.

I wanted to see the world. Travel and live abroad. I wanted to adopt, to be a family to kids who might not otherwise have one. I wanted more financial freedom. I wanted to be able to pay cash for a house. And I wanted all of it sooner than later. I wasn’t willing to wait until I was 65.

Why did I think of myself as successful?

Because I got everything I wanted. By the time I was 32.

By the time I was 32, we had traveled to 27 countries, lived abroad for 4 years, adopted 4 children, paid cash for our home, bought two rental properties and become financially independent.

My husband and I never earned high incomes. Even together, in our highest earning years, we never graced six figures.

Without high incomes, we couldn’t have every conventional marker of success. So which things were we willing to give up?

Things that never really mattered

There is a list, a long list, of things I don’t care about. Actually it’s most things. Some probably think of it as frugality or sacrifice. It’s only partly about money. I’ve always been careful with my time and attention.

For example, I’ve cut my own hair for almost a decade. When I started going grey, I bought a $7 box of hair dye. For some this would be a radical cost cutting measure. It would be deprivation. I just never liked going in for hair cuts. It was time consuming and stressful. It was easier and faster to trim my hair at home. Even more so for hair color. I can do that at home in 15 minutes. Would it look nicer if it was professionally done? Sure. How much do I care? Not at all. I don’t have the energy to care about ALL the things. I opted to just care about a few things.

I bought a few good pairs of shoes 7 years ago and haven’t looked to replace them yet. I simply don’t care enough to spend my time and emotional energy looking for new shoes.

I have nothing against new shoes or highlights in hair. I just don’t possess the energy to pretend to care.

I could care a little bit about everything. Or a whole lot about a few things.

It came back to what did we really want to do with our one wild and precious life?

We made a lot of choices that seemed incredibly difficult along the way. We lived in a camper our first year of marriage. We had a housemate for a number of years when we lived in a HCOL area. We’ve never spent a lot on clothes, cars or homes. All traditional markers of success.

But was it hard?

For me, not really. Because those things never made my short list of things I really wanted. I was giving up the second best. The substitute.

But was it hard?

Kind of.

That day my coworker questioned my self-proclaimed title of “successful” was at the core of the challenge.

Eating at home isn’t that challenging. Having coworkers tease you for packing a lunch, more so.

Driving an older car isn’t that challenging. Being told you can’t park with other employees because you car is so ugly, more so.

Being frugal in order to devote more time, energy and money to our biggest goals was only challenging in that most people didn’t understand (and sometimes openly criticized us).

Most people still don’t understand. But now they don’t understand how we can have this amazing life.

How do people pay cash for a house? How do you become financially independent in your 30’s? How do you travel for 8-10 weeks a year when you have a family to support?

If there is anything slightly outside the norm you dream of doing, someone won’t understand. Someone will be uncomfortable with it.

I made that hard choice a lot time ago. I’m not going to live a small life, by someone else’s rules, just to avoid rocking the boat. I’m not going to trade away my biggest goals for a few upgrades along the way.

I traded a few pseudo luxuries, like name brand clothing, for the ultimate luxury. We have enough passive income to cover our bills. We have the time and freedom to do what we like.

It’s been a little cold in Montana the last few weeks. I’m starting to get a bit stir crazy. I mentioned to my husband, “What do you think about taking off for 3-4 weeks for a sunny vacation? Maybe we’ll take the kids to Disney for a week and then head to San Diego for a week or two?”

In our early 20’s my husband’s Army coworkers teased him for always packing a lunch. While they had car loans, credit card debt and were living paycheck to paycheck, we had invested our first $100,000.

Those coworkers thought it was crazy to never eat out. Now it’s crazy to jump in the car for an unplanned month long vacation, just because. Just because we can.

We don’t have a mortgage, credit card bills, car payment, student loans or the other typical bills that our peers have. Our monthly fixed bills come to about $700 a month for things like cell phones, gym membership, property tax, and utilities. Our passive income is $1450 (plus medical) from a military pension, $1200 from rentals and $800 from investments (if we needed it). With only $700 in bills, our $3500 a month of passive income goes a long ways. Like covering an impromptu 3 week vacation.

We all get to decide what success looks like for us. How do you want to define it? You get to write those rules. Not everyone will agree or understand. And that’s OK.

I think the most successful life is the one where you get everything out of it you were hoping for.


If you haven’t signed up for the newsletter, drop your email address in the newsletter signup in the sidebar or at the end of this post to receive a weekly email with new posts, ideas, and resources to help you on your financial journey.


Want more from Jillian? She writes at…

Want to learn to walk a better path? Check out her FREE 10 day video course…

Live with Intention


Jillian also has a guest post with even more details up on Millennial Revolution:

How to Become FI with 6 Kids, Zero Privilege, and a Small Salary


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Important Resources

  • Talent Stacker is a resource that I learned about through my work with Jonathan and Brad at ChooseFI, and first heard about Salesforce as a career option in an episode where they featured Bradley Rice on the Podcast. In that episode, Bradley shared how he reached FI quickly thanks to his huge paychecks and discipline in keeping his expenses low. Jonathan teamed up with Bradley to build Talent Stacker, and they have helped more than 1,000 students from all walks of life complete the program and land jobs like clockwork, earning double or even triple their old salaries using a Salesforce certification to break into a no-code tech career.
  • Credit Cards are like chain saws. Incredibly useful. Incredibly dangerous. Resolve to pay in full each month and never carry a balance. Do that and they can be great tools. Here are some of the very best for travel hacking, cash back and small business rewards.
  • Empower is a free tool to manage and evaluate your investments. With great visuals you can track your net worth, asset allocation, and portfolio performance, including costs. At a glance you'll see what's working and what you might want to change. Here's my full review.
  • Betterment is my recommendation for hands-off investors who prefer a DIFM (Do It For Me) approach. It is also a great tool for reaching short-term savings goals. Here is my Betterment Review
  • NewRetirement offers cool tools to help guide you in answering the question: Do I have enough money to retire? And getting started is free. Sign up and you will be offered two paths into their retirement planner. I was also on their podcast and you can check that out here:Video version, Podcast version.
  • Tuft & Needle (T&N) helps me sleep at night. They are a very cool company with a great product. Here’s my review of what we are currently sleeping on: Our Walnut Frame and Mint Mattress.


  1. Mr Chaos says

    Jillian, I love the Mary Oliver quote. Its so easy to get sucked into keeping up with the Jones’. We spend so much time, energy and financial resources on ‘stuff’ that we don’t truly value, and not enough on the things that matter. Like building community. WB Yeats says it much better than I ever could – “Think where man’s glory most begins and ends, and say my glory was I had such friends.” When we look back on our lives, it wont be the fancy cars and big houses that we remember – but our communities and whether we lived “this one wild and precious life” with intentionality.

  2. Mr Chaos says

    Jim – if I had one recommendation to you for a new speaker at a chautauqua, it would have been Jillian. But as usual, you’re way ahead of me! Had Mrs Chaos and I not already joined you in Greece, then we would be joining you and Jillian in June!

    To anyone considering going to a chautauqua, and with the financial means to do so, my first piece of advice would be to go. My second piece of advice would be that if you have a partner or significant other, that you take them with you. I know from experience that its not easy to drag along a reluctant partner. But my wife had an amazing time and it has helped us a couple define together the future lives that we want to strive towards.

  3. Frogdancer Jones says

    This is the most beautiful post.
    I first heard Jillian on a podcast about a year ago – I don’t remember which one. I’d heard of her blog before but I hadn’t gone to it – Montana seems so far from suburban Melbourne.
    WHAT an idiot I was!
    It seems to me that she somehow adopted the mindset that people far older arrive at – where they don’t give a tinker’s cuss about what other people think. I arrived at that in my 30’s, when I was alone with 4 kids. Somehow, their survival and thrival (!) mattered more than others’ opinions.
    Jillian is inspirational.

    • Jillian Johnsrud says

      I love the quote “Other’s opinions don’t pay the bills.” I would also add: other’s opinions don’t fill the 401k. Over the years I found a lot of the poor financial choices people were making (and pressuring me to make) were rooted in their own issues or insecurities. I had enough of my own to deal with without taking on theirs as well!

      • Joe says

        I wish I could get my wife to understand this, she just says “I want all those things to look nice for myself, I don’t care what other people think.” If you didn’t care what they thought, you wouldn’t be wasting time and money on following the latest “trends”.

        I save enough to ensure retirement is covered, maxing out the TSP. In fact, with retirement accounts (I also have some in Vanguard that I rolled over from my private company work) I could retire early but no where near as early as you. I have a few things I spend money on, I’m an IT guy so of course I have a good home computer but I don’t keep up with the trends and upgrade only every 3-5 years if I really need to. I enjoy cooking and over the years have collected a nice set of knives that I maintain and sharpen myself, I’ll probably die before they need to be replaced. If I spend on myself it’s normally something I’ve planned and budgeted for a long time and I ensure it’s a purchase I won’t have to replace any time soon.

  4. Sam says

    Jillian is obviously a ‘wise head on young shoulders’- a beautiful post. She had the courage to do things differently and now she is reaping the rewards, not only for herself, but for those children who she has given a second chance in life through adoption. Many thanks for letting her sharing her story.

  5. latestarterfire says

    I first heard Jillian’s story on ChooseFI and Do You Even Blog podcasts and was blown away by the life she leads, her generosity, wanting to help people and just ‘niceness’. I recently did Jillian’s Live with Intention email series – it helped me so much to find clarity & choose time as my focus in 2019 – as in purposely setting aside time each week to reflect and dig deep into what I really want instead of drifting through life. Thank you very much, Jillian

  6. Accidental FIRE says

    “As a counterpoint to all those bitter commenters who wallow in their difficulties while claiming the path to FI is open only to those of privilege”

    Thank you for that, the privilege stuff is old and tiresome. I was fortunate to meet Jillian at FINCON and she’s awesome. She brought snacks for an entire audience at one of the sessions. Amazing post and she shows how a life lived deliberately and boldly can be such an amazing life.

    Plus, I want to live in Montana so I’m also jealous 😉

  7. Kpeds says

    We are taking a much different path but are trying to cultivate some of the same ideas that Jillian so passionately mastered. Can we of prioritize our time over our stuff with all the behavioral changes that go along with that philosophy?

    We are fortunate to have high incomes. But they come with high debt and even higher self/peer/family/cultural expectations were ingrained way before we even had our first paychecks. These need to be reset.

    This is a seismic shift in perspective and as Jillian says is made harder for social reasons. Criticism, lack of support and ridicule that sometimes accompanies an attempt to learn to live on less is quite discouraging.

    Outside this community there is little support for people reorienting their lives to pursue FI. We all start from a different place and make different decisions along the way. It’s nice to read about people’s successes and the outpouring of support for all of our different journeys to FI!

    • jlcollinsnh says

      “Criticism, lack of support and ridicule that sometimes accompanies an attempt to learn to live on less is quite discouraging.”

      We are all unicorns in our day-to-day world.

      Coming together with people who “get it” is so rare, it is the single most powerful draw of Chautauqua.

      • Jillian Johnsrud says

        The community is so important! If you don’t have it at work and in your peer group, seek it out. People you meet online at first, then in real life, hug, text, Skype with, email, get together with. It’s always easier to go with the flow. So seek out the people who you want to go where they are flowing!

    • Charlotte says

      I agree with this. It is harder to reset our habits and outside cultural expectations when you are already on that path.

      A few years ago we moved to a new state and rented a house instead of buying. This provided the catalyst that we needed. We didn’t feel the need to upgrade our furniture, remodel the house (obviously), or general keeping up with the Joneses. Everyday we get questions from people about when we are going to buy. We make different choices that align with our values now. Someday we may buy a house and pay cash like Jill and family. JL taught me well in running the numbers for rent vs buy.

      Jill I loved your story! What a beautiful heart you have. It may be in your blog but I haven’t read it. Can you please clarify the monthly expenses? $700 plus I assume food etc so it’s not like you have $2800/mo extra? Also for travel expenses, I understand ways to save during a trip but can you give an estimate of this cost of 3-4 week trip to California? Thank you!

  8. Ben Dieterich says

    A very nice life story and such a beautiful family. I’m still searching for what I want from my life at almost 55 years of age, although I do feel as if I am still decompressing from dedicating over 28-years to a career that ultimately helped me get to FIRE, but did not provide any sense of fulfillment or leave much room for thinking about what I wanted for myself.

    Living a frugal/thrifty lifestyle does not bother me at all. I think the temptation to keep up with others and their high spending habits is a dark and dangerous path. I enjoy finding that like-new, $3 thrift store shirt that would sell for 10x that price at a retail store, (even more so when the original price tags are still on the garment). I have also enjoyed trying to duplicate some of my favorite local restaurant meals at home, inviting friends to join me and spending nice evenings together for a fraction of the price of dining out.

    Congratulations on having the benefit of your husband’s military healthcare. As I approach 2-years into FIRE, I am getting dangerously close to the “subsidy cliff”, where I will lose access to any subsidy assistance for my healthcare premiums. If this happens, I will be paying more for my healthcare than I pay for my rent. I would like to see more stories from FIRE community members and bloggers who have to pay for their own healthcare to learn about how they are navigating the challenging healthcare waters in ER.

    Best wishes to you and your family, Jillian.

    PS: Jim, when do you and Mrs JLC plan on being back in Cleveland?

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Hi Ben…

      Now that we are no longer in NH, we no longer routinely pass thru Cleveland.

      But we miss you and the rest of our friends and hope to get there again soon. 🙂

    • Ben Dieterich says

      I also wanted to mention that during the last years of my career as a manufacturer’s account rep, my Sales Manager suggested that I rent a car when calling on my customers instead of driving my immaculately clean, virtually rust-free and mechanically sound 2004 Pontiac Vibe, because it wasn’t an appropriate vehicle for driving customers in for lunch or dinner meetings or representative of the Company.

  9. Mr. Burrito Bowl says

    I love the way Jillian writes! She completely cuts through the excuses that FI is just for those other people. The high earners. Not regular people like you and I. More importantly I always feel like being a nicer person after reading one of her posts.
    Side note: Mrs. Burrito Bowl and I will be moving back to the flathead valley next year. Maybe we can have a meeting of old shoes and beat up Honda’s!

    • jlcollinsnh says

      “Maybe we can have a meeting of old shoes and beat up Honda’s!”

      Sounds like my kind of meeting!

      Can I come?

      I’ve got the old shoes and would pick up a beat up Honda if needed, unless you’d accept my old Forester? 😉

      • Mr. Burrito Bowl says

        Of course you can come! Since you don’t have your own Honda I’ll sell you mine. Locks don’t work per se, windshield wiper is on the fritz, it’s a reconstructed title and has a few dings from being my construction work truck for the last three years but other than that it’s mint condition!

    • Jillian Johnsrud says

      YES! Let me know when you get here. =) Fun fact (to make you homesick)…I stayed at Whitefish Lake Lodge last night, and my hubby and one kiddo are skiing Big Mountain today (it’s that rare sunny/warm winter day) and I’m downtown Whitefish at Montana Coffee Traders to do some writing! This is such a great place to live.

  10. Susan @ FI Ideas says

    I was lucky to meet Jillian briefly at FinCon. Later, on the last night’s party, I saw her gliding around the ballroom, dancing in a truly happy way. I had previously heard her being interviewed on ChooseFI and she is an amazing inspiration. One thing I remember is that she and her husband sit down periodically and decide what good things they are going to remove from their lives so that they can bring in the better things. I say things, but I mean broadly experiences and such.

    She is a role model for living that wild and precious life. We all need to realize it’s in our grasp.

  11. B Belza says

    A wonderful example of a conscious choice to live so that you can have what you want. There is one part I think should be highlighted. She mentions they have a military pension–which means one of them worked in the military for at least 20 years? The benefit of that choice is healthcare costs that are significantly below that of most other workers. As a beneficiary of retired military healthcare myself, for example, we paid about $1200 per YEAR for two people with something like a $150 annual deductible and $12 co-pays (recently raised to $20) until we reached Medicare age.

    • Jillian Johnsrud says

      My husband was medically retired at 10 years, which is why the pension is rather small. The medical is a wonderful benefit. I didn’t think anything of it when I was 19, but now I’m so happy we have it (funny how we care more about that with age!) Healthcare is still our 3rd largest expense, after food and travel. From a financial and lifestyle perspective, I wish he could have finished the last 10 years. But we roll with the punches and made the best of it.

      • Sara says

        Jillian – Thank you for your willingness to share these details and your perspective. Hopefully more of us can find our path that includes both rolling with the punches and planning what a successful life looks like for us.

        • Jillian Johnsrud says

          The funny thing is, although we accomplished all the end goals we had, almost none of the “plans” worked out. All the ways I thought we could make things work….didn’t. But we kept going and trying new things. Sometimes people will mention how “lucky” we are. But that’s the thing about luck, if you fail enough, in the general right direction, eventually you’ll stumble into some luck.

  12. Steve Chen says

    Great post Jillian – nice work following your own path and illustrating what’s possible. Great to see you at Fincon and hope that we can make the podcast happen.

  13. ABM says

    Jillian and her husband had courage and a strong personality to pursue FI in their own way. There is no better way to be FI, there is only your own way to achieve and to live it. Very inspiring!

  14. Katie says

    I always love reading Jillian’s stuff. There’s so much wisdom in this post. However my takeaway is the final line as that is where it all starts – become clear on what a successful life means to you (by you, I include your partner if you have one) and only you, so then you can work to achieve that.

  15. Joe Miller says

    Lots of great ideas here that anyone can use to help achieve FI, but fortunate access to this …

    ” …. passive income (of) $1450 (plus medical) from a military pension”

    … is huge and should not be understated in being a big reason the lifestyle Jillian’s describes is possible.

    Reliable coverage of medical costs in early retirement is a massive hurdle to overcome. A military pension with medical included is quite a perk.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      A military pension and medical is available to anyone who choses to put in the considerable time, effort and commitment to earn it.

      Just like a large portfolio in VTSAX that can generate retirement cash flow is available to anyone to spends less than they earn and uses that money to invest over time.

      • Jillian Johnsrud says

        The other side to consider is I know a lot of people who also have a similar pension and medical. None of them are FI. Not even close. A lot of people who leave with pensions 2-3x as high still have to work.

        A full military pension is 50% of base pay, which excludes all housing and special pay. So the average solider leaves with 30% of their full pay. Because they move every 4 years, very few have a home (let alone a paid off one.)

        Most enlisted are earning under 6 figures. Most of our social circle was military, I don’t know any that lived on 30% of one income.

        It’s a great help. But it’s not enough to bridge the gap for 99% of people.

        Not every opportunity is open to every person. The trick to getting to FI is to keep knocking on every door and see what opens up for you. I don’t think the military is right for everyone, just like being a doctor or a teacher, CEO or getting a large inheritance. We thought the military was a good option. My husband told every single person he was in college with about joining. Not a single one did. We made our choice and they made theirs. I hope they got everything they were looking for.

        • Frances says

          Army wife here 🙂 …A military pension is a wonderful opportunity and can help anyone reach FI, if they are interested in putting in the work. Military personel and their families sacrifice so much, with postings, deployments etc. Jillian and her husband earned their pension, and this kind of lesson should be taught to young people who are not yet sure what they want to do with their lives. If you put in the work, and make some sacrifices, you can gain a world of experience and possibly retire in your 40s or 50s with a guaranteed pension. Then you can even try something else. Pair that with a balanced portfolio and frugal living and you’re made in the shade!

    • Steve says

      Joe is right: that military medical coverage is worth at least as much as the pension itself. Way better than even big corporate coverage. And will become ever more valuable over time. A major expense avoided is no minor detail.

  16. Stephen A. Schullo says

    Most people lucky enough to live a long life will not achieve the enlightenment that Julian has at a young age. Her many inspirational gifts are many and way beyond hitting FI at 32. Courage and discipline with a heavy mix of compassion for helping others are truly powerful human potentials, Julian has them all. Her four adopted children, her husband, close friends, FI movement, and her followers are the luckiest people on the planet.

  17. Mohammed says

    Loved reading this.

    I for one support bringing in packed lunches. Mine tend to be healthier and easy on the wallet too.

    Some may call these moves,’sacrifices’ but one can find real happiness by doing so too.

    Very inspirational!

  18. Mister DS says

    Wow. Just wow. That is such a powerful and well written answer to the question, “why do you think you’re successful?”

    Well done, and enjoy the trip to sunny San Diego!

    • Jillian Johnsrud says

      Thanks so much! We bought a yearly pass to the zoo last time we were there, so planning to make good use of that! There is a military camp ground on Coronado right on the water where we stayed last summer. Looking forward to going back!

  19. Joe ( says

    Jillian was one of the nicest people I met at FinCon (2017) and that’s saying a lot, as there’s a ton of great people there.

    Very well written, Jillian, my neck muscles are sore now because I couldn’t stop nodding my head. 😀

  20. Dr. Remoulak says

    Another read from the JL Collins library I will be sharing with my kids (ages 11 and 13) after dinner tonight as I try to gently guide them toward the path I know would lead to a happier, freer, and more fulfilling life. Thanks Jillian and Jim.

  21. Live Your Wage says

    Refreshing, inspiring, and completely genuine. People like you are hard to find, Jillian. Please keep up the incredible work, sharing your message and helping others craft extraordinary dreams when they realize their original dreams are often just too small.

    My own dreams get bigger every time I read your posts.

    • Jillian Johnsrud says

      I’ve had to grow bigger dreams at every stage as well! It’s amazing once you start making progress, how things start to compound. When I first started at 19, I thought “Maybe we can retire at 60!” And it was a novel and radical idea for me. Then 55. Then 50! That seemed crazy. Then 40! I hit almost all my bucket list items by 32. Time to write a new list of even crazier things.

      In some ways I feel like I’m getting a bonus life, like in a video game.

  22. FIRECracker says

    You are, by far, one of the nicest people I’ve met at FinCon (and there were many of them). Love your inspirational story Jillian! Coming from a poverty background myself, I can emphasize with your struggles and am so in awe that you not only pushed through them, but found the compassion to give back. I can’t wait to share your guest post with my readers!

    • Jillian Johnsrud says

      I was so excited to meet you and so wanted to talk with you….and I had no voice left at all. =(

      I find the effects of poverty a tricky thing to explain. Because the things that seems like natural struggles, often aren’t that bad. But it’s the other things, more subtle things, that trip me up. (And continue to trip me up!) It’s only in my 30’s do I feel like I’ve made more progress on those things.

      I’m excited to get to share and chat with your readers as well!

  23. John says

    Hi Jillian!

    How did you achieve to save up the money to buy the house and rental property without a mortgage? Would you mind sharing your financial roadmap? What was your monthly expense with 6 kids? It is totally incredible!

    Thank you very much!

  24. Crew Dog says

    JL – Thanks for this virtual introduction to Jillian. Great to read about someone living life on their own terms – especially from such a young age. I have *just* come to grips with defining success for myself, on my own terms, at the beginning of my 50s. And all it took was becoming chronically ill *and* disabled, which led to a catastrophic disruption of my plans. Only after complete despair for a very prolonged period of time have I come to see this as liberation and “permission” to live my dream life. Thanks for continuing to make your corner of the internet entertaining and informative.

    Jillian – What a gift, to be able to live life on your own terms. Congratulations! I look forward to reading your blog and learning more about you and your journey.

  25. AlaskaFI says

    Thank you for a lovely post! It was inspiring to hear from someone who is pursuing a similar lifestyle to what my family and I eventually want to attain here in Alaska. These dark winter days would be much nicer with the ability to sleep in and reflect, create and hygge :-).

  26. Sally says

    Jillian – SO inspired by your story. Looking for that FI myself, and I can totally relate to your not needing a lot of what most people reach for. Went to your site and read quite a bit. Tried to sign up (4 times, I think), got the “success” message, but never received any emails (even after checking spam folder). Is it possible that your signup form is broken? Would really like to sign up for your emails. Thanks! Sally

  27. BC Kowalski says

    I loved seeing this Jillian and I will be following. I’ve been toying with starting a frugal/FIRE blog (gah, another one?) because I feel like most of the blogs I read are in big or big-ish cities with authors who earned high salaries and I rarely see my own situation represented. As a journalist, I’m not in a high-paying profession, but the same principals apply. I like to think I am living proof that FIRE can work for non-software engineers, and so it’s nice to see that proof in your story too – congratulations! I’m still on the path but the path is going well and I should be there in less than 10 years now. Thanks for adding your voice to the mix!

  28. Katie Camel says

    Wonderful post! I’m sorry I’m only now just reading this post, but better late than never. I find Jillian incredibly inspiring and hope to meet her one day. But here’s another reason I love this FI community so much – the stories and the people are just incredible! Thank you for having her as a guest writer.

    “Achieving FI is a matter of choice and mindset, not beginnings.”

    My deceased grandpa was the shining example of what one can achieve with the right mindset, yet I don’t believe he would have would have been the same man without his humble beginnings. He went from a childhood of abject poverty during the Great Depression to being an incredibly successful, self-made man. His determination and drive remains unmatched by anyone I’ve met, though a few have come close. Jillian’s story is equally admirable and inspiring.

  29. valdeni says

    I always enjoy reading Jillian’s stuff. Wisdom in this post is not lacking. It has become clear that a successful life means to you (for you, I include your partner if you have one) and only you, so you can work to achieve that.

  30. Charmaine says

    Love this! Someone recently told me they “don’t have the luxury of staying home with kids.” This person does have the luxury of many high-end products and services, however. Those who make excuses tend to be uninterested in your sacrifices.

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