Podcast: Jillian Johnsrud — Are Mini-Retirements Worth It?

Podcast: Jillian Johnsrud — Are Mini-Retirements Worth It?

Jillian JohnsrudEpisode 39 of the NewRetirement podcast is an interview with Jillian Johnsrud about “mini-retirements” and passive income. We recorded this pre-pandemic, but the idea of trying out a mini- or early retirement could be more relevant than ever during this time. Jillian is a speaker, writer and teacher who achieved Financial Independence at age 32 and while raising a large family and traveling the world.

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Full Transcript of Steve Chen’s Interview with Jillian Johnsrud

Steve: Welcome to the NewRetirement podcast. Today we are going to be talking with Jillian Johnsrud, who is a writer, blogger, course teacher, podcaster and speaker about mini-retirements, passive income, lifestyle design, FIRE, and her life in Montana. So Jillian lives in Kalispell, Montana with her husband and five kids — a mix of adopted and biological kids — and she achieved financial independence at age 32. Congratulations. In the past 16 years, she’s traveled to 27 countries and taken five mini-retirements, ranging from one month to two and a half years. So I asked Jillian to come on our show so we could talk about mini-retirements and her life and I think our audience can learn a lot from her journey. And so I’m super excited that you could join us Jillian. Welcome to the show.

Jillian: Thank you so much for having me.

Steve: Yeah, we appreciate you making the time. So, you know, we always like to start with kind of people’s story and kind of a little history of, you know, how you got to this point and I know your journey’s unlike, you know, kind of many of the folks who we’ve had on here that are more traditional finance folks. But it’s really interesting. So just would love to kind of hear, you know, in your own words kind of how you got here.

Jillian: So far growing up we didn’t, we didn’t have a lot of money. We, I grew up probably really close to the poverty line and honestly our household was a little, a little chaotic. There were definitely some, some challenges and at some point I realized money gives you options. Like money gives you more choices and more freedom. And in, in that season of life, I was like, we definitely need some better choices here. So I just started, man, like building a rocket in the basement. Like I just started saving $5 or $20, like bit by bit trying to stockpile some, some choices, some different options for me.

Steve: And what, what age was this? This was like in high school

Jillian: And junior high. Yeah, in junior high. It kind of, we’d gotten to the point where, where I asked my mom to actually move out with us and move out of the house. And she just, she was very pragmatic and said, Julian, I can’t, I can’t afford to raise three kids on my own. Like, I’m sorry, this is, we’re stuck. And I just, I just broke down. Like I just went upstairs and I cried hot tears, but I realized if we had more money, we would have a different option and more money as in like a couple thousand dollars could have made the difference. And it just was, it was really, it lit that fire of like, Oh, here’s one way that we can get more, some more options to have more agency in our life. So that, it was, it was an inspiring moment for me to, even though I didn’t have a lot of great options to do everything I could to create more options.

Steve: And, and how did you, so your, you mean, this started really young for you? Did did you just come to this on your own in terms of like learning about money and how to save it? And I mean, I guess you educated yourself, but did anyone else give you a kind of a clue about this or you’re just kind of figured it out because of your situation?

Jillian: So I had no idea. In high school I knew nothing about personal finance, so I was just like, money equals options. So I just saved money. And I was super intimidated by all things banking. I remember when I finally had to go and like set up a savings account, I almost had a panic attack. Just walking into a bank felt scary and it felt like judgment and I didn’t feel like I belonged. So I was late to that game and when I was 19, this is just actually we got married. I bought my very first personal finance book and growing up the message and kind of the culture of my family was that reading is for lazy people who don’t want to do real work. Like, if you want to work hard, don’t read books cause that’s what lazy people do.

Jillian: And I was like, well, I w I don’t want to be a lazy person. Like I know my path out of here’s gonna be a lot of hard work. So like I really wanted to push away from anything that would like put me under that umbrella. And so when I bought this first book, a family member was actually with me and it was $17, which was so much money. And she was like, why are you wasting your money on this? Like this is a horrible idea, don’t do it. But I just, there was something in me that I was like, Oh, I think there’s something in here. And I read that first book and it was just this aha moment of, Oh my gosh, for like $17 or I later learned a library card. You can look all of the experience and all of the knowledge of people far more successful, far smarter than me. And so I started reading a book a week, every week on every topic, every like I would just go through the library side, decided in the nonfiction section and grab books. And I’ve continued that for 15 years.

Steve: Yeah, that’s awesome. I saw something on Twitter recently. Someone was saying that you, you every wise person, that this person that had met is always a voracious reader. You really can’t be wise unless you commit to ongoing well reading and lifelong learning. Well it’s, it’s super awesome that you learned that lesson young and you’re free yourself in an environment where it wasn’t promoted and that, that is tough. And obviously life changing for you, right? You’ve changed your whole trajectory. I mean, how many years ago? So, so this was like 19 years, you know, nineteens is like, you know, whatever, 13, 14 or not, I don’t know exactly how old you are, but like around that range, right? So your life,

Jillian: That’s me. I’m 37, so 18 years,

Steve: Years ago. Okay. But yeah, you know, it’s like, it’s it. And as we get into this, you know, and as people check you out, they’ll see all that you’ve accomplished. So congratulations on, on going from, you know, essentially zero or negative, right. Cause it, no one’s kind of pushing you to do this to where we are today. So, you know, w I want, and also one other quick aside, there was a, a young woman I interviewed and wrote about who’s in our hometown, Robin Brie. This is about 18 months ago. And she had there some similar shades of you in her eye. And so what struck me as I, I learned about her, she was staying with some friends and she was like 18, she had saved $100,000. And I was like, okay, I’m like, who does this? And you know, and she wasn’t gifted to her, you know, she didn’t have wealthy parents.

Steve: She had a kind of a in our household wasn’t, you know, it wasn’t perfect per se, but you know, she had been cranking, working as a waitress, babysitting, you know, work and also volunteering at the old folks home. Like her not making money but just putting her to, so, but it was basically this tremendous amount of work over probably, yeah, seven years. What before she was, you know, starting it when she was like 11 or 12 and then figuring out that she was just starting to think about, Oh, I can invest. And she went and talked to like Merrill Lynch and they were like, what? And then I was telling her, Hey, you know, you gotta be thoughtful about who you give your money to because these guys, you know, you have firms like Vanguard that have super low fees and you have other firms that might have much, much higher fees. And if you look at those fees can make a tremendous difference in the trajectory of, of your money. But that, you know, I’ll send you the story afterwards, but she should probably talk to you. She probably learned a lot and probably pretty good for her to talk to you. So, all right, well look, I, yeah, I appreciate the background. And then, so now, today, what’s kind of, what’s a day in the life like for you today?

Jillian: Yeah, so we became financially independent when I was 32. It was like, it was actually almost a thing five years ago. Next month they, we had, we had a little bit of a come to Jesus moment because we had one biological kiddo at home. We had just a, we’d been foster parents for three and they just asked us to adopt our three. And then the next week we found out we were pregnant and I I had a little bit of a mommy meltdown. Like things were so hard and so busy at home and my minivan was so full. I was like, Oh, are we going to add a baby to this? Like it’s already, we already feel like we’re barely keeping our nose above the water. And so we kind of ran the numbers again. I was like, we need to look at this. And I said, you know, I think we’re really close actually. If we make a few adjustments, I think that we could make this work. So we decided to start by taking a year off and just testing it out, testing it out, emotionally, testing out the whole early retirement thing. And if nothing else, just resting, getting caught up on things. We had had a really busy couple of years and yeah, one year kind of turned to two and two turned to three. And it’s, it’s been four and a half years now.

Steve: Nice. That’s amazing. So you’re, I mean, that’s kind of such a different perspective than, or experience than most people have because most parents, you know, you’re like, okay, I’m having a kid. It’s just, well, it is busy no matter what, cause you’re parenting, but you’re also like, I gotta make more money. I gotta pay for all this stuff. Right. I’m not, not that I’m going to take a year off and maybe two and a half years. Right. so that, that’s incredible. And, and what do you, what, what was your big takeaway from, from that experience? I guess that it’s doable that you could do it. Were there any other huge takeaways after kind of having that break in your, or that mini-retirement?

Jillian: Well, we had, we had taken a couple of different mini-retirements. It was something that we had talked about the very first year we were married. This idea of taking a break, taking a sabbatical and, and stepping away for a while. And when we first got married, it seemed like a crazy idea. Like I didn’t know anyone who did that. It wasn’t, wasn’t part of our current culture. But we had started just being intentional about it and kind of planning for it and saving money for it. And when opportunities arose, we would just lean in and say, Hey, this, we’ve been presented this opportunity of being between jobs or moving or be able to take a couple months off from work. And we were mentally and emotionally prepared to do that, but also financially prepared. So this one was just kind of, it was just our, our longest our longest one yet. And, and truth be told, my husband had, after we found out we were pregnant, he offered to work part time for his company just to create some more flexibility and they weren’t having it. So we said, okay, we’ll just leave.

Steve: Yeah. Well

Jillian: That’s good. It’s awesome to have the power to say that. I’ll walk away. I remember someone told me the, you know, the F you, I won’t explain it, here’s the word, but like having a few money makes a huge difference. And I think about that all the time and I tell my kids that, you know, you want to have save up enough money so that you can have agency and control over your life. And it also sounds like you have well I know from your work you can work kind of where you want, when you want, so you can also I mean there’s at least as for some of the work writing and stuff like that, you can take a break and then come back. I think for a lot of folks, I think, I mean, so let’s dive into mini-retirement cause it’s something I’m actually really interested in.

Jillian: And I liked the, I love the idea of it. I just wonder how, like when I think about, I’m like, it sounds great but the idea of, you know, Hey, I’ve got my whole career and now I’m going to take a break for six months and I could see most companies being like, well you know, responding like your husband’s company, like that doesn’t work for us. So you know, you know that then you’re kind of like a at a, you know, a deadlock with them. What do you see the folks that you talk to, how do they, how do they navigate that? I think it’s a lot more intimidating then then that reality plays out. From my experience, cause I’ve walked a lot of people through this process about 50% of employers, especially for in demand high need, high value employees are very willing to be flexible cause they really don’t want to lose that person.

Jillian: And we think that maybe like did think they were so irreplaceable and like our work is so significant. But companies are accustomed to like letting people leave for a time. Like we do have maternity leave, we’re employees step out and then they stepped back in and the team figures it out and life moves on. So they’re capable of doing it. It’s just a little bit of a pain in the butt for them. And it’s just if you bring more value than it’s a hassle to like replace you. I would say half the time employers are pretty flexible and the other half of the time it’s usually an organization thing and the organization, whether they could or couldn’t just doesn’t like the idea. But what I found oftentimes when people step away from their work, one of the tips that I suggest is if you are honestly quitting you know, usually you send out an email to your professional network saying, you know, I’m no longer with this company.

Jillian: If you need anything. Like this is your new point of contact person. But to send out that letter, kind of a, you know, I’m going to be taking a break to focus on this cool, exciting thing that you F planned, whatever that is. But I’m so excited to like, you know, work with you all professionally in the future and then to a smaller group of people that you’re really close to, you send out another email that says, you know, I’m really excited about this break. I’m excited about whatever it is, writing this book or taking this trip or whatever you’re doing. But if you happen to hear of anything that comes up, feel free to reach out. Cause I do, I do really love my career. And I would say in that group, like 80 or 90% of people who do have a strong network, you know, who do have some professional friends because you’re kind of top of mind and because you seem to them especially extremely available whether you are or not.

Jillian: And you’re like, no, I’m hiking in Peru right now. I’m not extremely available. But, and then employees have this thing, like if you’re not working, you’re available. I find people get so many job offers and they get more interesting job offers. They get things that kind of like, I feel like they almost come out of those boardroom meetings where they’re like, man, we have this project. Like who could handle this? It’s a little different. It’s a little unique. And then the person who receives your email goes, you know what, I think I might know someone, he’s off hiking in Peru right now, but he would be perfect for this.

Steve: Yeah. It’s interesting. I think that’s a great way to frame it up and yeah, thinking of it like childcare leave or kind of built in things that we do or sabbaticals. I mean a lot of firms do offer sabbaticals. I don’t, you know, I, I do think it’s, it is on the employee to kind of go and seek that out cause the employer’s not like championing that. Hey, it’s Jillian’s time to, why don’t you go take your four year sabbatical and take six months off and go two or three months off and go to Peru. But yeah, it’s also interesting to hear your insight about, you know, how to engage with their network and what might happen. And I totally hear that. You know, I, I totally believe that, that, and that’s cause God, that’s kind of how I behave when I hear someone’s doing something or I’m like, Oh, what’s happening? You know, when there’s movement it’s like, you know, if you know they’re good, you know, in order to talk to them, engage them. Yeah, that’s cool.

Jillian: I think you stay top of mind and I encourage people to reach out. Depending how long you’re going to be gone, like every three months. Just be more connected with your professional network and because this should be planned, if you’re planning it out three months or six months, like engage more with your professional network up until that point, just be more active.

Steve: So, you know, before I move on from any mini-retirements, just can you share a little bit about kind of how people get ready financially? You know, cause that’s like a big, like what’s the process and what, are there any benchmarks or things that you need to have set aside or how you think about it?

Jillian: Yeah, I mean there’s a lot of different ways to structure and it means a lot of different things to people. So my basic definition is anytime that you step away from penny or nine to five to focus on something that matters to you. So this might even be, you might just be able to get a month or sometimes between jobs, she’ll have like a two month gap. If you’re going to spend that time focusing on something that matters to you, like that’s a great opportunity that oftentimes can end up just being wasted with us. Like lounging around the house, feeling depressed and frustrated, applying for jobs when you could be out doing something cool. Which honestly I think is more compelling when you start to interview and you’re explaining those career breaks. If you’re like, yeah, I wrote a book during that time or I hiked I bicycle through Croatia for those three months, not like I was in my underwear on my couch, bingeing, Netflix being depressed, no one that’s calling me.

Jillian: So it’s, it’s that and, and each mini-retirement therefore has very different types of costs. So you have to be able to cover your living expenses cause you’re not going to be working. And that might be through if you have rentals that could help or sometimes people just save up the money. You know, for a lot of people, if they’re spending $50,000 a year, you know, they might only need 4,000 a month. So the eliminate expenses, it’s like 12 grand for three months. It’s not, it’s not an astronomical amount of money to set aside. And then you need the money to pay for whatever you’re doing. In addition on that money, retirement. Cause you do want to be able to do something that’s important to you. And, and I love mini-retirements and it’s, so many things in our life are seasonal and they have an expiration date.

Jillian: I think that’s one of the biggest downfalls with traditional retirement is that you can’t save it all up till you’re 65. Like some of these things, it’s just going to pass you by. And you can’t replicate that at 70. Even if you wanted to, even if you had the time and the resources to, you know, things with things with your kids or things with your family. It might be, it might be in the next five years or it’s not gonna happen. So taking the time to do that and whatever that might cost, whether, you know, writing a book might not be very expensive. Taking, you know, we did a 10 week trip two years ago now and we took all of our kids through 10 national parks in 10 weeks. This was an experience that had an expiration date. Like I could already feel my kids were kind of at that ages, were like not having wifi and TV and friends for 10 weeks straight. And just, it was a little bit like, this is cool, but like is the campground going to have wifi? So we wanted to do that while we could because I’m, I’m not going to be able to wait 10 years. Yeah. And wait 10 years gone.

Steve: Right. I think that’s a super important point. I mean, I try to make this point with people in our community and the ones that I talk to, especially with traditional retirement, so you know, people are many of our users there, but they’ve been planning and saving in our average user just saved $1 million. Right. So there are definitely at the high end of a, of the mass affluent group and the data shows that people that have money when they retire, they have more money when they pass away. So they still live frugally. They’re very often deferring things, you know, and I think a lot of people are like, Oh, I can do this when I’m, yeah. When I’m 70 or when I’m 75 you know, the reality is you may not be here when, when that, when that time rolls around or you might have a blown knee or someone got sick and suddenly you’re not doing it. So do you keep like a Le, it’s like, you know, we talked about this bucket list idea but like a kind of a list of like things I want to do and like timeframes that could happen that that could be pretty powerful mechanic. I could see it for someone like, Hey, I do want to go hike Peru. Well that has to happen for I’m 55 or 60 cause it’s not going to happen. That’s much less like it happened later.

Jillian: Yeah. We plot out a lot of kind of those bigger goals or those bigger dreams and just try to find like what season does it fit best in. But also like is there an expiration date? And I think especially, you know, we’re at the, we’re kind of in our late thirties, early forties, so we’re at that stage w where the time is kind of running out with our parents. Like if we’re going to do big experiences with them, if we’re going to have a lot of time with them, like we probably shouldn’t put it off for the next 10 or 20 years. You know, that season is kind of important. So we are prioritizing that. And our kids are kind of young. We’re at four to 12 right now. So we’re prioritizing those things. But knowing that other things in life have their own season.

Jillian: And especially with, not that I’m against buying stuff, but you can buy stuff at any age. Like you can buy the Lamborghini just as easy at 70 as you do 35, like you just hand them money and they hand you keys. Like there is no expiration date to buying cool stuff. They’re very happy to sell it to you. But some of these other things like you kind of do it now or you miss the boat and you can’t replicate that. And, and I love financial planning tools like your guys is because you can see, well what if we did spend 12,000 to take the time off and we spent another, you know, 15,000 to go do this thing. How does that change our outcome when we’re 90 to take $30,000 out now? And often it’s just a little tiny blip in the picture.

Jillian: So I was encouraged people especially you know, if I’m working with them one on one, look at that number before and after when you’re 85. Okay, so you’re going to end up with like three and a half million or if you do all of these cool, amazing experiences, maybe you end up with two and a half million at 90. What value does that extra million have at 90? Cause it probably has some sort of value. And what value do these current experiences have and which one do you value? More like weigh, weigh it out. And with financial planning software, you can do that.

Steve: It’s actually a great to hear you describe it this way. It’s so funny cause we don’t, we’re so in the weeds with kind of what we do. We very often people are like, Oh well can I retire at 60 or 55? And they’re there. I think a lot of our users are thinking about kind of the downside risk versus the upside potential. So just hearing your frame it of like, well okay, you should create a scenario where you do go on eight trips over the next 20 years or whatever, 15 years, you know, or whatever the number is, 10 trips over 15 years, you know, and you have those good experiences. What does that really cost you? What’s the, what’s the what’s the actual exposure? And I totally agree with you. You know, what’s the difference? I mean if you, you know, are going to have money or maybe a little bit less, but have all this whole experience and better relationships with your family and then what’s, what’s the, you know, that’s a, that’s a great way to frame it.

Steve: So I appreciate you sharing how you think about that. So this is, that’s super helpful. I, I want to move on to kind of, yeah, you do so much work around lifestyle design, but yeah, this your story leading up to it. Cause so I mean it is amazing. Listen to you. So you’re, you’re, you know, you’re born kind of less wealthy people aren’t focused on learning from books. You kind of discover that you want, you, there’s all this control and agency kit that comes from money. You get busy yourself, get yourself to a point where you start to see how it works. You can start to kind of create opportunities for your own family, like your mother whether or not they want to take advantage of it. You know, and then so from 19 to 32 when you get financially independent, you’re working, investing, but you’ve also got children. I mean, you know, and, and, and clearly thinking about your whole life, right? And w where do you want to get to, cause you’re taking these mini-retirements. How did that evolve? I mean there’s obviously a ton packed in there, but like how you got to, you kind of went from these points and how your thinking evolved and your own behavior and everything else, but just loved to hear that.

Jillian: Yeah, I think we were always really intentional to make sure that we were doing the things that mattered to us. Partly because we never, like combined, our income was never over six figures. And so when we first started, my big audacious goal was that we could retire at 60. Like that was the dream. So I knew that we couldn’t, we’re sometimes other early retirees are do plan to like, I’m going to retire by 35 and then also have lots of time to do all this. I didn’t think I would. So like if we’re going to do this stuff, we’ve got to do it now. You know, financially independent or not. So we really prioritized doing the things that matter to us. And honestly, for us, that was, I really wanted to adopt. That was like a first day question with my husband.

Jillian: How do you feel about adoption? I really wanted to travel. I really wanted to pay cash for a house. Like those were some of my big crazy dreams. So that meant not doing a whole bunch of other stuff. That meant making a lot of other tradeoffs during our twenties to prioritize the couple things that really, really mattered. And it felt unreasonable, but, but those were kind of our goals and our dreams. So our twenties looked like that. It was just this very lopsided of putting a lot of time and energy towards the things that we really, really cared about and no resources to anything else. You know, I, I think it’s sometimes like I, it appears like I want less than the average person. But the reality is where like, I just wanted a lot more, I wanted a lot more than the current culture so that I could have, and I was, I just couldn’t care about all of the other things. Like I couldn’t care about wearing designer clothes. I couldn’t care about having my hair professionally colored. I couldn’t care about like buying the nicest car because I cared so much about this other stuff. Yeah,

Steve: No, it’s a, it’s tough to do that cause we’re so bombarded by, you know, this marketing stuff that’s like, Hey, and, and kind of assumptions about how life should be. You know, like you should go to a big school and get a ton of student debt. I mean, you look at the student debt levels in this country and it’s enormous, but you could go to community college for almost nothing for two years and then transfer to, like in California, I’m talking about kids about this all the time. You know, you could go to a local school for two years and then transfer as long as your grades are good enough to a UC and your UC is next to impossible to get into now. Just coming out of high school. And then like, yeah, buying cars and everything else. So it’s a, you know, when you’re, when you’re talking, it reminds me of like, you know, when you’re trying to do big things, it’s like the jar with the rocks. If you wanna put the big in or you want to get to fill those up, you gotta put the big rocks in and then you’d dump all the sand in afterwards. Right. You got to stay focused on those big things. So that’s awesome.

Jillian: We just did without the sand. You were just like, we’ll just be sand free.

Steve: Yeah. Yeah. That’s awesome though. But then you’re getting, you kind of got to this point where yeah, you could be like, okay, I don’t have a BMW, but I can do whatever I want at 32 with a family, which isn’t an event. And I’ve been traveling around and kinda doing some of the big things on the way.

Jillian: Yeah. And it was, I mean it is tough to, to have that pushback. I love the quote from the Mary Oliver poem. She says, tell me what you plan to do with your one wild and precious life. And I love that so much because I think that success is one, knowing what you want to do with your one wild and precious life and then getting that thing. So if I look at what is a successful person, that’s it. They knew what they wanted and they got the thing that they wanted and I had a conversation at one of my jobs just casually with a coworker. We were talking, I was talking about me and my brother and I was like, yeah, I mean we’re both, we’re both kind of successful, just like in our own ways. And she looked at me and she goes, how would you consider yourself successful?

Jillian: I was like, Oh, I get it. I get the confusion because her rules were like, you have a really big expensive house and you were luxury clothes and you have a super expensive car and you get a really prestigious degree and you work a really glamorous job. And I didn’t have any of those things because those were never the things that I wanted. I had gotten exactly what I wanted. We had traveled to 27 countries, we had paid cash for a house, we’d been able to adopt four kids and we were two years from financial independence. Like I knew what I wanted and I got my dream. I just didn’t get her dream.

Steve: Yeah. What, what kind of a company and job was that when that happened?

Jillian: Super glamorous. No, I did commission sales for furniture, so we just worked like a furniture store and we sold furniture. So just a very normal kind of everyday job. All of, actually I would say all of my jobs were very normal. Somewhat non-glamorous but interesting. And, and there’s so many different ways to get where you want to go. I think that’s, especially in the current culture, we have to push back against, there’s one formula to get where you want to go because now there’s a lot of different ones and, and there’s, there’s a lot that you can accomplish by just reading a book a week.

Steve: Sure. so did, did when on this journey from 19 to 32, you’re, you know, you have these kind of normal jobs did you have this vision for where you, I mean, I, well you did. I mean, you’re doing these things and know you were, I guess you were, you’re, you’re bringing in your kind of financial independence state. Yeah, it’s sorry. It’s, it’s, I’m thinking about your situation. It’s like so unusual for people to kind of completely take themselves out of the existing social framework and like, here’s what we’re looking at. If I’m looking at from over here, like sideways and I see it completely differently than you do.

Jillian: Well it was, I think part of that was the reality. Like this framework wasn’t going to work for me. Like I wasn’t going to be able to do that path. And so I just had to make something else up like, okay, if this, if this isn’t accessible, what else can I do? And I think it comes back to that agency, like what choices do I have and how can I make the absolute most of every choice? And you know, I know a lot of people who went to great schools and spent four years of their life, like in the best education systems and then never read another book, never went to another conference, never did a personal development retreat, like never hired a coach. They were like, I’m going to drop 200 grand and then I’m out.

Steve: Yeah.

Jillian: And that’s one way to do it. But there are, there are other paths.

Steve: Right. Did, did you, so on the lifestyle design side, did you be reading books? Did you, you kind of got these big goals. Did you kind of develop a plan that you followed or somehow a journal? I mean, were there some other mechanics that you’re using to say, okay and cause I know, I mean one of the things I want to S by the way folks listening, you should go to https://www.jillianjohnsrud.com/intentional/ because she has a lot of amazing content around this. But I would just love to hear, kind of describe how you manage this process and evolved it for staying on track and working through this.

Jillian: Yeah, I, there’s, there’s four tools that I kind of recommend to people for honestly not just making progress on your goals but getting outside your comfort zone. Cause that’s where all the growth happens is when we step outside of our comfort zone. So the first one is kind of your intuition. Like I always start there with people. Like, what do you already know? What do you already believe? What do you already know that you want to do and how do you think you would get there? And a lot of people, a lot that is in them if they just take the time to ask the question and to think through it. But then the second one, I am a big fan of just studying and learning. Whether I know we have so many resources between like books and blogs, there’s so many ways that we can access this information if we’re just intentional.

Jillian: The third one though, and this is something that my, my dad told me I was probably seven and he said, Jillian, you have this opportunity that you may might never have at any other point in your life and that’s that people won’t notice you and they won’t think that you’re paying attention because you’re a kid. And they’re like, no other time people will invite you into their homes, into their lives, into their businesses and they won’t pretend, they won’t filter information cause they don’t think you’re paying attention. So pay close, close attention. And I was like, I’m going to be a super spy. Like it just, and I really, I really started just studying people. How do they talk to each other? How do they communicate? How do they resolve conflict? How do they organize their lives? But now we have the internet and it’s amazing because podcasts, someone’s literally listening with earbuds into our private conversation about our lives.

Jillian: So now we all have that opportunity to just observe, observe people that are interesting to you, that are inspiring to you, that some part of what they’re doing resonates and just figure out how did they get here? How do they think about things? How do they look at things? How, how do they organize their lives? It’s such an incredible opportunity. And then ask experts, like, just ask people. I think that’s, I always say it last cause it’s the most intimidating. But having a conversation with someone who has experience or who has knowledge is the fastest way to make progress. And it doesn’t have to be the most expert expert. They should have to know a little, they should be a little bit farther than you are. Just know a little bit more. And having like investing in those relationships and that community whether it’s a events or masterminds or groups or friend circles or book clubs or just any places that you could just ask someone because people who have the knowledge and the experience, like it’s really simple and straightforward to them. You know, there is a well worn path. There are people who’ve gone before you and who aren’t overwhelmed or intimidated. Just ask him, huh, can we do that? How do you, how do you set up an investment account? And if you know that you’re like, Oh, it’s easy. You just do this, this and this.

Steve: Right. That’s awesome. Yeah, I think, and I think, I mean I’ve been, you know, we’d obviously do this, but also been listening to more and more and agree it’s, it’s amazing cause you can find these topics or people that are super interesting and just hear their pretty much unfiltered thoughts about things and get some great insight that, you know, you didn’t happen to be walking alongside them whenever they were doing this, having this discussion. But they’re having this super interesting discussion. You’re able to learn a lot. And though, and I think it’s also back in the attrition of storytelling, which is kinda gotten lost in our culture, but maybe it’s coming back through this medium where, you know, you hearing stories of what people’s personal experiences are and how that affected them. It’s powerful. And like in like back to your, you know, story about your coworker and the furniture shop, like, so on the one hand, one hand, you know, you’re like, okay, I’m looking at this person. I totally see it differently. But not only how, you can also feel like, wow, this person’s really judging me and there’s this emotional reaction. Does that make, does that compel you to like drive change, but then also, do you think, you know, I really should be helping this person because maybe I can help them reframe how they think about it? Like there’s all these kind of insights you can get from these stories by what happened with the, with the furniture, coworker how’s her life going versus was this yours?

Jillian: Well, and, and I think that’s the thing, like knowing what you want out of life and getting it, and I don’t have any judgment if I hope people want different things than me, like it would be extraordinarily boring if everyone wanted to do exactly what I’ve done. So I, I want people to just know what they want out of life and get it, whatever that is. And I think there’s so much beauty in the diversity of our goals and our dreams and our ambitions. Like as long as you’re not hurting other people, I don’t think that there’s bad ones out there to each their own. And so, yeah, I don’t, I don’t mind whatever people want. But I, I just, I pushed back against defaulting to someone else’s dream and default into someone else’s life and their goals. If it’s not yours and even if that’s your parents, even if that’s true family, like even for my own kids, I don’t want to orchestrate their whole life. I want them to live their life in their passion and their goals. Even if I don’t understand, even if I don’t like it, even if I disagree I want them to have the confidence to step out and to each find their own path.

Steve: Right. Well, I think that’s back to, you know, the most important thing, which is how do you get to this clarity about what you want. I see many people don’t know what they want or it’s buried in the noise. Like they’re busy. I got to make money, I got paid for this. I can do that. Like the things they have to do date tactically, day to day to get through the lives and then only at certain points. You know, maybe when you’re younger you go to college or you’re thinking about your first job or you have a kid or you know, you retire. Like are these life plans where maybe you take a moment to step back. And you know, I’ve talked to JD Roth who is our first podcast and his all about purpose, which I think is a great, you know, a great thing to be about. But yeah, like how do you, are there tools that you use or how did you think about it? Like, okay, when you had these goals, you know how do you arrive at them?

Jillian: Yeah, I think figuring that out. Like I said, I like to start with intuition. Like what do you already know? And for a lot of people it’s just giving themselves the time and the space to ask the questions. You know, even when I work with clients one on one, I have them do, I have like four focus questions that they do before our first meeting. And they might have felt like I don’t even know what I want. I feel so confused and overwhelmed. But like they do good work. Like they send me the sheets and it’s like, it’s like 80% there. But most people just don’t take the time or they don’t know what questions to ask. So like my free intentional living course, it’s just 10 questions. It’s like a video and a worksheet each day just to take 10 or 20 minutes a day and sit down and just ask yourself the question.

Jillian: Because I find once we open that mental loop of asking the question, our, our mind and our subconscious will slowly try to close that loop. But often when we’re just never presented with a question. And so I start there and I really lean heavy on observation, like, look out at what other people are doing, what resonates with you, what inspires you, what feels exciting. And oftentimes in the kind of purpose discussion we get stuck because we started at the very end. Like, what’s my purpose? What’s my passion? I always start with, what are you curious about? Curious is the first step again, doesn’t have to be your life work. What are you curious about? And usually people are curious about a number of things and if you aren’t just walk around the library, walk around life, ask people you know, watch a TV show about it, but curious moves into interested and that’s like a S a little bit smaller, ballistic what are you interested and then interested kind of moves into into more passionate as you become more and more invested and passion eventually becomes part of your identity.

Jillian: Like there’s a couple and that’s like a short list for most people. That’s like less than five things that they’re like this is who I am, this is how I would introduce myself. Whether it’s like I’m a boat maker or I’m a gardener or you know, there’s typically a short list but don’t try to like start with the short list of what’s your passion identity in life. Just just start with like what are you curious about?

Steve: That’s awesome. So I can find if I want to go take our, anyone wants to go to this, they can go to https://www.jillianjohnsrud.com/intentional/ or can they also find it on Montana money adventures as well? Is it?

Jillian: I rebranded, I am just my name now. Just me.

Steve: Okay, fine. Yeah. Formerly Montana money adventures now https://www.jillianjohnsrud.com/.

Jillian: Oh my whole actually in my, I have a podcast called Everyday Courage. And the whole first season was really about like new years in life planning. So season one which is like 11 episodes would be if you’re, if you’re interested in that. Like that’s a good, we’re kind of diving deep into those kinds of topics. I have podcasts and where your jam then videos and worksheets

Steve: And I know that you’re doing that with choose a fi. Why did you choose to work with them versus totally standalone?

Jillian: I’m really interested in creating things. I’m not super [inaudible]. I love ideas. I’m not super interested in the technical aspects and I’m just, I’m sure as you know, podcasting is a lot of work. And then I just have an amazing team. But for me in this stage of life you know, I’m, I am financially independent and so I kind of just do the things that I really want to do. I do the things that I’m really passionate about, that I’m excited and seem meaningful and seem fun and we kind of take it year by year, you know, what are those things that are expiring that maybe need to happen this year if we’re going to do what works best for our kids, what works best for us, what are we interested in? Like and yeah, each year’s kind of different.

Steve: Right. That’s cool. And it’s, and it sounds like you obviously have a great balance between your family and your work in terms of, and, and I S you know, I, I get the sense of your family and the trajectory there and what you’re doing there for your work. You know, obviously, could, you’re, you’re building your own brand and getting lots of exposure. I mean, I can see why it’s great to talk to you and kind of hear your story. And how, how you think about things, which is quite different than many people we talked to. But do you have like a longterm vision for, Hey, this is where I want my work to be in five years or 10 years? Or are you kind of taking that day by day or year by year?

Jillian: You know, I was growing up, part of kind of what makes sense of the journey is when I was yeah, when I was about eight, every day is to come home from school, I grab a pop tart, I would sit at my kitchen table in front of the TV. And I watched to Oprah every day for a decade and she was like the one voice that was speaking a very different message into my life. Like that there’s hope. One, there’s hope. It doesn’t matter what’s happened up until this point. It doesn’t matter what story you were born into. Like there is hope and that you have agency. Like you have the ability to make changes and reshape the trajectory of your life. And I had kind of like, Whoa, like stage one dreams, which I thought was, I thought it would take like 50 years to get those done and it just happened to take 13.

Jillian: And so now it’s kind of, it’s staged to of, she has this amazing quote that I really love because sometimes, sometimes when you come out of one situation, there’s always those people in those voices that are kind of like, who do you think you are? Well, aren’t you a little full of yourself? Like, aren’t you getting a little big for your britches? Like don’t you remember where you came from? Like don’t you, and she, she said that in kind of response to that, like, aren’t you a little full of yourself? She said, I want to be so full that I’m overflowing without pride or arrogance, but with generosity for others. And that’s kind of my season of life. Like I want to overflow without pride or arrogance, but like just how to generosity for others. And if I can give them a little bit of hope and it showed them that they have more agency then than they believe, like that’s what I’m going to do for the rest of my life. And that might look a lot of different ways. I love keynote speaking. I love coaching. I love my podcast. I love writing. I the medium, I’m not super concerned about. But that’s kind of the driving force.

Steve: That’s awesome. I was, I was actually gonna say Oprah and then I was like, well maybe that’s a little too ambitious. Yeah, no, it’s fine.

Jillian: In my mind I call her auntie Oprah because I’m like, I think that’s what an aunt is. They’re just, they’re a person who has like no obligation to you, but they just show up out of generosity, out of love, like to like add a little bit of like joy and encouragement to your life. And that’s 100% wood. Oprah was for me, she was like the aunt that I never, that just showed up at my house every day. And like, it was like, Hey, this is a cool person. You should know or this is a cool book, like here’s what they talked about or here’s an inspiring story I heard.

Steve: No, it’s good. I mean, and she’s incredible. She’s accomplished so much in her life and continues to do great stuff. I mean, she’s like Madonna, she’s had this like people have these like incredibly long. The rolling stones, I mean other stuff going on. But and super influential, so that’s cool. All right, this is been great. I want to, but I want to ask you what, a couple of pragmatic questions just about the financial side of it. Since our users are always interested in like, okay, how this person actually get independent by third to what did you know, a bunch of kids, what does that look like? Can you share just a little bit about, like, I don’t, you know, kind of how do you think about expenses? How do you think about investing, budgeting and stuff like that?

Jillian: Yeah. so we have our kind of passive income is broken into three buckets. My husband has a military pension, which also gives us healthcare, which is like such a mental, it’s still expensive, but it’s like such a mental relief that that box is checked. So that’s about a third, that’s just under like 1500 a month. And then we have rental properties which it varies depending how much we want to do. But they average about 1200 to like 1700 a month. And then we have investments which are currently, ah, shoot, we just, I don’t know, we just had the market drop, so probably around like 300. And so we could pull I guess, what does that 12,000? Yeah, 12. So about a thousand bucks a month I think like eight to 8,000 from there. And those three sources of income cover all of our expenses.

Jillian: Our expenses tend to average about two to 3000 a month. So we can typically live off of two of the three. Yeah. So it gives it a little bit of a little bit of flexibility, a little bit of stability. And we don’t have a ton of expenses because we were able to pay cash for our house and we don’t have student loan debt and like we don’t have all these other debts. And most of our, like most of our joy and most of our kind of fun comes from things that aren’t necessarily expensive. Like we live right outside glacier national park, so we live in kind of like vacation land. So we’re just outside all the time and we hike. We actually have a piece of vacation property that we’ve set up our camper on all summer that’s right by a river.

Jillian: So like, we have a morning campfire every morning and we go swimming in the river and we go hiking. And we do a lot of travel. Like we’re going to go to Arizona for a few weeks and take our camper. And it’s amazing just to have that, that flexibility. But I find a lot of people isn’t necessarily, they like when they do kind of the intentional living series. One of the questions I ask is how much, you know, in your ideal day, in your ideal year, how much does this cost? And for most people the biggest cost is time. You know, kind of like us. They want to wake up and drink a cup of coffee and maybe read the paper or go, I love to go sit out in my garden and read a book and go to the gym and meet up with some friends. Like that’s what makes life feel rich and meaningful. They often times they have less like luxury items or like expensive things. Sometimes I think we, we lean towards the luxury to alleviate the pain and frustration in our daily life. And if you can just take that pain and frustration out, we actually just want to spend time with friends and family and do fun, interesting adventures.

Steve: Totally. Yeah. It’s amazing to hear about kind of your expense rate. I mean, just to, I’m going to juxtapose it. So in a town I live in — this is going to sound ridiculous. The average household spends 13 or $14,000 a month living here. It’s just incredible. So it’s a, I mean, and I’m not like I, when I learned that number, I was like, that sounds crazy and this is California coastal California. But you know, it, it does get into, it can get insane in certain parts of the country. I mean, well in Bay area is like insane, particularly insane, right? You can go to many areas and buy a house for $100,000 and, you know, life is very different. But yeah, like I think for many folks, if they went through the exercise of like, Hey, you know what, I’m going to try to not spend any money this month or I spend as little as possible.

Steve: It’s pretty illuminating to say, you know, let’s go to a library. You know, let’s, you know what, we’re not going to go to a bunch of movies or concerts or go to a warriors game. I mean, not that I’m doing all those things, but like our people are doing those things. But like, just trying to, yeah. Go hiking. Our family spends a lot of time hiking and surfing, you know, mountain biking, those are, you know, relatively low cost things. Or for, I mean, they’re outside of the equipment, they’re free. But yeah, you can get a lot of, I mean, that’s, you’re right. That’s where people are happiest. It’s like their relationships, their friends, their family, having some time being outside. Yeah, sure you can go park yourself on a beach somewhere for 500, 600 bucks a day or something like that or, but I don’t know if it necessarily makes me happier.

Steve: Okay. Well that’s cool. It’s good to hear about how you’re doing it and congratulations on, I do think the, I mean, I think the one huge takeaway for us is also, it’s like the expense side is just such a huge lever. You gotta really look at expenses first, get control of those, and then that makes everything else much more doable. So you can save money, get your investments going and all the rest of it. All right, so this is great. As we wrap up, any kind of like you know, for you kind of key influencers or resources that you think you find or you think our audience might find really helpful? I mean, obviously we’ll send them to your site so they can check out your stuff and your podcast Everyday Courage at and but any other people that you think would be, you know good for our folks to check out or,

Jillian: I think it’s just important to, to find the people that resonate with you and to keep being a constant student. Like I lean heavily on that observation. Like what are people doing out there in my community? You know, nationally. That’s interesting to me. That’s compelling. I try to be a constantly curious person and just be curious about a lot of different things. So whatever kind of area you might be interested in, I would just recommend being curious about that. Who’s doing that? Who’s doing that in blogs, who’s doing it online on Instagram, in your community? Go check it out.

Steve: Yeah. All right. Well I’m sure they can find a lot on your side. Okay. Well this is good. So I’m just gonna wrap it up. So thanks Jillian for being on our show and thanks Davorin Robison for being our sound engineer. Anyone listening, thank you for listening. Hopefully you found this useful. You know, I hope you go check out https://www.jillianjohnsrud.com/ and then also https://www.jillianjohnsrud.com/intentional/. Check out the podcast Everyday Courage, which I’ll definitely be doing. You know, on our side, our goal is to help anyone plan and manage their retirement so they can make the most of their money in time. You can also find us at our site or our Facebook group or on Twitter. And I think for both of us, reviews are always good for Jillian’s podcasts and for mine, we definitely read them and use the feedback to make it better. So thanks everyone and have a great day.

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