BiggerPockets Money Podcast 36: From Childhood Poverty to Financial Freedom by Age 32 with Jillian Johnsrud

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Jillian Johnsrud grew up lacking the privileges that many of us take for granted.

Jillian Johnsrud grew up poor, with an abusive step father and a mother unable to leave due to lack of funds. She emancipated herself during her junior year of high school, living in a camper in high school, waiting tables after class. Still, she managed to save $8,000 by the time she graduated.

She married young, and medical debt and student loan debt put her family in a tough starting position. From there, however, Jillian began building wealth. In adventures that span tons of different states and even a stint in Europe, Jillian was able to eliminate her debt and achieve financial freedom—all while never earning more than a median income.

Hear Jillian’s story of investing when everyone thinks you’re crazy, adopting a group of siblings, and “creating a life that is such a perfect fit she never wants to retire from it.”

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In This Episode We Cover:

  • The backstory behind Jillion moving out on her own at a young age
  • How she found out she had huge debt
  • What motivated her to learn more about financial freedom
  • The advantages of having a roommate to pay half of the rent
  • How she saved $125k from doing regular jobs and simple side jobs
  • How she took of their children while working full-time
  • Why she bought a $50k house instead of a more expensive, nicer one
  • Their six children (including those they adopted)
  • The challenges they encountered with the fixer-upper properties they bought
  • How they’re taking a mini-retirement
  • Life changes they made and why they travel often
  • Thoughts on “looking poor”
  • And SO much more!

Links from the Show

Books Mentioned in this Show

Tweetable Topics:

  • “Money equals choices.” (Tweet This!)
  • “There are helpful ideas and unhelpful ideas to your goals.” (Tweet This!)

Connect with Jillian

About Author

The BiggerPockets Money Podcast is for anyone who has money… or want to have more! Join BiggerPockets Community Manager Mindy Jensen and Director of Operations Scott Trench weekly for the BiggerPockets Money Podcast!
Each week, financial experts Mindy and Scott interview unique and powerful thought leaders about how to earn more, keep more, spend smarter, and grow your wealth.
You’ll get tips for getting your financial house in order and actionable advice from guests who have been in your shoes – and found their way out.


  1. Chris M.

    This is my favorite episode thus far, Jillian is truly extraordinary! She started on home base and hit a home run, but on top of that, she fully directed the path of her life and gave others a much better life (adopting numerous grown children).

    We usually hear about people growing up on third base, in good homes with plenty of stability/support and perhaps given a college education that soon leads to a good salary that make it to FI. Those stories are impressive and everyone endures struggle, despite their upbringing/shaping, but they started with the head start that many people don’t have. This lady truly did it on her own and helped others along the way.

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