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Christopher Guest Post: Montana Money Adventures

Let’s go on an adventure! A money adventure!! In Montana!!!

My friend Jillian, a.k.a. Ms. Montana, was kind enough to take some time from her busy schedule of raising oodles of children and advising dozens hundreds thousands of readers on how they can achieve financial independence on a modest salary to stop by and answer my silly questions.

Ms. Montana, who, despite the moniker, has never won a beauty pageant but easily could with her 72 inches of height and striking looks based on both Scandinavian and Native American heritage, is among my favorite FIRE bloggers.

She is completely authentic, generous, and a joy to be around. She’s also a great writer and would easily come up with a better word than “great,” and she’s better at not writing run-on sentences like this one and the two that comprised the previous two paragraphs.

Her specialty is helping people figure out how to live their lives according to their true values (and not what may be expected of them). She’s a fan of retiring early and often, endorsing “mini-retirements” as a way to find balance in this otherwise hectic world in which we all play a part.

Let’s get to know Jillian Johnsrud, the undeservedly sashless Ms. Montana.


ms. montana


Christopher Guest Post: Montana Money Adventures


Montana Money AdventuresWhat in the world is a Christopher Guest Post?


Inspired by Nigel Tufnel, the character portrayed by Christopher Guest in Spinal Tap, I took Mr. 1500’s ten questions, and amped them up to eleven.


If you’re not familiar with the scene, take 50 seconds to watch this video and enjoy the dialog between Nigel and Rob Reiner.


I decided I’d start a Q&A of my own. Not satisfied with just ten questions, “this one goes to eleven”. Just like Nigel’s amplifiers.



What do you do (or did you do) for a living? What do you like best about your job? If you were a physician, what type of a physician do you think you would be? Why?


There were things I loved about every job I’ve ever had. I started working around 13 and had a dozen different jobs before I hit FI at 32. After I hit FI, I set out to custom build a life I’ve never want to retire from because it’s such a perfect fit for all my passions, values, interests and personality.

I’ve really tried to pull all the things I learned from those early jobs as inspiration. I interviewed and hired over 100 people and love asking interesting questions. I wrote professional development plans for over 50 employees and love creating growth plans for people.

I also worked in commissioned sales for years and was fascinated by the fact that people walk into a store intending to make a choice, but get stuck and leave empty-handed. I think about that first 15 years of work as research to finding what I’m great at and love doing.

If I were a physician, I think I would have loved to run clinical trials around the connections between lifestyles and wellness. I’ve always loved reading medical studies.

When I lived in Germany, I was fascinated by their “wellness city” programs. Being that this is my make-believe career, there is also a ton of research money for these studies and funding to build such things.


[PoF: That’s a worthy goal. We’re dealing with rising rates of obesity (which make my job as an anesthesiologist much more difficult) and decreasing rates of happiness, and the trends span decades.

Identifying the changes that actually impact wellness among the populace could lead to a reversal of those nasty trends.]


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Describe your blog and tell us why your blog would appeal to a physician seeking FIRE in eleven sentences.


1. I think money itself is rather simple, so I focus all my writing/creating efforts on the spots where people tend to get really stuck.

2. Growing up in a somewhat chaotic environment, I realized I would have to be really intentional if I wanted my life to be entirely different.

3. So I focus a lot on intentional living, minimalism, living a life filled with adventure and custom building the life you want.

4. I don’t think life is a one size fits all…at all…so I love creating frameworks and tools to help people figure out what really works for them.

5. My writing tends to be rather serious, but I’m fun to hang out with in person.

6. I have 5 little kids at home, we travel 10+ weeks a year, and hit FI in our 30’s.

7. I’m like the MMM for women or slightly less face-punchy men.

8. Doing stuff is fun and I believe FI should be full of fun stuff; so the people who read my blog happen to be the most interesting, hard-working, passionate and cool folks I know.

9. I’m from Montana and live outside GNP, so my Instagram is outdoorsy FIRE!

10. We took 4 mini-retirements before FI and a two year one after FI. They are my jam and a great option if you’re burned out.

11. Actually, I’m a rather lazy blogger, you should just subscribe to my weekly emails or 10-day free course. All the good stuff is there anyway.


[PoF: The lady-MMM is right — she is a lot of fun to hang out with in person. We’ve crossed paths at FinCon a couple of times and have chatted many dozens of times via an online mastermind group for the better part of the last three years.

We tried to convince her to charge money for her free course because a) she deserves the compensation and b) buyers are more likely to complete it if they’ve spent some money on it, but she held her ground and continues to offer it at no charge. Because that’s just who she is.]


What inspired you to start a blog of your own? Was there a particular event you remember that made you feel your blog had arrived? Any big plans for your blog in the future?


About 6 months into our post-FI life, I decided I wanted to start writing a bit. I had always loved writing and a blog seemed like an easy place to put some ideas out into the world.

There were a number of topics I toyed with but settled on personal finance and intentional living because I knew if people could master those simple ideas it would be transformational.

I always wanted to be a speaker and this year I’m speaking at CampFI, Chautauqua, Lola Retreat, Fincon, plus hosting my own events. Speaking is so high energy and the perfect balance against my small town Montana life.

Future blog plans….I love experimenting and trying new things. I’ve written short format content for 3 years now and might try my hand at some other formats. Maybe something long format, like a book.

I’d also love to try more video, maybe Youtube or TV. I hosted my first event this year and it was magic, so I’m planning two more of those. I can’t imagine doing the same exact thing for more than a few years at a time if I don’t have to.


Give me eleven posts you think Physician on FIRE readers might want to read.


3 by 3: Minimalism with Kids

Flexible FIRE

Can You have FIRE and Faith?

Paying Cash for Our House is Only Half the Story

Trouble with the 4% Rule

Their Up is My Down

Money Mentoring Question: What is your “Ideal Day”?

Budget Friendly Meals Under $1

Ultimate National Park Road Trip

16 Reasons to Become Financially Independent [PoF: Only 16?]

Or if podcasts are more your jam, here’s mine from the lovely guys from ChooseFI: Episode 048: Montana Money Adventures


[PoF: Podcasts haven’t been my jam, but with all the driving I’ve been doing between Minnesota and Michigan this summer, I’ve been listening to quite a few!

I am a voracious reader, and I’ve read most of the posts you’ve shared with us. I don’t believe I’ve read the $1 meals one, though. Does it include catching dinner from a Montana trout stream? [spoiler alert: it does not, but should] ]



At what age are you most likely to retire (or at what age did you retire) from full-time work? What are you doing to help realize your retirement target?


I was 32 when we hit FI (4 years ago) and left our jobs. We still do a lot of stuff. We both volunteer on boards nationally and locally. We garden, travel, raise 5 kids, fold endless laundry, and visit National Parks.

I send an email each week. I run two online communities that are a combination of live teaching calls, courses, retreats and old school private chat room.


[PoF: I hear a lot of chatter about what it means to be retired or not retired, and it’s mostly just a lot of argument for argument’s sake.

I do appreciate the fact that anyone who is industrious enough to be in a position to retire in her thirties is not about to suddenly sit idle when an all-important number in terms of assets or cashflow is achieved.

Your life sounds fantastic, and I’m weeks away from enjoying something similar, doing what I care to do when I want to do it. Cheers to FI!]


What does an ideal retirement look like for you? What will you do with your time when full-time work is in your rearview mirror?


We are almost 4 years in and still figuring it out and reinventing it. When most people retire at 65, they have a good 5 productive, interesting years.

The fun thing about hitting FI in my 30’s is I hopefully get 7 goes at this thing. I would love to make each 5-year block interesting and unique: a time to explore and try new things and grow as a wife/mom/writer/traveler/volunteer/friend/creator in different ways.


[PoF: The five-year chunks kind of make sense to me. Whenever I hear someone projecting what they expect life to be like ten, twenty, or more years down the road (and I see it all the time online), I suggest they not plan more than about five years into the future.

Any time I look back five years, I realize that back then I would not have guessed that my life would like what it does now and how much my wants and needs have changed.]



I’ll give you eleven sentences to dish out advice to a young physician. Any and all advice is welcome. We talk about personal finance, so money is fair game, but if you have advice on being a better doctor, a better parent / spouse / friend / human, we’re all ears.


1. Don’t build a life without options. Keep it lean and agile.

2. You can always upgrade later. Houses, cars, stuff can be bought at any age. Time with people you love and experiences have an expiration date.

3. A well-designed life is like a good recipe. There are a few ingredients, all in the right proportions that complement each other. Find the mix you love, of work, play, rest, family, hobbies. Being “good with money” helps make all that possible.

4. Get 8 hours of sleep. Eat real food. Drink water. No one wants a tired, hungry, dehydrated doctor.

5. Never in my life have I seen where my doctor lives. Never. Don’t buy stuff assuming I care. I don’t.

6. All financial freedom comes in the gap between your income and expenses, that’s the number to focus on.

7. One of my greatest frugal hacks is being friends with low or moderate income earners.

8. Don’t buy investments you don’t understand or can’t explain.

9. Find hobbies you love, recharge you, aren’t expensive, and you can do almost every week.

10. Figure out your ideal day/week/year and start making progress towards that with your life and your finances.

11. Build an identity outside of your profession.


[PoF: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes.]



You’ve got eleven days to visit anyplace in the world with an $11,000 budget. Where do you go and what do you do?


My husband and I had the chance to live abroad for 4 years and traveled our hearts out. If we are going sans kids, I might opt for the U.K.

Stuffy museums, walking tours, and history….everything I don’t want to do with my kids. If we take the whole family and Leif ups the budget (it is for 7 people!), I might try a Disney cruise.


[PoF: We’ve enjoyed London sans kids and a Disney cruise with kids (2, not 5!). Both are highly recommended. 

The Mouse does charge a lot, but I think $11,000 would buy you all a splendid vacation. I hear they have European itineraries, so you may be able to combine these dream trips into one!]



Name eleven beverages you enjoy. You can be as general or specific as you like.


Black tea (this accounts for most of my water intake!)

All other tea (I have a massive collection)

Coffee (I worked for Starbucks and never drank the stuff, but started just a few years ago.)

Water (I’m really trying to learn to drink regular water.)

Apple juice with bubble water (This was my fav while I lived in Germany!)

Diet Squirt or Root Beer (This is my indulgence.)

Ice cream with espresso poured over (Almost a drink)

Whiskey Sour (I grew up in a honky-tonk small town dancing at the local fire hall. If I want to go out dancing, I’m drinking a whiskey sour and singing Garth Brooks from the 90’s, CCR, or Jonny Cash.)

Gin and Tonic (For less dancy evenings out.)

Dry Cappuccinos

Unsweetened Ice Tea from McDonald’s on road trips!


[PoF: You had me at “Beer (This is my indulgence.)”

I’ve been known to take things out of context.]


Now, eleven foods.


Ice Cream. Hands down my favorite food.

Popcorn, a close second.

Apples. I could eat one every single day for the rest of my life. I don’t even wash them. That’s how dangerously I live.

Grapefruit in season.


Potstickers. My fast food made at home.

Blue Cheese. It makes almost everything better.

Grilled Cheese sandwiches. I’ve never outgrown them!


Steak. I am from Montana after all.

Apple chips and deer jerky. Both are almost addictive for me.


[PoF: I call it venison jerky. Does that make me sound too fancy?

I’m thinking you could make a salad with mushrooms, apple chips, venison jerky, blue cheese (bleu cheese?), and steak strips and be very, very happy. 

Ice cream for dessert, of course.]


How did you first learn about PhysicianonFIRE.com? What one piece of advice do you have for me?


Leif was one of my first blogging friends and we have been in a mastermind together for half my blogging life!

Although the first time I met you in person, I think was at the Fincon Halloween dance party. Your 70’s attire and dance moves were FIRE and I knew we would be BFF’s.

My best advice for you….take the family out to Montana for a little vaca and we will do an ice cream interview to showcase those dance moves. Your readers need to see this. The whole world, really. Leif, you owe it to humanity.


[Leif: I owe it to humanity to keep those dance moves under wraps at least 364 days a year. I am willing to make a rare exception when I get Saturday night fever at FinCon

I’m all about a trip out to Montana, though. An RV is in our near future, and we will no doubt be heading west. I imagine our families will get along famously.

Thank you so much for taking the time to let us get to know you a bit better. Readers, be sure to check out more from Jillian at Montana Money Adventures.]



Interested in hearing how other top personal finance bloggers have answered these questions? Check out additional Christopher Guest Posts from many of the top personal finance bloggers:


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9 thoughts on “Christopher Guest Post: Montana Money Adventures”

  1. Wow, you have done so many things! It’s amazing you did so much stuff, had lots of kids, and have a FI family at 32. I don’t know how you could have fit it all in…unless you are a superhero.

    Are you a superhero? I think I figured it out. 🙂

  2. Subscribe to get more great content like this, an awesome spreadsheet, and more!
  3. I hear you about the five year thing…never would have thought we’d be living in Colombia for the summer. It’s all Jillian’s “Fault”…in an awesome way. (Go take her course! It changed our lives!)

  4. I have been loosely following a few FIRE blogs for several years and can’t believe I just discovered Jillian! I wholeheartedly agree with every one of your 11 pieces of advice to young physicians. I am an MD in MT who is maybe not so young but still feel like I am, at least in dog years (7.5)! I have been FI for awhile but still working full time, planning on cutting way back in 2020 and moving to my happy place in the Flathead Valley 🙂 I love your idea of writing out an ideal day/week/year – I think this will help me clarify my goals for “semi-retirement”, whatever that means!

    • We love the Flathead Valley! Been in Kalispell for 7 years now. Semi-retirement is awesome! Especially in summer in Montana.

  5. I have always found Jillian to be so deliberative and clear about making her life, her life and then to set about living her life. Not much into rubbernecking and envying someone else life from my perspective. Respect! Never knew much about Montana except I guess they grow a lot of dental floss. Leif you’d like Montana, 3rd in the country in # of craft breweries

    • There is one thing I have serious envy for! The skill of being able to fall asleep or wake up at a moments notice. My kids (who are obsessed with superhero movies) always ask what super power I would want, and that’s it!

      And yes, we have a TON of craft breweries! Partly due to our weird liquor license laws. Our community is about 80k but we have 8 breweries or distilleries.

  6. “Time with people you love and experiences have an expiration date.”

    That advice quoted above is pure gold. I love your perspective and how you go about it. It’s real, genuine, honest, and helpful.

    Thanks for this post! It was something I needed to read.

    Jimmy / TPP

    • Ah, thanks so much, Jimmy! With my 5 kids being little (3-11), they are a constant reminder of how fast things change.


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