The husband and wife team, Mr. and Mrs. 1500—they go by an anonymous title Carl and Mindy—are documenting their journey to financial independence on their blog 1500days.com. Their goal was to have a portfolio of $1 million by February 2017, 1,500 days after launching on January 1, 2013.
They’ve actually surpassed that goal in about 1,300 days, so how are they making the wise choices to aggressively save that amount in such a short period of time?
The couple, both in their early 40s, share their tactics and what’s next.
Here is Mr. and Mrs. 1500.
FT: Why did you want to embark on this journey and why did you give yourself a goal of 1,500 days? How did you know that it was actually achievable?
Carl: I’m a computer programmer. It can be very, very stressful at times. It was a bad day and the thought that came into my head, I was 38 at the time, I’m like, “There’s no way I can do this until I’m 62 or 65 or whatever age people normally retire at.” So I Googled something like: How do I retire early? Or, How do I quit my job early? And the first thing that popped up was Mr. Money Mustache.
I started reading through his stuff and my first thought was, “This guy retired at like 31 or 32, this has got to be some kind of pyramid scheme or something like this. No one retires before they’re 62,” and then I started reading it, and I realize that the guy was legitimate. He put all his numbers out there, and there really wasn’t anything that he did that was spectacular or abnormal. He just constricted his spending, lived a frugal life and was able to quit.
The first thing I did after that was figure out how much I spent—I did this within like 10 minutes. I figured out how much we spend every year. Using his post about “The 4% rule,” I figured out how much we would need to retire. I ran down to the kitchen and I told Mindy, “Hey, all the stuff will work I can quit my job in 1,500 days.”
FT: With your $1 million dollar goal, how are you planning to, now in your new life, make the most of it?
Carl: We live in a very low-cost area of Colorado. Our property taxes are $1,000 a year. Life is pretty cheap here and we can get by with about $2,000 a month. We take nice vacations. We’ve been to Hawaii three or four times—we travel hack to do it. I think we’re going to be able to continue to save even after we retire.
That million dollars doesn’t count other sources of income. It doesn’t count Social Security, which I think will still be around in 20 years, maybe in diminished form but I think we’ll still have it. Our side gigs are probably going to bring in income too. It might not be a whole lot but when you’re not living on a whole lot, you don’t need a whole lot to really move the needle.
FT: You have a million in savings now, which is earning interest and then if you bring in some side income to kind of just pay the bills, that’s a pretty nice cushion. What are your side gigs?
Carl: The blog is my main side gig and Mindy actually got a job through my blog, which is ironic because she didn’t think it was a good idea in the first place so now she has a great job, as a result to the blog. I also do lots of home rehabbing, which I enjoy.
FT: I’m looking at your blog actually, and you are very transparent. You talk about your investments where you started in 2013 with $586,000 and now today, you have a net worth of about $1.3 million—you almost doubled where you started. You more than doubled actually. I don’t understand though how you went from $586,000 in year one to $869,000 a year later.
Carl: Yeah, that’s crazy.
FT: $300,000 almost, are you making a million dollars a year? How did you save that much money?
Carl: No, there are two things that really helped. One of them is serendipitous—we bought a house for really cheap. It was a Fannie Mae foreclosure in a really great neighborhood but for some reason, no one wanted this. Well I know the reason, it was horrific. So we fixed that up, we bought it for about $176,000 and now we could probably get over $400,000 for it and that was a lot of hard work on us, we’re still working on it to this day. The other thing, which I don’t like to talk about because I don’t like to give people bad ideas, but I’ve made some good stock picks. I don’t endorse it, and it’s not my new methodology, but I bought 2,000 shares at Facebook at like $30 a share and now it’s like $120 a share. I’m an index-fund guy now.
FT: Your investments when you count your net worth of $1.35 million—that includes equity?
Carl: Yeah it does. My pure stock value investment without that is about $1,120,000 right now.
FT: Can you share your investment strategy in terms of aggressiveness? When do you plan to tap this money?
Carl: I think I’ll have to tap my portfolio soon after I leave, especially when Mindy leaves her job. So I’m extremely aggressive, I think I own $25,000 in bonds, and that was a very recent development. The way I look at it is, there’s a lot of time to recover if something disastrous happened on day one of retirement. The thing I would do is just go back to work or I could drive for Uber if I don’t want to work full time.
FT: What would be your advice to someone who is getting a later start?
Carl: When people ask me that, I tell people the very first thing they should do is write down every single expense in a notebook because you’ll be surprised. We started doing this and we’re like, “Wow, we spent that much on groceries? What were we thinking?” After you do that, evaluate every one of those line items and see how you can cut those down. The first thing is always to cut expenses because that’s easy and that’s something you can do immediately and right now, today.
After that, increase in income isn’t always as easy but most of us don’t work more than 40 hours a week. There are all these new things and this new peer economy that people can do. How about you drive for Uber or Lyft? How about you rent out a spare room in your house through Airbnb? There [are] all kinds of little tweaks you can do to increase your income. Those are the two things I do. Cut expenses first and try to increase your income.
Listen to Farnoosh Torabi’s full interview with Mr. and Mrs. 1500 here.