The couple started by analyzing their spending habits. “My wife and I wrote all of our expenses in a book,” Carl explains on their blog. “Every time we returned from shopping or paid a bill, we logged it.”
Based on their logs, they determined they could live on $24,000 a year. To be safe, they added a $6,000 cushion and bumped that estimate up to $30,000 a year.
Using the “4 percent rule” — the slightly controversial rule of thumb used to help you determine the amount you can withdraw from your retirement savings each year without running out — they came up with their magic number.
“Based on the 4% rule, I need about $800,000 to retire with no debt,” Carl wrote on the blog in 2013. “However, I’d like very much to be able to help my children through college, so I’m going to bump the number up to $1,000,000.”
They committed to putting $2,000 a month toward their investments, which stood at $570,000 when they started, in order to build their portfolio up to $1 million in 1,500 days.
To be sure, they had a big head start. They’d spent years building their up their portfolio by maxing out his 401(k) account, flipping houses, and saving a good amount of their income. Carl noted that his programming job paid well, but did not share specifics.
You can read more about their initial financial standing and calculations on their blog.