As I've been reading MMM's blog and the responses of all his readers, I notice a pattern of 20 and early 30-somethings, many with 50k+ incomes, and I think "Sure, it will be easy for you to retire early. Look how young you still are and you are already flexing your frugality muscle."

It has taken me almost 30 working years to get my head out of my ass and seriously look at how I'm going to retire. Social Security may not be there when I'm 65 (or 70, or 75, or whatever they decide to raise it to). I get discouraged, but I'm keeping an open mind and I'm posting here to read your suggestions about what I and my partner can do to become financially independent, or nearly so, and if we're doing the right things to get us there.

We are both in our mid 40s, with a combined take-home of about $41,500. We have a new mortgage (moved in January 2011) and a little debt - some student loans and a mini-van lease that we can't get out of. I have a 401k with only $58,000 saved up after 12 years.

Our debt, sans mortgage, is scheduled to be eliminated by April of 2013, possibly a few months sooner. *Maybe* by the end of this year if we can really bust ass.

After the debt is paid we will have about half of our monthly income to save/invest - $1700 or so. We do want to move to the southwest after the debt is paid and after we can build a down payment. We are looking in the $75,000 range for a new, small home where we will likely retire when we are able. Until then, we will continue working.

My main question is one of mathematics (I hate math). Is it possible to become financially independent on our income and savings *before *age 65? I'm 43 and my partner is 44. If we can live on $1500 a month, how long will it take and what will we need to do to make it happen? How much will we need to invest to get the dividends that will give us that income?